Chilean President says Pinochet is politically "finished"

Chilean President Ricardo Lagos was quoted Sunday as saying his country's former dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, "no longer exists" politically.

In an interview published by Buenos Aires daily Clarin, Lagos said the 90-year-old former dictator, who is under house arrest at his mansion in the Chilean capital of Santiago, has no political clout.

"He's in the field of the courts of justice, and that is a subject that doesn't even produce major headlines in the media," Lagos told the newspaper. "My feeling is that Pinochet is no longer a relevant actor in Chilean politics. He's finished. He no longer exists."

Pinochet was indicted last week in separate human rights and corruption cases. One involves the disappearance of six dissidents in the early years of Pinochet's regime, while the other stems from his multimillion-dollar foreign bank accounts.

Lagos said he was satisfied with Chile's progress during his six-year term _ which ends in March _ in shining light on human rights abuses under Pinochet's 1973-90 dictatorship.

Lagos noted that an independent commission appointed by his government to investigate political imprisonment and torture under Pinochet had issued reports about disappearances, made cash reparations and restored social security rights to victims and allowed for exiles to return to Chile.

In the Clarin interview, Lagos also denied reports that U.S. President George W. Bush was angry about the recent Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, at which Washington's Free Trade Area of the Americas proposal failed to gain support.

"No, he was not mad," Lagos said, according to the report. "He just had trouble understanding what happened."

Lagos said he discussed the subject with Bush during the recent APEC summit in South Korea, AP reported. V.A.

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