Pinochet's condition improves, doctors say

Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet continues to fight for his life after suffering a heart attack, but doctors say his condition has improved.

Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochetcontinues to fight for hislife Sunday after suffering a heart attack, but doctors say his conditionhas improved.

Dr. Juan Ignacio Vergara, a member of the team treating Pinochet at a Chilean hospital,said an angioplasty performed in the morning to clear a heart artery obstruction "allowed improvement in his condition."
Dr. Juan Vergara said Sunday that Augusto Pinochet was breathing without assistance after the angioplasty, but his life was not out of danger. ((Santiago Llanquin/Associated Press))

Doctors had initiallyplanned bypass surgery Sunday.

"No bypass has been performed and we expect no open-heart surgery will be necessary," Vergara said on Sunday afternoon.

Vergara saidthat such surgery was extremely risky for someone of Pinochet's age. The former dictator is 91.

"There is a trend toward improvement," he said. "He is conscious, he communicates with us and with his family."

ButPinochetremains in serious condition, Vergara said.
Headlines in Monday's newspapers in Santiago, Chile, describe the seriousness of Augusto Pinochet's medical condition. ((Peter McCluskey/CBC))

"The next 24 to 48 hours will be critical to see whether other complications appear."

He said an accumulation of fluid in Pinochet's lungs "was a secondary problem that has been solved."

Last rites

Earlier, a family spokesman said the former military leader received the last rites from a Catholic priest after being taken to the hospital from his suburban Santiago residence.

He had been taken to a military hospital in Santiago early Sunday after suffering an "acute heart attack" and a buildup of fluid on his lungs, his son, Marco Antonio Pinochet,told reporters.

"We are now in the hands of God and of the doctors. My father is in very bad condition," Marco Antonio Pinochet, said earlier.

He said that doctors "virtually rescued"his father from deathby performing an angioplasty to clear his arteries.

Pinochet has used a pacemaker for several years and was diagnosed with mild dementia caused by several strokes. He also suffers from diabetes and arthritis.

In the past, he has been deemed too ill to stand trial on charges of murder and kidnapping.

Last week, he was indicted and ordered to remain under house arrest for the execution of two bodyguards of Salvador Allende, the freely elected socialist president who was toppled in a 1973 coup that brought Pinochet to power.

Around 3,000 people were reported missing or killed and some 28,000 were tortured during Pinochet's rule in Chile, which lasted until 1990, when Pinochet transferred power to a democratically elected president.

He marked his birthday last week by issuing a statement in which he accepted "political responsibility" for abuses committed by his regime.

With files from the Associated Press