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Monday, October 19, 1998 Published at 05:29 GMT 06:29 UK

World: Americas

Clashes at British residence in Chile

Supporters of General Pinochet wave Chilean flags during the protests

Supporters of the former Chilean leader General Augusto Pinochet have been involved in violent demonstrations outside the British ambassador's residence in Santiago.

BBC correspondent James Reynolds reports on the demonstrations in Santiago
Protesters broke down barriers outside the building early on Sunday evening and reached the gates before being dispersed by Chilean police using water cannon.

Heavy security had been placed around the building following demonstrations on Saturday.

[ image: A Pinochet supporter is drenched by Chilean police]
A Pinochet supporter is drenched by Chilean police
The demonstrators, who accuse Britain of betraying a former ally, say they will continue their protests until the general is released.

The protesters have been fuelled by Chilean nationalism and indignation about what they see as the cowardly arrest of an old man who had just undergone an operation.

The man who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990 is under police guard in London while the British courts process an extradition order from Spain.

He flew to London last week for an operation on a herniated disc.

The BBC's South America Correspondent, James Reynolds, says that following the arrest of General Pinochet, the right wing has succeeded in taking the initiative in Chile.

[ image: A man wearing a Pinochet mask is embraced by a fellow supporter]
A man wearing a Pinochet mask is embraced by a fellow supporter
He says that, while opponents of the former military leader have greeted his arrest with relief and happiness they have not mobilised their support as the right wing has done.

Isabel Allende, whose father Salvador Allende was killed in 1973 in the coup which brought the military to power, said the arrest was a "unique opportunity for Pinochet to answer for the human rights violations during his regime."

But the government of President Eduardo Frei - a long-time political opponent of Gen Pinochet - is formally protesting at Britain's action.

[ image: A foreign cameraman is shoved by a Pinochet supporter]
A foreign cameraman is shoved by a Pinochet supporter
Santiago says the British authorities should have respected the diplomatic immunity which Gen Pinochet enjoys as a life senator.

The British government has responded by saying Gen Pinochet was not an "accredited diplomat".

More than 3,000 people are estimated to have been killed by the armed forces and the secret police between 1973 and 1990.

An amnesty law was passed in 1978 by Gen Pinochet which prevented any member of the armed forces - including its commander-in-chief - from being tried for human rights abuses.

Relatives of those who were killed during Gen Pinochet's rule have filed charges against him despite the amnesty law.

He is currently facing 13 different charges in Chile ranging from state terrorism to genocide.

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