Augusto Pinochet used military force to overthrow a popularly elected president and rule Chile with an iron grip that saw thousands of his subjects tortured and killed.

Yet, 50 years after Pinochet's power grab, and despite his brutal legacy, the general continues to inspire admiration rather than condemnation among many in a country that remains deeply suspicious of the political left.

Pinochet "is the only dictator in Western contemporary history who, 50 years after a coup d'etat, is viewed favorably by more than a third of the population," said sociologist Marta Lagos of polling company Cerc-Mori.