Mourners jeer at Pinochet funeral

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The Independent US

The music of choristers was briefly drowned by jeers at the funeral of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in Santiago as mourners protested against the presence of a representative of the centre-left government of President Michelle Bachelet.

Emotions ran high at the private funeral mass at Santiago's military academy. The priest called for calm when booing began after the arrival of the Defence Minister, Vivianne Blanlot, the only member of the government to attend.

Military officials said 60,000 Chileans had stood in line to pay their final respects at the open-topped casket of the former leader on Monday after his death at 91 from heart disease in a military hospital on Sunday. After the mass, attended by the Pinochet family, including his widow, Lucia Hiriart, and senior military officials, the casket was flown by helicopter to a secret location for cremation. At the start of the mass, there was applause as the casket was carried in by uniformed pall-bearers.

Pinochet's death has left deep divisions in Chile, some recalling his 17-year-rule as a time of repression and torture of political opponents, others saying it saved Chile from Marxism and opened an era of economic wealth.

The eldest daughter of the general, Lucia Pinochet, said her father had lit "a flame of freedom" when he helped stage the violent coup in 1973 that overthrew Salvador Allende, who had won open elections three years earlier. Allende died during the coup.

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