Former Chilean President Pinochet suffers heart attack

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Sunday, December 3, 2006

A map showing the location of Chile

Former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet, 91, has suffered a heart attack early this morning. His son, Marco Antonio, declared that his father had received his last rites from a Catholic priest and that "he is in the hands of God and the doctors". Pinochet underwent a bypass surgery in the Hospital Militar in Santiago and his condition is reported to be critical but stable. Doctors have reported he is also suffering from pulmonary edema.

Pinochet came to power in 1973 when the Chilean armed forces led a coup which deposed the left-wing president Salvador Allende. Allende's rule had seen a growing polarization of Chilean society, economic crisis, and terrorist activity from far-left groups. Pinochet set about exterminating his opposition, mainly socalists and communists, and suspended the constiution. His neoliberal economic policies, carried out by the "Chicago Boys", a group of Chilean economists influenced by Milton Friedman, were able to reduce the rampant hyperinflation and stabilize the economy. In 1981, a plebiscite approved a new constitution drafted by Pinochet's government. As the new constitution decreed, another plebiscite took place in 1988 to determine whether Pinochet should remain in power. The "No" option won and Pinochet stepped down. He remained as head of the army and senator until 1998, when he relinquished these positions. He was arrested that year in London for human rights violations, but was able to return to Chile. He is currently under investigation by Chilean officials over tax evasion and human rights violatons. He had recently accepted "responsibility" for "everything that was done" during his government, "which had no other goal than making Chile greater and avoiding its disintegration".

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