General Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (November 25, 1915 – December 10, 2006) was a Chilean army general and president who led Chile from 1973 to 1990. He became leader after he overthrew Salvador Allende, a socialist president.
Pinochet was a high ranking general in the Chilean Army in the early 1970s. In 1970, Allende was narrowly elected in a close three way race. Western countries like the United States were concerned about Allende, who supported the Soviet Union and had been given soldiers and weapons by Cuba. The Chilean economy was in bad shape by 1973, and it appeared that Allende was trying to become a permanent ruler of Chile.
On September 11th, 1973, the Chilean military led a coup d'état against Allende in which they attacked the Presidential Palace in Santiago. Allende committed suicide, and Pinochet took power as the leader of a military council known as a junta. The junta began cracking down on Allende supporters.
About 3,000 Chilean people died because of Pinochet's rule and many other people were tortured. Many of the people that died during Pinochet's rule were communists, however, some of Pinochet's supporters died as well. The first days of his rule saw the most deaths, and in the weeks after the coup, Allende supporters were arrested and locked in a football stadium in Santiago. Most were released a few months later.
Pinochet introduced many neoliberal free market policies, bringing growth and great economic progress to Chile. He was influenced by the ideas of Milton Friedman. In 1980, a plebiscite was held and Pinochet was kept in power.
The coup d'état that was launched to overthrow Allende and put Pinochet in power was supported by the United States, as was Pinochet's regime. The US government has never admitted being involved, but they did support Pinochet while he was in power. The government of the United Kingdom was also pro-Pinochet.
In 1988, there was a plebiscite in Chile. The people were asked whether Pinochet should rule for another eight and a half years. About 56% of the people did not want that. Pinochet, under pressure from other countries, was forced to accept the results, and stepped down from power in 1990. Patricio Aylwin became the next president. Pinochet kept his responsibilities as head of the military until 1998. After this, he became a senator. He left the senate in 2002, but he was not arrested because the Supreme Court of Chile said he suffered from dementia. In May 2004, judges said that was not true. On December 13 he was placed under house arrest. Judges in Spain tried to put him on trial for the many crimes he committed while leader of Chile.
Pinochet died from congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema on December 10, 2006 in Santiago, Chile, a week after a heart attack, aged 91. His remains were later cremated (Pinochet's request) to avoid vandalism on his tomb.
His legacy is very controversial. Some people think he was a murderous dictator who caused many people to lose their lives. Others support him and point out that Chile's economy improved greatly while he was in power.
- Extensive bio by Fundación CIDOB (in Spanish)
- Augusto Pinochet (1915–2006) – A Biography
- France 24 coverage – Augusto Pinochet's Necrology on France 24
- BBC coverage (special report)
- Documentary Film on Chilean Concentration Camp from Pinochet's Regime: Chacabuco
- CIA Acknowledges Ties to Pinochet’s Repression from The National Security Archive
- Chile under Allende and Pinochet
- Human rights violation under Pinochet
- The Times obituary
- Analysis of economic pol