In a posthumous letter to Chileans, General Augusto Pinochet wrote he wished he had not needed to stage the bloody 1973 coup in which he took power, describing his destiny as one of banishment and unimagined loneliness. The former dictator, who died on December 10 of heart failure at 91, insisted the military takeover avoided civil war and a Marxist dictatorship, and that his 1973-90 regime never had "an institutional plan" to abuse human rights, in the letter made public Sunday. "But it was necessary to act with maximum rigor to avoid a widening of the conflict," Pinochet wrote. According to an official report, 3,197 people were killed for political reasons in the 17 years after Pinochet overthrew elected Marxist President Salvador Allende in the September 11, 1973. Tens of thousands were illegally imprisoned, tortured and forced into exile. Allende committed suicide rather than surrender during the coup. The letter, which was written in 2004, was made public by the Pinochet Foundation, a group of former aides and followers.