Latin America & Caribbean

Chile: court closes probe into ex-president Allende's death

A man holds a Salvador Allende picture Image copyright AP
Image caption Thousands of people marked the 40th anniversary of Allende's death last year

The Supreme Court in Chile has closed an investigation into the death of former President Salvador Allende, who was deposed in a military coup in 1973.

The court confirmed the findings of an inquest published two years ago, which said that Mr Allende had shot himself inside his office.

The judges rejected two appeals for the investigation to be reopened.

Many supporters of Mr Allende still believe he was shot dead by troops who stormed the presidential palace.

Mr Allende's family has always accepted the suicide version for his death.

But his body was exhumed in 2011, following years of speculation.

A detailed report from an international team of experts concluded that Mr Allende had shot himself with an AKA rifle.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The presidential palace was attacked by troops loyal to Gen Pinochet

The gun was found between his legs and was "on automatic," said British ballistics expert David Pryor, who took part in the investigation.

Senator Isabel Allende, a daughter of the late president, said the family had received the news with great peace.

"The report conclusions are consistent with what we already believed. When faced with extreme circumstances, he made the decision of taking his own life instead of being humiliated," Ms Allende said.

Mr Allende, who was Chile's first left-wing president, was 65 when he died on 11 September 1973.

He had entered the building with the rifle to command the resistance to the right-wing coup.

The La Moneda presidential palace, in Santiago, was under heavy bombardment by air force planes and tanks at the time.

A Marxist, Mr Allende was elected in 1970, putting into effect soon after a number of socialist-inspired reforms such as the nationalisation of foreign companies.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Allende (right) appointed Gen Pinochet (left) head of the army weeks before the coup

Gen Augusto Pinochet, who had been appointed by Mr Allende, plotted the coup and seized power.

He changed economic policies, cracked down on the opposition and ruled with an iron fist until 1990.

According to official figures, 40,018 people were victims of human rights abuses under the dictatorship and 3,065 were killed or disappeared.

The legacy of Mr Allende remains a divisive issue in Chile. For some, he was a reckless Marxist, intent on turning Chile into another Cuba.

For the left, he was a democratic socialist and a victim of one of several US-sponsored military coups in Latin America in the 1960s and 70s.

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