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Augusto Pinochet has, for the first time, accepted political responsibility for everything that happened during his military dictatorship in Chile from 1973 to 1990. More than 3,000 people were killed for political reasons during his regime. Jane Chambers reports from Santiago:
Augusto Pinochet used the occasion of his ninety-first birthday to say, in a written statement, that he took political responsibility for everything that was done during his rule. In the statement, which was read out by his wife, he told well-wishers who had gathered outside his home, that he harboured no rancour against anyone and that he accepted full political responsibility for what had happened.
However, Pinochet went on to defend his actions, saying that the military was forced to fight against the government of the Marxist president Salvador Allende because it was leading the country into political and social turmoil. And in a clear reference to the trials of military officers for the human rights abuses committed during the regime, Pinochet said it was unfair to demand punishment for those who had stopped a political and economic crisis.
Some three-thousand people were killed or disappeared when Pinochet came to power after overthrowing Allende in a coup. Thousands were tortured and many thousands more fled the country. Whilst noting that Pinochet had finally accepted political responsibility, critics say it's come too late. One political scientist said that Pinochet should have made the statement when he was still in power or when he was still an army commander after stepping down.
Pinochet is currently under indictment in two human rights cases and for tax evasion. He also has numerous other criminal suits pending filed by victims of abuse or their relatives. But despite his admission of political responsibility, Chileans doubt he will ever go to prison. So far courts have always dropped all charges against him, citing ill health.
Jane Chambers, BBC News, Santiago
took political responsibility for
harboured no rancour against
fled the country
criminal suits pending
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