Latin America & Caribbean

Chilean police clash with anti-Pinochet demonstrators

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Media captionPolice in Chile used tear gas and water cannon to try to break up the protest in Santiago

Hundreds of Chilean demonstrators have clashed with the police after the screening of a documentary praising the former military government of General Augusto Pinochet.

Pablo Zalaquett, mayor of the capital, Santiago, said police were attacked in several areas of the city centre and there was extensive damage to property.

Police used tear gas and water cannon to break up the demonstration.

Gen Pinochet came to power in a coup in 1973, ruling until 1990.

The film's screening has pitted supporters of the late general, who claim the right to free speech, against relatives of victims of his regime, who are outraged at the tone of the documentary.

The mayor said hundreds of anti-Pinochet demonstrators organised in groups continued to launch "coordinated attacks" in the centre of Santiago hours after the screening at the Caupolican theatre.

"As I said before, I would prefer the event not to have taken place because we all knew what was going to happen," Mr Zalaquett told CNN.

"Chile needs to look forward. We are tired. Many people say they are out there to defend human rights, but they just come to destroy and loot."

Gen Pinochet led a coup against the democratically-elected Marxist president of Chile, Salvador Allende, on 11 September 1973 and only left power in 1990.

The Chilean government estimates that more than 3,000 people were killed during the Pinochet years, included those whose bodies have not been found.

Thousands more were tortured, arrested or forced into exile during his rule.

Divisive heritage

Image caption "No to the dictatorship's heritage," reads a poster outside the theatre.

Relatives of victims say the documentary, "Pinochet", is insensitive and glorifies the general's brutal regime.

The organisers say it aims to show Gen Pinochet as he really was, and not as the media portrayed him - as a ruthless dictator.

The event became one of the biggest pro-Pinochet gatherings since he died in 2006.

Thousands of Pinochet supporters turned up for the screening, including right-wing politicians and former members of the Chilean military.

The general's grandson, Augusto Pinochet Molina, was present at the theatre.

"This is not just an homage to my grandfather, I believe it is an homage to the entire military junta. My grandfather was the leader of this government but I tell you, it wasn't just his work."

The controversy shows how divisive Gen Pinochet remains, nearly four decades after the coup that brought him to power, says the BBC's Gideon Long in Santiago.

For some he was a hero who saved Chile from communism, but for others he was as brutal murderer who should be reviled, not applauded, our correspondent says.

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