Pinochet 'back from the brink of death'
FORMER Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was given the last rites after he suffered a heart attack yesterday, but was brought back from the brink of death by a bypass-type operation.
General Pinochet, who stands accused of human rights abuses and corruption from his iron-fisted rule from 1973 to 1990, was rushed to hospital in the Chilean capital Santiago at about 2am yesterday.
He was given last rites - traditionally administered by a priest to the dying - before surgeons operated on him, using a catheter to clear his arteries.
His family and friends rushed to his bedside. His former secretary, Monica Ananias, was in tears as she arrived at the clinic.
His son, Marco Antonio Pinochet, said his father was in a "pretty serious state".
"They gave him a bypass, a medical procedure to practically bring him back from death. We're in the hands of God and the doctors. My father is in very bad condition," he said.
However a grandson, Felipe, said his grandfather was "out of danger" as he left.
But doctors, who were due to carry out a further operation, called the former dictator's condition life threatening. Dr Juan Ignacio Vergara said the procedure was successful, but General Pinochet remained in serious but stable condition seven hours after being admitted to the Santiago Military hospital.
Dr Vergara said the heart attack was "indeed life threatening", especially because of his age. General Pinochet turned 91 a week ago.
The catheter was used to enlarge his arteries to allow the flow of blood. "The procedure is similar to a bypass," he said.
The retired general, who has been under house arrest in suburban Santiago, was rushed to the hospital after suffering "an acute" heart attack and a build-up of fluid in his lungs, the hospital said earlier in a statement.
General Pinochet, who ruled Chile from 1973 until 1990, was conscious most of the time and remained in the hospital's intensive care unit, the hospital said.
His health has deteriorated gradually in recent years. He has used a pacemaker and was diagnosed with mild dementia caused by several strokes.
He also suffers from diabetes and arthritis.
The former dictator's failing health has helped him escape punishment for human rights abuses committed during his regime, with courts ruling his condition prevented from standing trial in at least two cases in recent years.
But last week, he was indicted and ordered to remain under house arrest for the execution of two bodyguards of Salvador Allende, the freely elected Marxist president who was over-thrown in the 1973 coup in which General Pinochet took power.
The indictment came after his 91st birthday on 25 November, which he marked by issuing a statement for the first time taking full political - though not explicitly legal - responsibility for abuses committed by his regime.
"Today, near the end of my days, I want to say that I harbour no rancour against anybody, that I love my fatherland above all and that I take political responsibility for everything that was done which had no other goal than making Chile greater and avoiding its disintegration," he said at the time.
The recent house arrest is the fifth such action taken against General Pinochet on charges stemming from human rights violations during his dictatorship.
The indictment alleges kidnapping and murder in connection with the deaths of two Allende bodyguards who were arrested on the day of the coup, 11 September, 1973. Both were executed by firing squad four weeks later, the military regime announced at the time.
General Pinochet faces two other charges, another in connection to human rights abuses and one on tax charges.
According to an official report prepared by an independent commission appointed by the first civilian government after General Pinochet's rule, 3,197 people were killed for political reasons during his regime and more than 1,000 of them were "disappeared".
Some 28,000 people were tortured and thousands of Chileans left in exile. Despite the dictator's dismal human rights record, some Chileans love him and said he saved the nation from Marxism. However, Many later abandoned him.
CAREER SUPPRESSING DISSENT
AUGUSTO Pinochet Ugarte was born in the port city of Valparaiso on 25 November, 1915.
In the 1950s he was put in charge of suppressing the Chilean Communist party but he rose to become commander-in-chief in June 1973, partly because he was thought to lack political ambitions and was trusted by left-wing, democratically-elected president Salvador Allende.
However in September of that year General Pinochet, who headed a military junta representing all branches of Chile's armed forces, led a coup in which Mr Allende died.
The Chilean parliament was closed and all political and trade union activity was banned, but opposition to General Pinochet's regime continued throughout his rule with numerous protests. In 1986, an attempt was made to assassinate him.
Some 3,000 people died in political violence during the 17 years of his rule from 1973 to 1990. Tens of thousands of people were tortured and an estimated 200,000 went into exile.
He was voted out in a 1988 referendum and stepped down in 1990, but stayed on as head of the armed forces and took a seat as a lifetime senator under a clause he had added to the constitution.
In 1998 when General Pinochet - who was a valuable ally of the UK during the Falklands War against Argentina - was in London, a Spanish judge called for his extradition to stand trial in Spain on grounds that some of the victims of his regime were Spaniards.
The former prime minister Baroness Thatcher, said to be a close friend, campaigned for his release and he became the subject of an intense legal battle as to whether he should be extradited to Spain or sent back to Chile.
After 17 months under house arrest, he was allowed to return to Chile in March 2000, after the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said he was not well enough to stand trial.
He has also faced legal action in Chile from the families of people killed by his secret police but, although Chilean courts have stripped him of his immunity from prosecution several times since 2000, he has avoided a trial so far with lawyers successfully arguing he is not well enough.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 9 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West