Accessibility links

Breaking News

Chilean Judge Orders Exhumation of Former President Allende

A member of Chile's Communist Party of the late President Salvador Allende holds an image of him during a gathering to commemorate the 36th anniversary of the election that led Marxist leader Salvador Allende to the presidency, in front of the La Moneda g

A Chilean judge has ordered the exhumation of the remains of former president Salvador Allende to try to determine whether he was killed in a 1973 American-supported coup led by General Augusto Pinochet or committed suicide as planes bombed the presidential palace.

Judge Mario Carroza on Friday ordered Mr. Allende's body exhumed from a marble tomb in Santiago in the latter part of May. The exhumation is part of a widespread inquiry into alleged abuses that occurred during General Pinochet's dictatorship from 1973 to 1990. Forensic experts will then try to determine how Mr. Allende, a democratically elected Marxist, died.

After his death, an official report said Mr. Allende killed himself with a rifle given him by his friend, Cuban leader Fidel Castro. But his family, as well as some politicians and human rights groups, have questioned that ruling.

Allende's daughter, Isabel, now a Chilean senator, says the autopsy of her father's remains will provide the "most rigorous and definitive proof" about how he died. A Chilean prosecutor is conducting an inquiry into 726 alleged human rights abuses committed during General Pinochet's rule.

General Pinochet died in 2006 of a heart attack while under investigation for corruption, torture and murder. His government is blamed for at least 3,000 killings of political opponents, including murders of those who were "disappeared" by the military.

Mr. Allende won a narrow election in 1970, but his ascent to power was not welcomed by conservatives in Chile and Washington who feared that he could lead a pro-Soviet communist government. Then-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said the issues of the time were "much too important" to be left in the hands of Chilean voters and said he saw no reason why Washington should "stand by" and let Chile turn communist because of the "irresponsibility of its people."

The U.S. supported the military coup that toppled Mr. Allende as General Pinochet assumed control in Santiago.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.