Pinochet makes Statement on Birthday
SANTIAGO, Chile, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet celebrated his 91st birthday on Saturday with a mea culpa, taking "political responsibility" for acts committed following his 1973 military coup.
In a letter read by his wife, Lucia Hiriart, from the doorstep of his upscale Santiago home, Pinochet said loyalty to his country had motivated all his actions.
"I assume the political responsibility for all of the works carried out with no other motive than to make Chile a great place and prevent its disintegration," he said in the letter.
Pinochet did not accompany his wife to the porch of his home while she read the letter, but could be seen behind her. Later, he stood from a chair just inside the house to wave to a band of mariachi musicians who came to serenade him with his favorite song, the Mexican ballad "El Rey" (The King).
"Today, close to the end of my days, I want to make clear that I hold no rancor toward anybody, that I love my country above all else," Pinochet said in the letter.
The legal noose is tightening around Pinochet and he was recently, briefly under house arrest for crimes including torture, murder and kidnapping during his regime.
Around 3,000 people were killed or "disappeared" during the former general's rule and some 28,000 were tortured after he overthrew Marxist president Salvador Allende and came to power. While thousands of Chileans left the country and went into exile.
Most recently an appeals court stripped Pinochet of immunity -- a privilege of former presidents -- to face charges relating to the kidnap and disappearance of a Spanish priest in 1974 who was arrested by agents of Chile's DINA, the dictatorship's most oppressive police unit. (Additional reporting by Rodrigo Gutierrez and Victor Ruiz)