Former dictator Augusto Pinochet for the first time accepted "political responsibility" on Saturday for everything that happened during his 1973-90 regime, but criticised the trials of military officers, including himself, for the massive human-rights abuses of the period.
In a public statement read by his wife on his 91st birthday, Pinochet defended the bloody military coup in which he toppled freely elected Marxist President Salvador Allende.
"Today, near the end of my days, I want to say that I harbour no rancour against anybody, that I love my fatherland above all and that I take political responsibility for everything that was done," Pinochet in the statement read by his wife, Lucia Hiriart.
Pinochet, who has not spoken publicly in a long time, had previously blamed what he called "excesses" on subordinates. On Saturday, he did not specify what he had known about, authorised or ordered.
According to an official report, 3,197 people were killed for political reasons under Pinochet, including more than 1,000 who were never found. Thousands were illegally imprisoned, tortured and forced into exile.
In a clear reference to the scores of trials of military officers for the human rights abuses, Pinochet sent "a message of support to my comrades in arms, many of whom are imprisoned, suffering persecution and revenge."
"It's not fair to demand punishment for those who prevented the continuation and worsening of the worst political and economic crisis than one can remember," the statement added.