SANTIAGO, Chile — President Augusto Pinochet, the general who has ruled Chile with an iron fist for nearly 13 years, indicated Friday he will seek to remain in power until 1997.
His current term expires in 1989 under the constitution drafted in 1980 by his military regime, and he told a political rally, "I am sure that the nation will support this government for a new (eight-year) presidential term."
Pinochet, 70, made the remarks in a speech during a visit to Concepcion, 350 miles south of the capital of Santiago.
His Wife Comments
He did not elaborate. Reporters asked his wife, Lucia Hiriart de Pinochet, about his comments and she replied:
"The president clearly means that we will stick to the constitution, and the constitution states that he can be a candidate for reelection. Therefore, that's what the president means."
It was the second time that Pinochet, on a five-day tour of southern and central Chile, referred to the continuation of his rule, established after the 1973 coup that overthrew the elected government of Marxist President Salvador Allende.
At Women's Rally
Speaking Thursday night before a women's rally in Concepcion, Pinochet said, "We are not just going to give up the government. This will not end in 1989."
The two speeches were the strongest indication so far that Pinochet has no intention of bowing to pressure from strong political elements both here and abroad to restore democracy.
Gabriel Valdes, president of the Christian Democratic Party, reacted angrily to Pinochet's suggestion that he has decided not to step down in 1989.
He said Pinochet's remarks are "extremely serious."
"Pinochet's stubborn stance is unacceptable for the majority of the country, and creates the conditions for a conflict of which he will bear full responsibility," he said.
The constitution, approved in 1980 in a referendum that the opposition claimed was fraudulent, gave Pinochet a presidential term until 1989, and the option to seek reelection then in balloting for a single candidate.
Under that constitution, the army, navy and air force commanders and the head of the national police will pick the single candidate, whose name will be submitted to the voters in a yes-or-no election. Pinochet, who remains the all-powerful army commander, would be one of those picking the candidate.
Should the proposed candidate be rejected by the voters, the constitution provides that Pinochet as president would remain in power for one extra year pending an open election.
Police Raid Slum
Meanwhile, soldiers in combat gear and with their faces painted black supported police in a raid on a sprawling slum area in western Santiago in search of suspected terrorists and common criminals.
The official news agency, Orbe, reported 37 people were arrested and 1,300 had their identities checked during the seven-hour operation. Troops sealed off the Cerro Navia district and barred reporters from entering while virtually all males over 16 years of age were ordered to a soccer field for questioning.