(updates with arrest of suspect in killing of policeman)


An adolescent male was arrested Wednesday on suspicion he fired the shot that killed a Chilean police officer during violent protests marking the 39th anniversary of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's coup.

The 16-year-old suspect, identified only by the nickname "El Rata" (The Rat), was arrested in the Santiago suburb of Quilicura, where police Cpl. Cristian Martinez Badilla, 27, was shot while trying to prevent the looting of a supermarket, capital daily El Mercurio said on its Web site.

The suspect was arrested after a number of witnesses said El Rata was the only person to fire shots during the confrontation at the supermarket.

Police confiscated a .38-caliber handgun from the suspect, who had an outstanding arrest warrant, El Mercurio said.

Several other Internet news sites said the teen denied any involvement in the shooting of the police officer.

Tuesday's violence left scores of people injured, police Gen. Luis Valdes told the media, adding that militants burned a bus and four cars.

Three police officers and a 16-year-old boy are in serious condition after receiving gunshot wounds, he said.

President Sebastian Piñera, a billionaire whose business interests thrived during the 1973-1990 Pinochet dictatorship, condemned the policeman's death and vowed to do everything possible to apprehend those responsible.

"All these actions produce is pain, death and destruction," he said in the wee hours of Wednesday after returning to Santiago from the Asia-Pacific Summit in Russia.

The deputy interior minister, Rodrigo Ubilla, said Tuesday's violence "shows there is a group of Chileans who believe the commemorations of Sept. 11 are synonymous with violence, looting and the murder of a Carabinero who lost his life protecting the public."

Chile's first rightist administration since the restoration of democracy in 1990 did not officially mark the anniversary of Pinochet's Sept. 11, 1973, toppling of the Socialist government of Salvador Allende, who took his own life as troops stormed the president palace.

Leftist parties and civic organizations offered tributes to the victims of the military regime during a ceremony at the Salvador Allende monument, opposite the presidential palace.

Relatives of some of the roughly 3,200 people killed by the Pinochet regime held candlelight vigils Tuesday night in Santiago.

All but nine of the 76 officials and agents of the dictatorship convicted of human rights violations are behind bars, though they are being held in "special" prisons that are considerably more comfortable than ordinary penitentiaries.

Besides killing more than 3,000 people, the Pinochet regime jailed 38,000 others on political grounds.

The majority of political prisoners were tortured. EFE