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Augusto Pinochet

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Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte
Augusto Pinochet

In office
September 11, 1973 – March 11, 1990
Preceded by Salvador Allende
Succeeded by Patricio Aylwin

President of Government Junta
In office
September 11, 1973 – March 11, 1981
Preceded by None
Succeeded by José Toribio Merino

Born November 25, 1915
Political party none (military)
Spouse Lucía Hiriart Rodríguez

Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte[1] (born November 25, 1915) was head of the military junta that ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, and which came to power in a coup which deposed the democratically elected President Salvador Allende.


[edit] Early career

Pinochet was born in Valparaíso on November 25, 1915, the son of Augusto Pinochet Vera (descendant of Breton immigrants who arrived in Chile during the 18th century) and Avelina Ugarte Martínez. He went to primary and secondary school at the San Rafael Seminary of Valparaíso, the Rafael Ariztía Institute (Marist Brothers) in Quillota, the French Fathers' School of Valparaíso, and in the Military School, which he entered in 1933. After four years of study, in 1937 he graduated with the rank of alférez (Second Lieutenant) in the infantry.

In September 1937, he was assigned to the "Chacabuco" Regiment, in Concepción. Two years later, in 1939, then with the rank of sub-lieutenant, he moved to the "Maipo" Regiment, garrisoned in Valparaíso. He returned to Infantry School in 1940. On January 30, 1943, he married Lucía Hiriart Rodríguez, with whom he had five children: three daughters (Inés Lucía, María Verónica, Jacqueline Marie) and two sons (Augusto Osvaldo and Marco Antonio).

At the end of 1945, he was assigned to the "Carampangue" Regiment in the northern city of Iquique. In 1948, he entered the War Academy, but he had to postpone his studies, because, being the youngest officer, he had to carry out a service mission 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 returned to teach at the Military School. At the same time, he worked as a teachers' aide at the War Academy, giving military geography and geopolitics classes. In addition to this, he was active as editor of the institutional magazine Cien Águilas ("One Hundred Eagles").

At the beginning of 1953, with the rank of major, he was sent for two years to the "Rancagua" Regiment in Arica. While there, he was appointed professor of the War Academy, and he returned to Santiago to take up his new position. He also obtained a baccalaureate, and with this degree, he entered the University of Chile's Law School.

Pinochet (left) and Allende in 1973
Pinochet (left) and Allende in 1973

In 1956, Pinochet was chosen, together with a group of other young officers, to form a military mission that would collaborate in the organization of the War Academy of Ecuador in Quito, which forced him to suspend his law studies. He remained with the Quito mission for three-and-a-half years, during which time he dedicated himself to the study of geopolitics, military geography and intelligence.

At the end of 1959, he returned to Chile and was sent to General Headquarters of the I Army Division, based in Antofagasta. The following year, he was appointed Commander of the "Esmeralda" Regiment. Due to his success in this position, he was appointed Sub-director of the War Academy in 1963.

In 1968, he was named Chief of Staff of the II Army Division, based in Santiago, and at the end of that year, he was promoted to Brigadier General and Commander in Chief of the VI Division, garrisoned in Iquique. In his new function, he was also appointed Intendant of the Tarapacá Province.

In January 1971, he rose to Division General, and was named General Commander of the Santiago Army Garrison. At the beginning of 1972, he was appointed General Chief of Staff of the Army. With rising domestic strife in Chile, Pinochet was appointed Army Commander in Chief on August 23, 1973 by President Salvador Allende, his masonic brother of the same lodge, just the day after Parliament voted a resolution calling Allende's removal, by force if necessary.

[edit] Military coup of 1973

Main article: Chilean coup of 1973
Pinochet (sitting) as head of the newly established military junta.
Pinochet (sitting) as head of the newly established military junta.

Pinochet came to power in a coup d'état on September 11, 1973 after the Chamber of Deputies in its Resolution of August 22, 1973 declared that Allende had violated the Constitution. President Allende died before being captured. The exact circumstances of his death are still disputed. An autopsy in 1990 found that Allende's wounds were consistent with the suicide account.

In his memoirs, Pinochet affirms that he was the leader of the coup, and used his position as Commander-in-chief of the Army to coordinate a far-reaching scheme with the other two branches of the military and the national police. In recent years, however, high military officials from the time have said that Pinochet reluctantly got involved only a few days before it was scheduled to occur and followed the lead of other branches (especially the Navy) as they triggered the coup.

[edit] Military Junta

A military junta was established immediately following the coup, made up of General Pinochet representing the Army, Admiral José Toribio Merino representing the Navy, General Gustavo Leigh representing the Air Force, and General César Mendoza representing the Carabineros (uniformed police).

[edit] Administration

Main article: Chile under Pinochet

Once the Junta was in power, Pinochet soon consolidated his control, first retaining sole chairmanship of the military junta, and then being proclaimed President on June 27, 1974. General Leigh, head of the Air Force, became increasingly opposed to Pinochet's policies and was forced into retirement on July 24, 1978. He was replaced by General Fernando Matthei.

