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Augusto Pinochet

General Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (b. 1915) was ruler of Chile from 1973 to 1990.

General Pinochet
Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, son of Augusto Pinochet Vera and of Avelina Ugarte Martínez, was born in Valparaíso[?] on 25 November 1915.

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Early Career

He took his primary and secondary studies in the San Rafael Seminary of Valparaíso, in the Quillota Institute (Marist Brothers), in the French Father's School of Valparaíso and in the Military School, which he entered in 1933.

After four years of study he graduated from the Military School with the rank of Infantry Alférez, being sent to the School of that Branch located in the city of San Bernardo.

In September of 1937 he went to the "Chacabuco" Regiment, in Concepción. Soon, in 1939, with the rank of Sub-Lieutenant, he moved to the "Maipo" Regiment, of the Valparaíso garrison, returning in 1940 to the Infantry School. The next year together with his rise to Lieutenant, he was sent to the Military School.

In January of 1943 he married Lucía Hiriart Rodríguez, which hom he had five children: three daughters and two sons.

At the end of 1945 he moved to the "Carampangue" Regiment, in Iquique. In 1948 he entered the War Academy, where he had to postpone his studies, because being the youngest officer, he had to carry out a mission of service in the coal zone of Lota. The following year he returned to his studies in the Academy.

After obtaining the Title of Officer Chief of Staff, in 1951, he went to the Military School, where he is assigned Commander of the sixth year, Professor of the Military Course. At the same time, he dedicated his time as a teacher's aide in the War Academy in the Military Geography and Geopolitics clases. In addition to this, he was active as Director of the Insitutional magazine "Cien Aguilas" (One Hundred Eagles), an organ for the views of the Officers.

During the beginning of 1953, with the rank of Major, he is sent for two years to the "Rancagua" Regiment in Arica. Soon, he is assigned as professor of the War Academy, and he returned to Santiago to take his new task. He later continues in his studies and obtains baccalaureat. With this title he enters the School of Law of the University of Chile.

Begining in the year 1956 he is chosen together with a group of young officers to form a Military Mission that would collaborate in the organization of a War Academy of Ecuador in Quito, which obligates him to suspend his studies in Law. He remains in that Mission for three years and a half, lapse in which together with dedicating himself to his studies of Geopolitics, Military Geography and Intelligence Service.

At the end of 1959, he returned to Chile and is sent to General Quarters of the I Division of the Army, in Antofagasta. The next year he was assigned Commander of the "Esmeralda" Regiment, 7th of the Line. His successful job shows with his next position, in 1963, as Subdirector of the War Academy.

In 1968 he was named Chief of Staff of the II Division of the Army, in Santiago and at the end of the year he was acsended to Brigade General, opportunity in which he is appointed, as Commander in Chief of the VI Division, of the Iquique Garrison. In his new functions he received the appointment of Intendent Representant of the Tarapacá Province, which would be repeated later, having to take care of affairs of State.

In January of 1971, he is ascended to Division General and named Commander General of the Santiago Army Garrison. Later, begining in 1972, he was appointed General Chief of Staff of the Army.

Due to a convulsed internal situation, on 23 August 1973 he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Army.

Coup of 1973

General Pinochet came to power in a military coup d'etat on (September 11, 1973). The coup leaders used fighter jets to bomb the Presidential Palace which housed Salvador Allende, the elected Marxist President who had appointed Pinochet head of the army less than three weeks earlier.

In contrast to most other nations in Latin America, before the 1973 coup Chile had had a long tradition of civilian democratic rule; military intervention in politics had been rare beforehand. Some political scientists have ascribed the bloodiness of the coup to the stability of the democratic regime before it, which required extreme action to overturn.

A large fraction of the population expected an intervention of the military to end the chaos caused by Allende's economic policies and foreign-backed domestic political opposition to them, culminating in a national transport owners' strike. Allende's economic policy involved state ownership of many key companies, notably U.S.-owned copper mines. Pinochet promised to promote the development of a more open market, in his own words "to make Chile not a nation of proletarians, but a nation of entrepreneurs".

