Chile's ambassador in Argentina resigns after causing uproar by praising Pinochet dictatorship

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chile's ambassador in Argentina resigned Tuesday after causing an uproar in both nations by praising the Chilean dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Chile's foreign ministry accepted the resignation of Ambassador Miguel Otero, who told Argentina's Clarin newspaper in an introductory interview that "most of Chile didn't notice the dictatorship of Pinochet. On the contrary, they felt relieved."

Otero also claimed that any human rights violations during the 1973-1990 dictatorship didn't reflect official policies, but rather were individual abuses of authority.

Otero is a lawyer and longtime leader of the right-wing National Renovation party, who was among the minority who campaigned to keep Pinochet in power rather than return democracy to Chile. His appointment was seen as a bow by new President Sebastian Pinera to hardliners in the coalition that returned conservatives to power after 20 years.

But Otero's comments prompted demands for his resignation in both countries, despite his public apology to Pinera and to all those whom he offended.

Both Pinera and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez were pressured by members of their congresses Tuesday to reject Otero.

Rene Saffirio of Chile's centrist Christian Democrat party said Otero's comments were "an offense to millions of Chileans who suffered from the dictatorship, and are absolutely incompatible and unacceptable with his position."

Chile's dictatorship killed 3,065 opponents, including 1,200 whose bodies have never been found, and held about 30,000 political prisoners, according to official reports.

The official repression was acknowledged by Chile's armed forces chief in 2004, Gen. Juan Emilio Cheyre, who said the military was responsible for morally unacceptable acts in the past."