August 7, 2008 / 5:47 PM / 11 years ago

Chilean anti-Pinochet crusader Juan Bustos dies

SANTIAGO, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Juan Bustos, president of Chile’s lower house and a lifelong crusader against the human rights abuses of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, died in a Santiago hospital on Thursday after a fight with liver cancer.

Bustos, a top law professors and member of the Socialist Party, was elected president of the lower house, or Chamber of Deputies, this year. He was 72.

"The president has declared three days of national mourning," said chief government spokesman Francisco Vidal.

"In a word, today a good man has left us, a very good man."

More than his work in Congress, Bustos, a father of seven, was known for his contribution as one of Chile’s top human rights lawyers.

Before he became a legislator in 1998, he represented the families of people killed during Pinochet’s 1973-1990 dictatorship, when more than 3,000 people disappeared and tens of thousands were arrested and tortured.

Bustos represented the family of former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier, a Pinochet opponent who was killed by a car bomb in Washington in 1976. The high-profile assassination was linked to military intelligence officials in the Pinochet government.

Bustos died without gaining congressional approval for his proposal to create a humans rights institute to investigate the fate of the thousands who disappeared during the dictatorship. (Reporting by Antonio de la Jara; writing by Lisa Yulkowski; editing by Pav Jordan and Mohammad Zargham)

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