SANTIAGO – Former President Patricio Aylwin was laid to rest Friday at the Santiago General Cemetery after three days of national mourning, during which thousands of Chileans paid him their last respects.
The ceremony, held in Plaza La Paz at the entrance to the cemetery, was led by President Michelle Bachelet, who said that “Chile will never forget his efforts to lay the foundation of national reconciliation.”
Aylwin, who died Tuesday at the age of 97, headed the transition to democracy after the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, and set the country on the path to a long period of economic prosperity and social and political progress.
During her address at the Plaza La Paz ceremony, Bachelet noted that with Aylwin’s death, the nation “lost a great Chilean, a statesman of a kind seldom found,” one who “chose to serve the nation before his own self-interest.”
“President Aylwin took it upon himself to apologize on behalf of the nation for the crimes of the dictatorship,” she said.
She recalled the time in 1991, when with tears in his eyes, Aylwin presented the Rettig Report, which certified that some 3,200 Chileans died at the hands of state agents during the Pinochet dictatorship.
“Chile will never forget his efforts to lay the foundation of national reconciliation,” Bachelet said.
A member of Aylwin’s Cabinet, Enrique Krauss, lawmaker Renan Fuentealba and the head of the late president’s Christian Democratic Party, Carolina Goic, also delivered eulogies.