During 1977 and 1978, Chile was on the brink of war with Argentina (also ruled by a military government) over a disagreement regarding the ownership of the strategic Picton, Lennox and Nueva islands at the southern tip of South America. Antonio Samoré, a representative of Pope John Paul II, successfully prevented full-scale war. The conflict was finally resolved on 1984, with the Treaty of Peace and Friendship (Tratado de Paz y Amistad). Chilean sovereignty over the islands and Argentinian over the surrounding sea is now undisputed.

In 1981, he promoted himself to the supreme army rank of Capitán General (literally Captain General), previously borne by colonial governors and by Bernardo O'Higgins, a hero of Chile's war of independence. The ranks was reserved only for those who were, at the same time, heads of Government and of the Army.

[edit] Economic policy

By mid 1975, Pinochet set about making economic reforms variously called "neoliberal" or sometimes "free market" by its supporters. He declared that he wanted "to make Chile not a nation of proletarians, but a nation of proprietors." 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 ideas of Milton Friedman.

The government launched an era of deregulation of business and privatization. To accomplish his objectives, the Chicago Boys privatized the pension system, state industries, and banks, and lowered taxes on income. Supporters of these policies (most notably Milton Friedman himself) have dubbed them "The Miracle of Chile", due to the country's sustained economic growth since the late 1980s.[1]

[edit] Suppression of opposition

Pinochet as President
Pinochet as President

After the military's seizure of power, Pinochet destroyed the insurgency linked to the defeated Popular Unity (PU) government. In October 1973, at least 70 people were killed by the Caravan of Death. Almost immediately, the junta banned all the leftist parties that had constituted Allende's UP coalition. Much of the regime's violence was directed toward those it viewed as communist and socialist militants, all in favor of armed conflict. It is not known 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, with the vast majority of victims coming from the opposition to Pinochet at the hands of the state security apparatus. Thousands of Chileans were expelled from and fled the country to escape the regime.

Pinochet's rule was frequently made unstable by protests and isolated violent attacks. Isolated attacks by armed groups opposed to the regime allowed the dictatorship to justify what they termed the "cycle" of oppression.

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

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 assassinated in Washington, D.C. by a bomb in his car. General Carlos Prats, Pinochet's predecessor and army commander under Allende, who had resigned rather than support the moves against the democratic system, was assassinated under similar circumstances in Buenos Aires, Argentina, two years earlier.

[edit] Chilean foreign relations under Pinochet

The new junta quickly broke off the diplomatic relations with Cuba that had been established under the Allende government. Having come to power with the self-proclaimed mission of fighting communism, Pinochet found common cause with the military dictatorships of Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and later, Argentina. The six countries eventually formulated a plan that became known as Operation Condor, in which one country's security forces would target suspected "Marxist subversives", guerrillas, and their sympathizers in the allied countries.

Under Pinochet, Chile along with Colombia, were the only countries in Latin America not to support Argentina in its war with the U.K. over the Falkland Islands in 1982, after having almost started a war over a confrontation on some strategic islands.

Pinochet's government received tacit approval and material support from the United States. The exact nature and extent of this support is disputed. (See U.S. role in 1973 Coup, U.S. intervention in Chile and Operation Condor for more details.)

[edit] End of the Pinochet regime

President Pinochet
President Pinochet

In 1980, a new constitution was approved, which prescribed a single-candidate presidential plebiscite in 1988, and a return to civilian rule in 1990. In May 1983, the opposition and labor movements began to organize demonstrations and strikes against the regime, provoking violent responses from government officials. In 1986, security forces discovered 80 tons of weapons smuggled into the country by the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front (FPMR), the armed branch of the outlawed Communist Party. The shipment of Carrizal Bajo included C-4 plastic explosives, RPG-7 and M72 LAW rocket launchers as well as more than three thousand M-16 rifles. The operation was overseen by Cuban intelligence, and also involved East Germany and the Soviet Union.

In September, weapons from the same source were used in an unsuccessful assassination attempt against Pinochet by the FPMR. Pinochet suffered only minor injuries, but five of his military bodyguards were killed. The beheading of leftist professor José Manuel Parada, and journalist Manuel Guerrero, and Santiago Nattino by the uniformed police (carabineros) led to the resignation of junta member General César Mendoza in 1985.

[edit] Lost referendum and return to civilian rule

According to the transitional provisions of the 1980 Constitution, approved by 75% of voters in what has been said to be "a highly irregular and undemocratic plebiscite.",[2] a plebiscite was scheduled for October 5, 1988, to vote on a new eight-year presidential term for Pinochet. The Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the plebiscite should be carried out as stipulated by the Law of Elections. That included an "Electoral Space" during which all positions, in this case two, (yes), and No, would have two free slots of equal and uninterrupted TV time, simultaneously broadcast by all TV channels, with no political advertising outside those spots. The allotment was scheduled in two off-prime time slots: one before the afternoon news and the other before the late-night news, from 22:45 to 23:15 each night (the evening news was from 20:30 to 21:30, and prime time from 21:30 to 22:30). The opposition No campaign produced colorful, upbeat programs, telling the Chilean people to vote against the extension of the presidential term. Ricardo Lagos, an opposition leader, called, in an interview, on Pinochet to account for all the "disappeared" persons. The campaign did not argue for the advantages of extension, but was instead negative, claiming that voting "no" was equivalent to voting for a return to the chaos of the UP government.

