Thousands march against Pinochet
4 March 2000
Thousands of chanting demonstrators have marched through the streets
of Santiago to protest against General Augusto Pinochet's return to
Chile. Some protesters threw stones at the army headquarters and
painted graffiti on walls calling for the general to be jailed.
The march culminated at La Moneda, Chile's presidential palace, which
was a target during the military coup which originally took General
Pinochet to power in 1973.
Outside the building, relatives of those who disappeared during the
general's regime held a candlelit vigil.
They said they wanted to make sure that Chile never forgets the human
rights abuses committed under his rule.
Protesters, the relatives of the disappeared, left-wing politicians
and human rights activists questioned the assessment of General
Pinochet's health which led to his release from Britain.
UK Home Secretary Jack Straw decided that he would not be extradited
to Spain to face torture charges because he was not fit to stand trial
- ending a saga that began with his arrest in London in October
But opponents say that from what they have seen since the former
dictator arrived in Santiago, he is well enough to stand trial in his
Chilean Foreign Minister Juan Gabriel Valdes called the welcome,
with military band and guard of honour, at Santiago airport "a
disgrace". And President-elect Ricardo Lagos said the retired
general's televised arrival had damaged the image of Chile.
Lawmaker Isabel Allende, daughter of ex-president Salvador Allende,
who died during the 1973 assault on La Moneda added: "It appears
that Pinochet is in a perfectly good condition physically and mentally
to be prosecuted."
General Pinochet was in his wheelchair only few moments after he
was helped from the plane that transported him from Britain.
He then waved his walking stick
above his head, saluting and
acknowledging the welcome, as
crowds of supporters cheered
and an army band played his
favourite marching tunes.
Although the general will not now
be extradited to Spain, where
judge Baltazar Garzon had sought
to put the general on trial for
alleged human rights abuses
during his 17-year rule, a Chilean
judge considering 59 civil lawsuits
says he intends to pursue a
"I believe the conditions are in
place for the development of a good trial in our country and from
next Monday I will dedicate myself exclusively to this end," said
Judge Juan Guzman.