January 20, 2007 / 8:32 PM / 13 years ago

Pinochet's grandson kicked out of Chilean army

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - The grandson of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was booted out of the army on Wednesday for criticizing the judiciary in a highly politicized speech at his grandfather’s funeral, an army source said.

Augusto Pinochet Molina (L), grandson of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, stands near his father, Augusto Pinochet Hiriart (R) at his grandfather's funeral inside the Military College in Santiago, December 12, 2006. REUTERS/Victor Ruiz Caballero

“It’s true, it happened today,” the source told Reuters when asked about a report on Chilean state television.

In his speech on Tuesday, Pinochet’s grandson, also called Augusto, praised his grandfather for overthrowing the socialist government of Salvador Allende in 1973, and attacked judges who tried to bring the ex-dictator to trial.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and the army said the younger Pinochet — a captain in the Chilean army and as such forbidden from making political statements while in uniform — had committed “a serious breach of discipline.”

Some local media said the younger Pinochet had asked to leave the army, but the source said this was not the case, at least not formally.

“He never made an official request. Maybe he talked about it but he never did it,” he said.

Four days after the death of Pinochet, who ruled Chile for 17 years and whose name became a byword for human rights abuses, arguments over his legacy showed no sign of abating.

Bachelet said the former dictator represented an era of “divisions, hatred and violence”.

As Chileans argued over the rights and wrongs of Pinochet’s 1973-1990 dictatorship, the general’s ashes were taken to a family chapel at their summer house on the coast southwest of Santiago.

He was cremated on Tuesday following a funeral at the college where he trained as a soldier. He was 91.

PROTESTER SPAT ON COFFIN

Around 60,000 people filed past Pinochet’s body as it lay in state this week, and while most were supporters of the general, a few were not.

Police confirmed on Wednesday that Francisco Cuadrado Prats, the grandson of a well-known Pinochet opponent, had spat on the ex-dictator’s coffin. Cuadrado is the grandson of Carlos Prats, a Chilean general loyal to Allende who was assassinated by Pinochet’s men in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires in 1974.

Cuadrado was arrested but released without charge.

In total, 145 people were arrested between Sunday and Wednesday in incidents related to the ex-dictator’s death, the Interior Ministry said. Forty-seven police officers and 18 civilians were injured in clashes.

During Pinochet’s dictatorship, his forces killed around 3,000 government opponents and suspected dissidents.

Scores of military police officers also died in the political violence, some 28,000 people were tortured and hundreds of thousands of Chileans fled into exile.

Pinochet’s supporters say that by ousting Allende, the general saved Chile from communism.

In his funeral speech, the younger Pinochet described his grandfather as “a man who, at the height of the Cold War, defeated the Marxist government which tried to impose its totalitarian model, not through the ballot box, but through direct use of force”.

Referring to frequent attempts to bring Pinochet to trial, he said his family had been abused “by judges seeking to make a name for themselves rather than seeking justice”.

Bachelet, who was tortured by Pinochet’s agents, called for reconciliation between right and left but acknowledged it would be difficult.

“With the history that Chile has, the pain is going to go on for a long time,” she told a news conference in her first public comments on the former dictator’s death.

Additional reporting by Pav Jordan, Rodrigo Martinez, Monica Vargas and Antonio de la Jara

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