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Chile Police Fire Water, Gas at Crowd : Cabinet Resigns After Pinochet Is Defeated in National Plebiscite

From Times Wire Services

Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon today to break up a crowd of demonstrators celebrating the defeat of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, 54.7% to 43%, in a plebiscite on his rule.

The entire 16-member Cabinet submitted their resignations early today, Labor Minister Alfonso Marquez de la Plata told reporters. He also said the assistant ministry officials resigned. He gave no further details.

Pinochet, the army commander, gave no statement on the results of Wednesday’s balloting, and it was not known whether he will accept the resignations or shuffle his Cabinet.

Riot police later used tear gas and water cannon to break up a crowd of demonstrators who marched on the presidential palace chanting “Pinochet has fallen.”

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About 3,000 marchers were celebrating the defeat of Pinochet in the plebiscite on whether he should serve another eight years in power.

‘To Paraguay! To Paraguay!’

With confetti raining down from buildings along the demonstrators’ route, they yelled “To Paraguay! To Paraguay!"--suggesting that Pinochet should seek exile in Paraguay, which is governed by Alfredo Stroessner, the longest-serving military ruler in the Western Hemisphere.

Police sprayed jets of tear gas from specially equipped jeeps, known here as “skunks,” as the demonstrators neared the presidential palace. Hundreds of cars honked their horns to the rhythm of the opposition slogan “He will fall, he will fall.”

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Water cannon swung into action to disperse the crowd, jubilant over final results that showed that 54.7% of Chileans taking part had voted against Pinochet.

There were 43% in his favor, according to Deputy Interior Minister Alberto Cardemil.

After the Cabinet announced its resignation, Interior Minister Sergio Fernandez said the 72-year-old general will announce changes after a meeting of the military junta which has ruled Chile since 1973.

Mile-Long Voting Lines

Government sources said those who will be replaced include Fernandez, who ran Pinochet’s election campaign. Fernandez is expected to be replaced by Foreign Minister Ricardo Garcia Rodriguez.

More than 7.2 million of Chile’s 7.4 million registered voters cast the first presidential ballots in 18 years, the Interior Ministry said. Some waited in lines up to a mile long.

“The country delivered its mandate . . . (and is) on the way to a transition to an authentic democracy,” Patricio Aylwin, leader of a 16-party opposition coalition, told cheering supporters today.

Under the constitution, Pinochet, who seized power in a bloody 1973 coup, is obliged to hold multi-party presidential elections in December, 1989, and step down three months later. If he had won the referendum, he would have served until 1997.

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