Gen. Augusto Pinochet assumed the Senate seat Wednesday that he is entitled to hold for life, despite protests outside and displays by his new colleagues inside of photos of dissidents killed during his 17-year dictatorship.
The 82-year-old retired army commander appeared unmoved, his arms crossed and occasionally smiling, as lawmakers from the ruling coalition walked the Senate floor carrying the black-and-white photographs. Several rightist lawmakers surrounded Pinochet in support.Outside the Congress building in this port city near Santiago, police used water cannons and tear gas to scatter hundreds of demonstrators protesting Pinochet's new job. There were arrests and injuries, though it wasn't clear how many of either.
More than 3,000 people were killed for political reasons during Pinochet's 1973-90 rule. While the photos of victims long have been used in anti-Pinochet demonstrations, never before has the general been known to be so close to such displays.
Senate President Sergio Romero delayed the start of the session for about 15 minutes, insisting that senators from the governing coalition first remove the victims' pictures from their desks.