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Chilean Colonel Slain After Acquittal in Rights Abuse Cases

May 11, 1990

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Two attackers shot and killed a retired officer acquitted in two human rights cases, riddling him with automatic gunfire as he sat in a taxi in downtown Santiago, police said.

The assassins, young men in high-school uniforms, shot National Police Col. Luis Fontaine Manriquez, 56, at point-blank range Thursday as he sat in the back seat of the taxi at an intersection, police said.

Fontaine was hit 18 times, acting Interior Minister Belisario Velasco told a news conference.

A woman aide riding with Fontaine, Margarita Moreno, was wounded but was expected to recover, said Gen. Oscar Tapia, National Police commander for Santiago.

The cabbie took Fontaine to the National Police Hospital, where the colonel was pronounced dead on arrival.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

On March 21, two gunmen severely wounded a former air force commander and military junta member, Gen. Gustavo Leigh, along with a business partner, former air force Gen. Enrique Ruiz. A faction of the pro-Communist Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front, Chile’s main leftist guerrilla group, claimed responsibility for that attempt.

In a communique mailed to news media, which arrived Thursday, the Manuel Rodriguez Front said ″popular justice″ was justified because military officers suspected of rights abuse still enjoyed impunity. It named some leading army and navy officials but did not mention Fontaine.

In a written statement Thursday evening, the government of President Patricio Aylwin called the latest attack ″an act of extreme cruelty″ and said the killers ″are people stubbornly seeking to alter the process of democratic reconstruction in the country.″

At government request, the Santiago Court of Appeal appointed a special judge to investigate.

Fontaine was deputy commander of DICOMCAR, a secretive branch of the National Police involved in rooting out dissidents under the military regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, which ended two months ago.

Fontaine was tried and acquitted in the 1985 assassination of three members of the then-outlawed Communist Party, whose bodies were found with their throats slit. He also was tried and acquitted in the 1986 torture-killing of a student allegedly involved in a leftist guerrilla group.

Last week, he called a news conference and denied involvement in atrocities.

Update hourly