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A reference to former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet by Alberta Premier Ralph Klein during a legislative debate over auto insurance has puzzled the president of Calgary's Chilean community.

Mr. Klein made the comments Thursday after Liberal Leader Kevin Taft suggested a public auto insurance plan would result in lower premiums than the current private system.

The Premier said his government would not introduce "socialized insurance like they have in Saskatchewan, the kind of insurance the Liberals so adore.

"It sounds like [former president Salvador]Allende in Chile, you know, when he took over all the copper mines and said, 'The Americans are out, the government now owns all the copper mines, all the minerals, all the resources, all the mining. . . .'

"Pinochet came in, Mr. Speaker, and I'm not saying that Pinochet was any better, but because of the only elected communist in Chile, Allende, and the socialist reforms he put in, Pinochet was forced, I would say, to mount a coup."

Mr. Klein went on to mention that he once wrote a paper on Chilean history.

Victor Gavilan, president of the Chilean Canadian Community Association in Calgary, said he was appalled by Mr. Klein's comments.

"It is a very bad comparison," he said, adding he wants to know more about the Premier's views on how someone like Pinochet would keep Alberta from falling into the hands of socialism.

"I'll take this to my community and see what they have to say about it," Mr. Gavilan said.