Security was tight as the coffin of ex-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet left the hospital in Santiago where he died yesterday at the age of 91. Hundreds of Pinochet’s supporters had gathered outside to witness his passing – evidence of the extent of Chile’s divided loyalties 16 years after he left power. Some say the general saved his country from Marxism but many feel his death has allowed him to escape justice for human rights abuses.
Planning for Pinochet’s funeral posed a protocol dilemma for the country’s centre-left President Michelle Bachelet. Her father was one of the three thousand who died during the dictatorship, while both she and her mother were tortured. The government has opted for the middle way: military honours without a state funeral or official period of mourning, in order to avoid offence. An official said Pinochet would be cremated after his funeral service, which is planned for tomorrow. It will be held at Santiago’s prestigious military college, the Escuela Militar, where his coffin will reside overnight.