Chilean Church prays for Pinochet - state funeral denied

 Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz yesterday led a ceremony at Santiago Military Academy, for General Augusto Pinochet, who died on Sunday But there will be no state funeral for the dictator who took power in a bloody coup on 11 September 1973. Associated Press reported that hundreds of supporters, many in tears, filed past Pinochet's wooden coffin. While Pinochet's relatives mourned his death at age 91, his many opponents and lamented that he escaped justice for the torture and killings that marked his 17 years in power. Police surrounded key buildings and intersections yesterday to prevent more of the violent protests that spread past midnight to several working class districts. Instead of a state funeral, Pinochet was granted only military honours at and will be cremated today to avoid desecration of his tomb by "people who always hated him," said his son, Marco Antonio. Pinochet took power in 1973 demanding an unconditional surrender from democratically elected President Salvador Allende as warplanes bombed the presidential palace. The US had been working to destabilise Allende's Marxist government, but the world reacted in horror as Santiago's main soccer stadium filled with political prisoners to be tortured, killed or forced into exile after Pinochet came into power. Although his dictatorship laid the groundwork for South America's most stable economy, Pinochet will be remembered as the archetype of the era's repressive rulers who proliferated throughout Latin America and, in many cases, were secretly supported by the US. Chile's government says at least 3,197 people were killed or "disappeared" for political reasons during Pinochet's rule, but courts allowed the aging general to escape hundreds of criminal complaints as his health declined. Carlos Reyes Manzo is a Chilean journalist, photographer and poet who suffered imprisonment and torture under the Pinochet regime. A campaign lead by Cardinal Hume, several Bishops' Conferences and Amnesty International lead to his release in 1976 when he was granyed political asylum in the UK. On hearing the news of Pinochet's death, he told ICN: "My thoughts are with the families and friends of the people who disappeared during his regime. Pinochet managed to escape being found guilty in a court of law but he will not escape the historical indictment. I am hoping that his death will help to unify Chile. It is very painful to see that Chile is still a divided country."

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