Chileans have expressed outrage over an interview in which ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet said he was a "patriotic angel" with nothing to apologise for.
General Pinochet turned 88 on Tuesday
His military government killed more than 3,000 political opponents.
"Apologise for what? They should be asking for pardon from me," he told a US television channel.
The government dismissed the comments as "pathetic and terrible", while a rights activist said the general was, if anything, an "angel of death".
Condemning the remarks, Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza noted that General Pinochet had given his interview a day after a newspaper report revealed that the bodies of at least 400 people who had disappeared during military rule were thrown from helicopters into the Pacific Ocean.
The president of the Relatives of the Disappeared campaigning group, Lorena Pizarro, said that the interview proved that General Pinochet, who has escaped prosecution on grounds of ill health, was clearly in control of his faculties.
The 88-year-old ex-dictator was "neither mad nor a senile old man, as he tries to appear before the public", said Ms Pizarro.
General Pinochet gave what he said would be his last interview to Miami's Channel 22, which broadcast it on Monday night, the Spanish news agency Efe reports.
He said he had nothing to apologise for during his rule from 1973 to 1990 and, on the contrary, it was his opponents - the "Marxists,
Communists" - who should ask forgiveness for attempting to assassinate him.
"I never aspired to be a dictator because... I considered that to be a dictator would end badly," the general said, speaking from his
home in Santiago.
He added that he had "always acted in a democratic way".
On Sunday, the Chilean newspaper La Nacion published details of how the bodies of political prisoners were secretly dropped into the sea from Puma helicopters under the Pinochet regime between 1974 and 1978.