Pinochet cancels 90th birthday bash

November 26, 2005

Santiago: Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet cancelled his 90th birthday celebrations yesterday, citing health concerns after he was charged and arrested for crimes ranging from human rights violations to multimillion-dollar tax fraud.

As military dignitaries from the past and the present visited him to pay respects, and supporters waved balloons and Chilean flags outside his home, Pinochet’s family issued a statement cancelling birthday visits.

“Personal salutations and attentions from friends to celebrate his 90th birthday have had to be suspended as he has been informed of a new house arrest, with the natural (negative) implications, especially on his health,” the family said in a statement.

Pinochet faces charges related to seven disappearances of government opponents that were a part of a 1974 human rights case known as Operation Colombo.

A day earlier he was charged, and ordered held under house arrest, for tax fraud, forging passports and documents, and incomplete reporting of his assets in a case involving an estimated $27 million (15.7 million pounds) hidden in foreign bank accounts.

Pinochet led the 1973 military coup of the socialist government of Salvador Allende. What followed was a 17-year dictatorship that saw more than 3000 people die in political violence and tens of thousands more tortured or exiled.

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