The Allende government was friendly with the Cuba of Fidel Castro. Declassified US archives prove that the United States government approved funds for actions to prevent Allende's election, and later, to destabilize his regime. The role of the US in the coup itself has not been established, but a document released by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2000 titled "CIA Activities in Chile" revealed that the CIA actively supported the military Junta after the overthrow of Allende, and that although the agency knew that Pinochet's officers were involved in systematic and widespread human rights abuses many of them were made into paid contacts or agents of the CIA or US military. [1] (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20000919/)

The violence and bloodshed of the coup itself was continued during Pinochet's administration. Once in power, Pinochet ruled with an iron hand. Dissidents were "disappeared" or murdered for speaking out against Pinochet's policies. It is unknown exactly how many people were killed by government and military forces during the 17 years that he was in power, but the "Rettig Commission" listed 2,095 deaths and 1,102 "disappearances". Torture was also commonly used against dissidents. Thousands of Chileans fled the country to escape the regime.

Pinochet's presidency was also frequently destabled by riots and isolated terrorist attacks. Assasination attempts were common, which increased government paranoia and the cycle of opression.

The situation in Chile came to international attention in September 1976 when Orlando Letelier, a former Chilean ambassador to the United States and minister in Allende's cabinet, was murdered by a car bomb in Washington, D.C. Gen. Carlos Prats, Pinochet's predecssor as army commander, who had resigned rather than support the moves against Allende, had died in similar circumstances in Buenos Aires two years earlier.

Economic successes

Pinochet's brutal political repression existed in parallel with economic reforms. To formulate his economic policy, Pinochet relied on the so-called Chicago boys who were economists trained at the University of Chicago and heavily influenced by the monetarist policies of Milton Friedman. Privatisation, cuts in public spending and anti-labour policies alienated Chile's working classes, though more prosperous strata benefited from real growth.

Under the Pinochet government, Chile's economy staged a massive recovery, and went from being one of Latin America's poorest nation to its second-richest. The recovery was soon dubbed the Miracle of Chile by global economists.

From May 1983 the opposition and labour movements organised demonstrations and strikes against the regime, provoking violent counteraction by the security forces. In September 1986, an unsuccessful assassination attempt was made on Pinochet's life by the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR), thought to be connected to the outlawed communist party. Pinochet suffered only minor injuries.

Return to democracy

According to the transitional provisions of the 1980 constitution, a plebiscite was held in October 1988, to vote on a new eight-year presidential term for Pinochet. In the plebiscite the advocates of a "No" vote won, and, again according to the provisions of the constitution, open elections were held the next year. Pinochet left the presidency on March 11, 1990.

Due to the transitional provisions of the constitution, Pinochet remained the Commander-in-Chief of the Army until March 1998. Upon leaving that post, he took a senatorial position for life, granted by the constitution to all former presidents with at least six years in office. His senatorship made an eventual prosecution in Chile harder.


While travelling abroad, Pinochet was arrested in October 1998 in London. The arrest warrant was issued by judge Baltasar Garzón[?] of Spain, and he was placed under house arrest in the clinic where he had just undergone back surgery. The charges include 94 counts of torture and one count of conspiracy to commit torture. Britain had only signed the international convention against torture recently, so all of the counts were from the last 14 months of his regime.

There was some controversy over whether he should be brought to trial due to his fragile health. He was 82 years old at the time of his arrest. There was also some legal maneuvering in an attempt to prevent his extradition to Spain. The government of Chile opposed his arrest, extradition, and trial. The British Prime Minister decided in the end not to grant his extradition on humanitarian grounds. On his return to Chile, however, a judge had been named to investigate a large number of criminal suits against him. The appropropiate courts stripped him of his parliamentary immunity, and he was prosecuted. The cases were dismissed by the Supreme Court of Chile for medical reasons (vascular dementia) in July 2002. Shortly after the verdict, he resigned from congress, and lives as an ex-president.

Chilean people are divided among those that see him as a brutal dictator who ended the democratic regime of Allende, and led a regime characterized by torture and the protection of the rich; and those who believe that he saved the country from communism and led the transformation of the Chilean economy into a modern one. Even though there is increasing acknowledgement of the brutality of his regime, his followers try to explain that in the context of the increasing violence in Chilean society on the part of armed and political revolutionary groups in the decade before the coup.

External links

  • BBC Coverage (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/special_report/1998/10/98/the_pinochet_file/newsid_198000/198306.stm)
  • CIA Activities in Chile (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/chile/)

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