Pinochet lost the 1988 referendum, where 55% of the votes rejected the extension of the presidential term, against 42% for "", and, though a plebiscite is technically non-binding, this one triggered multi-candidate presidential elections in 1989 to choose his replacement. Open presidential elections were held the next year, at the same time as congressional elections that would have taken place in either case. Pinochet left the presidency on March 11, 1990 and transferred power to Patricio Aylwin, the new democratically elected president.

Due to the transitional provisions of the constitution, Pinochet remained as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, until March 1998. He was then sworn in as a senator-for-life, a privilege first granted to former presidents with at least six years in office by the 1980 constitution. His senatorship and consequent immunity from prosecution protected him, and legal challenges began only after Pinochet had been arrested in the United Kingdom.

[edit] Arrest and trial

[edit] Legacy

Chileans remain divided on his legacy. Many see him as a brutal dictator who ended democracy and led a regime characterized by torture and favoritism towards the rich, while others believe that he defeated communism and brought economic growth to Chile. In between these extremes, Chileans will condemn the oppression of the dictatorship, but perhaps also apportion at least a small part of the blame on the UP Government, and recognise merit in the economic reforms implemented on Pinochet's guard.

The debate over Pinochet's legacy was revisited after the retired general's arrest in London in 1998. At that time, the General said of the 1973 coup, “We only set ourselves the task of transforming Chile into a democratic society of free men and women." [2] His supporters made similar claims. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, for example, thanked the General for "bringing democracy to Chile". [3] When in power, however, Pinochet gave a series of speeches that rather clearly indicated that the 1973 coup targeted not only Allende's Popular Unity government, but Chilean democracy itself, which the General saw as hopelessly flawed. In wording that Pinochet repeated several times in various speeches, he claimed that Chile had been “slave and victim of the Congress since 1925, and slave and victim of the political parties.” Arguing for an "organic" type of democracy, Pinochet argued “Merely formal democracy dissolves itself, victim of a demagogy that substitutes simple, unattainable promises for social justice and economic prosperity.” Democracy would inevitably result in a marxist dictatorship, according to his analysis. Chilean democracy, therefore, was “progressively socializing in its economic experiments.... Those who thought they could detain or control this evolution... were given proof under the Marxist regime of their impotence and incomprehensible lack of vision.” (Pinochet, “Patria y Democracia”, 1983, Santiago, Andres Bello)

There have been several detailed reports which describe the human rights abuses carried out by the Pinochet regime. In January 2005, the Chilean Army accepted institutional responsibility for past abuses. Other institutions also accept that abuses took place, but blame them on individuals, rather than official policy. Lucía Pinochet Hiriart, Augusto Pinochet's eldest daughter, said the use of torture during his 1973–90 regime was "barbaric and without justification", after seeing the Valech Report.

Pinochet left behind a series of abandoned concentration camps. Most of them have been either destroyed or dismantled, others remain partially intact or have been turned into museums or sites of remembrance. Some of these include Villa Grimaldi, Chacabuco, National Stadium and Pisagua.

On Pinochet's 91st birthday, November 25, 2006, in a public statement to supporters, Pinochet for the first time accepted "political responsibility" for what happened in Chile under his regime, though he still defended his 1973 coup against Salvador Allende. In a statement read by his wife Lucia Hiriart, he said, "Today, near the end of my days, I want to say that I harbour no rancour against anybody, that I love my fatherland above all. ... I take political responsibility for everything that was done." (BBC)

It was announced on the morning of December 3, 2006 that Augusto Pinochet had suffered a heart attack, and subsequently the same day he was given last rites. He is in a serious but stable condition. This occurred days after he was put under house arrest.

Preceded by:
Salvador Allende
President of Chile
Succeeded by:
Patricio Aylwin
Preceded by:
President of Government Junta
Succeeded by:
José Toribio Merino
Preceded by:
Carlos Prats
Army Commander-in-chief
Succeeded by:
Ricardo Izurieta

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[edit] Additional information

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes and references

  1. ^ Pronunciation (IPA): /aw'gusto/ or a'gusto/, /pino'ʧεt/ or /pino'ʧε/. (i.e. "Pih-noh-CHET" is correct rather than the common mispronunciation "Pih-noh-SHAY").
  2. ^ Hudson, Rex A., ed. "Chile: A Country Study." GPO for the Library of Congress. 1995. March 20, 2005

[edit] External links

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