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The BBC's James Reynolds reports
"Most people believe Gen Pinochet will never face trial in Chile"
 real 28k

The BBC's Stephen Cviic reports
Stephen Cviic explains the difficulties involved in getting Gen Pinochet to face trial in Chile
 real 28k

Wednesday, 12 January, 2000, 22:43 GMT
Chile treads carefully around ruling

A supporter of Gen Pinochet in Santiago Supporters of Gen Pinochet express their satisfaction

By Stephen Cviic in Santiago

The Chilean Government has reacted cautiously to the news that the former military ruler, General Augusto Pinochet, may soon be sent home from Britain.

The pinochet File
President Eduardo Frei said if General Pinochet did return, it would be up to the Chilean courts to deal with the many law suits against him.

But the announcement has come at a sensitive time, with presidential elections just four days away.

Pinochet supporters Supporters in Chile welcome the UK ruling
One Chilean newspaper described the possible return of General Pinochet as a foreign policy triumph for the government, which has consistently argued that the former dictator should face justice at home not abroad.

But the authorities themselves have reacted in a low-key fashion.

Chances of trial remote

The Foreign Minister, Juan Gabriel Valdes, said that nobody could talk about victories in such a situation.

And both the presidential candidates in Sunday's election - Ricardo Lagos from the ruling coalition and Joaquin Lavin from the opposition right-wing - made similarly cautious statements.

Analysts say that it is not in the interests of either the left or the right to alienate voters in a closely fought contest.

In fact, if General Pinochet does return to Chile, the chances of him standing trial are remote.

Campaign continues

He is protected by his parliamentary immunity as a life senator and by the 1978 amnesty law.

Relatives of those who disappeared during the country's years of military rule say they will not give up their campaign to see General Pinochet extradited to Spain.

Several dozen protestors gathered outside the presidential palace in Santiago to show their disappointment with the UK Home Office announcement and they say they will now send written representation to Home Secretary Jack Straw.

Supporters of General Pinochet have expressed their satisfaction with the announcement.

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See also:
12 Jan 00 |  Europe
Spanish legal team stunned
11 Jan 00 |  UK
Anger over Pinochet decision
12 Jan 00 |  UK
Home Office statement in full
05 Jan 00 |  UK
Too ill to face the law?
06 Dec 99 |  Americas
Tight presidential race in Chile

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