Saturday, February 22, 2003

Chile cheers Powell remarks on coup

                  SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) -- The Chilean government applauded remarks by U.S. Secretary
                  of State Colin Powell this week that the United States was "not proud" of its role in the 1973 coup
                  that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power, Chilean newspapers reported on Saturday.

                  Powell's comments on Thursday on the U.S. Black Entertainment Television network, were
                  seen by Chileans as the first time Washington has acknowledged that it intervened in events
                  related to the bloody putsch and death of socialist President Salvador Allende.

                  "U.S. mea culpa for 1973 coup" blared the headline of the government-owned La Nacion daily
                  above a full-page picture of the presidential palace in flames, taken on the day of the Sept. 11,
                  1973, coup.

                  The influential El Mercurio daily, which was pro-Pinochet during the dictatorship years, wrote
                  "Powell says support for 1973 coup was a mistake."

                  A government spokesman told the Internet newspaper El Mostrador that Santiago was pleased
                  at the U.S. stance.

                  "We are pleased that (they) recognize that the intervention in 1973 is not a part of U.S. history
                  that they are proud of and now consider that it was an error," spokesman Heraldo Munoz told
                  the Internet newspaper.

                  Government officials were not immediately available to comment to Reuters.

                  Powell's televised comments, in response to a question from a high-school student in
                  Washington, went largely unnoticed elsewhere as world opinion is more preoccupied with the
                  possibility of an imminent U.S.-led war against Iraq.

                  But in Chile, the news made the front pages of all major newspapers on Saturday.

                  In the interview, Powell was asked why Washington considers itself "the moral superior" in the
                  Iraq conflict. The interviewer cited the Chilean coup as an example of the U.S. government
                  acting against the wishes of a local population.

                  "With respect to your earlier comments about Chile in the 1970s and what happened with Mr.
                  Allende, it is not a part of American history that we're proud of," Powell answered.

                  Under Pinochet's iron-fisted rule, that lasted 17 years, leftist political groups were persecuted
                  and about 3,000 people were killed or disappeared, according to an official report.

                  Chile has been a stable democracy since 1990.

                  "We now have a more accountable way of handling such matters and we have worked with
                  Chile to help it put in place a responsible democracy," Powell added.

                  Chilean leftists have long believed the U.S. government and Central Intelligence Agency directly
                  participated in the coup.

                  U.S. documents declassified in 1999 showed the CIA funded opposition activities against
                  Allende but the U.S. government's role in the military takeover has never been quantified.

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