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Patricio Aylwin, Chile's first president post-Pinochet, dead at 97

By Andrew V. Pestano
Patricio Aylwin, Chile's first president post-Pinochet, dead at 97
Patricio Aylwin, who served as Chile's first president from 1990 until 1994 after 17 years of military rule, died on Tuesday at the age of 97. One of his most praised accomplishments was setting up a human rights commission that investigated abuses under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. File photo by AlejandroVN/CreativeCommons/Flickr

SANTIAGO, Chile, April 20 (UPI) -- Patricio Aylwin, Chile's first president after 17 years of military rule under Gen. Augusto Pinochet, died on Tuesday from natural causes at the age of 97.

Aylwin served as president from 1990 until 1994. He oversaw Chile's transition to democracy under the center-right Christian Democratic Party.

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Although Aylwin initially praised Pinochet's armed forces after a military coup d'etat in 1973, stating the military saved "the country from descending either into civil war or Communist tyranny," he later became one of the Pinochet regime's fiercest critics.

Pinochet stepped down after a failed vote in which he asked Chileans if they wanted him to lead for another eight years. Aylwin led the victorious "no" campaign against Pinochet.

After winning the first election following the dictatorship, Aylwin set up the Rettig Commission, which was designed to investigate human rights abuses under Pinochet. The commission acted warily, as the military still maintained significant power.

Although there was pressure from the military since the commission's installment, Aylwin pushed forth a mandate that drew up a comprehensive list of thousands of people who were kidnapped, tortured or killed during the 1973-90 Pinochet dictatorship -- regarded as Aylwin's greatest achievement as president.

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Pinochet died at the age of 91 from heart complications in December 2006.

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