Former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet regrets nothing from his 17 years of iron-fisted rule and denies ever having ordered anyone killed. Far from seeking the forgiveness of thousands killed or abused during his regime, Pinochet believes he's entitled to an apology for the assassination attempt on his life in 1986 that killed five of his bodyguards.
The controversial statements were made during an interview broadcasted Monday evening in a Miami the eve of Pinochet 88th birthday. A Cuban-American journalist Maria Elvira Salazar conducted the hour long interview that was actually recorded two weeks ago. Mr. Pinochet had his daughter Jacqueline and wife Lucia Hiriart all the time with him, helping with the replies.
"Whom should I ask forgiveness from, what should I ask forgiveness for? Once they tried to kill me. They had us boxed and attacked us from all sides, five guards who fought for me lost their lives, we were all wounded. They've forgotten all the times they planted bombs, they've forgotten many things. Forgiveness for what?" insisted the former dictator in direct reference to the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR) September '86 attack.
As to his administration Pinochet emphasized that "I wasn't a dictator hopeful. Dictatorships end badly. I always acted with a democratic spirit and that is why I took the country to hold elections, to decide whether I should continue or someone else". With his voice giving evidence of a frail health Pinochet said everything done during his administration "was meditated, was jointly studied, analyzed, and if I committed mistakes it was because I studied the issues, nothing of what happened was intentional". Regarding the deaths, abuses and disappearances under his rule the general insisted that in all political struggles, in every part of the world, "excesses are committed; there're people under no control, so it's possible that excesses were committed. There're people who don't control, subordinates who act on their own and later keep quiet".
One of the more tense moments was when the former general said "there's no resentment, I have no grudge for nothing or anybody, I didn't murder anybody, I didn't give orders to murder nobody".
Mr. Pinochet underlined that Chile is currently enjoying a sound economy and social stability thanks to the social market model he imposed during the eighties. And when asked how he would define himself, he said, "I consider myself an angel. But with a little meditation I can say I'm a good man: no grudges, I'm kind".
The former Chilean dictator recently spent three days in hospital with a broken left hand, which he suffered upon falling in the bathtub of an apartment he owns in the resort of Reñaca.
Pinochet has a number of ailments related to diabetes and a Chilean court has ruled that he also suffers from progressive and irreversible "vascular dementia." This diagnosis, which implies that he cannot think coherently on a regular basis, has immunized him from prosecution on human rights violations.
More than 3,000 political opponents died, many by summary execution, or were disappeared during Pinochet's iron fisted regime that extended for 17 years from 1973 to 1990. Repeated efforts to bring him to justice have failed, including a recent attempt to strip him of parliamentary immunity so he can stand trial in the 1976 murder of 10 Communist Party members; Chile's Supreme Court refused to hear the case late last month. The decision came one year after the same court, in a different case, ruled the general was mentally unfit to defend himself.
Communist Party lawyers say the ruling should be reviewed and Pinochet forced to undergo new medical tests, since he has proven himself fit enough to give pep talks to retired military officers.
He also managed to muster the energy to appear before television cameras on Sept. 11, the 30th anniversary of Chile's military coup.