Pinochet Ugarte, Augusto
(b. 25 Nov. 1915, d. 11 Dec. 2006).
Chilean dictator, 1973–90 A professional soldier who had graduated from the Santiago Military Academy in 1936, he rose to become Commander‐in‐Chief of Chile's armed forces in September 1973. Eighteen days after his appointment he masterminded a military coup in which President Allende was deposed and killed. Pinochet became President of the Council of Chile (a junta of military officers) and imposed harsh military rule, imprisoning over 100,000 people during the first three years of his rule alone. Many of these were tortured, and thousands disappeared. In 1974 he was proclaimed President of Chile. He pursued liberal economic policies, which reduced unemployment and inflation, but also depressed real wages. As a result, his free‐market policies provided some long‐term economic stability, but at considerable social cost, notably the growth of social inequality. In 1978 he organized a plebiscite in which his policies were approved by 75 per cent. A new Constitution in 1980, again endorsed by a plebiscite, gave him authority to be sworn in for another eight years as President.
During the 1980s international pressure against his regime grew, most crucially from the USA, with whose help (via the CIA) he had come to power in the first place. In addition, the deterioration of the economy since the 1982 financial crash weakened his authority domestically, so that in 1988 he called another referendum. He lost the gamble, however, as 55 per cent voted against his stay in power. He accepted the verdict and stood down in 1990. On a visit to England for medical treatment in 1998, he was arrested and put under house arrest for sixteen months. In 2000 Pinochet was stripped of his immunity, and until his death he was involved in constant legal battles about his responsibility for the crimes committed while he was in power.