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Pinochet in Serious Condition After Heart Attack

03 December 2006

The former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has suffered a heart attack. He is said to be in a serious but stable condition in a hospital in Santiago. The General celebrated his 91st birthday, just over a week ago. From Santiago, Jane Chambers reports for VOA.

A doctor at the military hospital in Santiago has confirmed that the General has suffered a heart attack. He had undergone an angioplasty in the early hours Sunday.

A member of General Pinochets medical team, Dr. Juan Ignacio Vergara said Pinochet is fighting for his life.

Dr. Vergara says General Pinochet was admitted to the hospital early Sunday morning, having suffered a heart attack. He says, "We operated on him to stabilize his heart." He adds the General is in a stable condition, but due to his heart attack his life is also under threat.

The General used the occasion of his 91st birthday on the November 25 to say, in a written statement, that he took political responsibility for everything that was done during his rule. However, the former dictator, has yet to be cleared or convicted in any of the charges brought against him, some of which have been dropped because of his ill health.

Some 3,000 people were killed or disappeared during Pinochet's rule from 1973 until 1990. Thousands were tortured, and many thousands more fled the country.

Late last month, a Chilean judge, ordered Pinochet under house arrest as part of his investigation into a case which has become known as the Caravan of Death.

Pinochet enjoys legal immunity as a former president, but the courts can strip him of this privilege on a case-by-case basis. This has happened in a number of human rights and financial cases. He is currently under indictment in two human rights cases and for tax evasion. He also has numerous other suits pending filed by victims of abuse or their relatives.

The younger son of General Pinochet, Marco Antonio said his father had been virtually rescued from death with the angioplasty, and a spokesman said that the General had received his last rites.

General Pinochet is a patient at the Military Hospital in Santiago, where hundreds of supporters are gathered outside to wish him a safe recovery. His critics are also there, but in smaller numbers.

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