Latin America & Caribbean

Chile exhumes ex-President Salvador Allende's remains

Salvador Allende - file photo from February 1973
Image caption Salvador Allende was elected president in 1970

The remains of Chile's former President Salvador Allende have been exhumed in a bid to determine whether the former leader killed himself or was murdered.

The official version is that Allende shot himself in the presidential palace as General Augusto Pinochet's forces closed in on him during the 1973 coup.

But as his death was never formally investigated, some believe the military killed him and covered up the crime.

The coup led to 17 years of military rule under Gen Pinochet.

More than 3,000 political opponents were killed or "disappeared" by the military.

The Allende case is one of 726 alleged rights abuses that investigators are looking into.

With the Allende family's blessing, a judge set up a panel of Chilean and foreign forensic experts that will try to clarify the circumstances surrounding the late president's death.

The exhumation took place on early on Monday morning local time.

Bitter memories

Allende's body was found in the presidential palace after the building had been attacked by troops and planes.

An official post-mortem report found he committed suicide using a rifle given to him by his friend, Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Image caption Salvador Allende's remains will now be examined by forensic experts

Allende's doctor confirmed that conclusion and it was accepted by his family.

But some of his supporters continue to believe he was killed by soldiers.

Allende, who was 65, died in La Moneda presidential palace on 11 September 1973 as it was being bombed by air force jets and attacked by soldiers.

The exhumation has stirred bitter memories in Chile, a country still scarred by the coup and the 17-year dictatorship that followed it, says the BBC's Chile correspondent Gideon Long.

For some, Mr Allende was a reckless Marxist, intent on turning Chile into another Cuba, our correspondent says, while for others, he was a democratic Socialist cut down in his prime by General Pinochet's forces.

More on this story