Pinochet Mourners Boo Chilean Official

The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 12, 2006; 10:15 PM

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Bitter divisions over the memory of Gen. Augusto Pinochet surfaced at his military funeral Tuesday, as mourners booed the defense minister who denied the dictator a state funeral and cheered Pinochet's grandson for justifying the bloody coup that ousted an elected president more than 30 years ago.

Across town, about 4,000 Pinochet opponents held a joyful celebration in tribute to Salvador Allende, the Marxist president whom Pinochet toppled in his 1973 coup, and carried images of relatives killed under the ensuing dictatorship.

Appealing for calm at the funeral, army chief Gen. Oscar Izurieta asked Chileans "to let history make a balanced and fair judgment." But Army Capt. Augusto Pinochet proclaimed that his grandfather, who died Sunday of heart failure at age 91, "defeated Marxism, which attempted to impose its totalitarian model."

Defense Minister Vivianne Blanlot, the government's only representative at the funeral, was booed when she arrived.

"Go away, go away!" many mourners chanted. The government of President Michele Bachelet _ a Socialist and former defense minister who herself suffered imprisonment and exile under Pinochet's regime _ denied him a state funeral because he took power by force and was never legitimately elected.

Boos also erupted at the mere mention of Patricio Aylwin, who was elected president after Pinochet lost a referendum that forced him step down in 1990.

Blanlot did not react to the crowd as she stood beside military commanders. Later she said the reception was not surprise but that the remarks by Pinochet's grandson were. She expected the army would "take measures" as military officers are not allowed to discuss politics publicly.

Pinochet's younger daughter, Jacqueline, eased tensions by shaking Blanlot's hand at the moment of exchanging peace wishes in the Roman Catholic Mass.

Izurieta, the army chief, told mourners that Pinochet staged the coup when Chile was experiencing "an extremely serious institutional crisis" under Allende and "because he was convinced that there was no other possible way out of it."

"It is not for me to evaluate his government," Izurieta added, but he acknowledged that "the situation of humans rights is the most controversial aspect of it."

According to an official report, 3,197 people were killed for political reasons in the 17 years after Pinochet overthrew Allende in the Sept. 11, 1973 coup.

More than 30,000 were tortured, many more illegally imprisoned and tens of thousands were forced into exile. Allende committed suicide rather than surrender during the 1973 coup.

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