Latin America & Caribbean

Former Chile army commander Ricardo Izurieta dies

Gen Pinochet and Gen Izurieta, March 2000, Chile Image copyright AP
Image caption Gen Izurieta (right) welcomed Gen Pinochet (left) in Chile after the former president's arrest in the UK

The former commander of the Chilean army, Ricardo Izurieta, has died at home aged 71.

Gen Izurieta succeeded Augusto Pinochet as army commander in 1998, during the country's difficult transition towards democracy.

In a statement, the army praised Mr Izurieta for uniting Chilean society.

He helped set up a human rights commission to investigate serious abuses committed during military rule.

The commission's work led the military to admit that it had dropped the bodies of political prisoners into the sea during the dictatorship.

Gen Izurieta took over from Gen Pinochet as commander-in-chief of the Army in March 1998 and stayed in the post until 2002.

'Difficult times'

Gen Pinochet had seized power in a coup in 1973 and stood down as president in 1990. But remained as army commander for another eight years.

During the 1973-1990 period he led the brutal persecution to supporters of the deposed Socialist President, Salvador Allende.

According to official figures, 40,018 people were victims of human rights abuses in the Pinochet years and 3,065 were killed or disappeared.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Thousands of opponents of Gen Pinochet were killed in the 1970s and 1980s

Gen Izurieta was appointed to replace him as army commander by Chile's democratically-elected President, Eduardo Frei.

"He united the army and the whole Chilean society, without excluding anyone," the army said in a statement.

The Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, also praised Gen Izurieta role in Chile's democratic transition.

"He was someone I could rely on in difficult times," said Mr Insulza, who was forced to leave Chile after the 1973 coup.

Gen Izurieta will be buried at the Military Academy in Santiago on Tuesday. The cause of death has not been disclosed.

Gen Pinochet died in hospital in December 2006, aged 91.

In October 1998, he was arrested while on holiday in London.

The Spanish government sought to put him on trial in Madrid over the deaths of its citizens in Chile, but he was released and returned to Santiago in March 2000.

Gen Izurieta was at the Air Force base in Santiago to welcome his former commander.

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