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Augusto Pinochet

Augusto Pinochet

Augusto Pinochet, the son of a customs official, was born in Chile on 26th November 1915. Educated by conservative Marist priests he was twice rejected by Chile's military college. He was eventually accepted and he graduated in 1937 as an infantry officer.

Pinochet gradually rose through the ranks and by 1948 was a commander of a prison camp for members of the banned Communist Party. According to his memoirs, it was this experience that alerted him to the "truly diabolical attractions of Marxism".

In 1954 Pinochet was appointed as lecturer at Chile's senior military school, the Academy of War. Ten years later he became deputy director of the organization. In 1968 he published a book on Geopolitics, a subject he taught at the Academy of War. However, Pinochet was attacked by specialists outside Chile for comprehensive plagiarism.

In 1970 Salvador Allende, the leader of the Chilean Socialist Party, was elected president. He therefore became the first Marxist in the world to gain power in a free democratic election. He attempted to build a socialist society but was opposed by business interests.

Allende's decide to take action to redistribute wealth and land in Chile. Wage increases of around 40 per cent were introduced. At the same time companies were not allowed to increase prices. The copper industry was nationalized. So also were the banks. Allende also restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, China and the German Democratic Republic.

The CIA arranged for Michael V. Townley to be sent to Chile under the alias of Kenneth W. Enyart. He was accompanied by Aldo Vera Serafin of the Secret Army Organization (SAO). Townley now came under the control of David Atlee Phillips who had been asked to lead a special task force assigned to remove Allende.

The CIA attempted to persuade Chile's Chief of Staff General Rene Schneider, to overthrow Allende. He refused and on 22nd October, 1970, his car was ambushed. Schneider drew a gun to defend himself, and was shot point-blank several times. He was rushed to hospital, but he died three days later. Military courts in Chile found that Schneider's death was caused by two military groups, one led by Roberto Viaux and the other by Camilo Valenzuela. It was claimed that the CIA was providing support for both groups.

Allende's attempts to build a socialist society was opposed by business interests. Later, Henry Kissinger admitted that in September 1970, President Richard Nixon ordered him to organize a coup against Allende's government. A CIA document written just after Allende was elected said: "It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup" and "it is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG (United States government) and American hand be well hidden."

David Atlee Phillips set Michael V. Townley the task of organizing two paramilitary action groups Orden y Libertad (Order and Freedom) and Protecion Comunal y Soberania (Common Protection and Sovereignty). Townley also established an arson squad that started several fires in Santiago. Townley also mounted a smear campaign against General Carlos Prats, the head of the Chilean Army. Prats resigned on 21st August, 1973.

Salvador Allende appointed Pinochet as commander-in-chief of the Chilean Army. Allende was unaware that Pinochet was plotting with the CIA to remove him from power. On 11th September 1973, Pinochet led a military coup against Allende's government. Allende died in the fighting in the presidential palace in Santiago.

Pinochet immediately closed down the Chilean Parliament, suspended the constitution, banned all political and trade union activity and imposed strict controls over the media. Pinochet, who had appointed himself president, ordered a purge of the left in Chile. Over the next few years more than 3,000 supporters of the Allende regime were killed.

People in positions of authority who were suspected of holding liberal opinions were also removed from power. It is estimated that around 10 per cent of the Chilean judiciary were dismissed during this period. Pinochet was also responsible for thousands of people being tortured and large numbers were forced into exile.

The CIA gave Michael V. Townley the task was to deal with those dissents who had fled Chile after General Augusto Pinochet gained power. This included General Carlos Prats who was writing his memoirs in Argentina. Donald Freed argues in Death in Washington: The Murder of Orlando Letelier that: "On September 30, 1974, shortly after the first anniversary of the violent overthrow of the Allende government, Townley and a team of assassins murdered Carlos Prats and his wife in Buenos Aires. Their auto was exploded by a bomb."

Promoted to the rank of major by General Juan Manuel Contreras Townley made regular visits to the United States in 1975 to meet with Rolando Otero and other members of the White Hand group. In September 1975, Townley's death squad struck again. Former Chilean vice-president Bernardo Leighton and his wife were gunned down in Rome by local fascists working with DINA.

On 18th September, 1976, Orlando Letelier, who served as foreign minister under Salvador Allende, was traveling to work at the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington when a bomb was ignited under his car. Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, a 25 year old woman who was campaigning for democracy in Chile, both died of their injuries.

The director of the CIA, George H. W. Bush, was quickly told that DINA and several of his contract agents were involved in the assassination. However, he leaked a story to members of Operation Mockingbird that attempted to cover-up the role that the CIA and DINA had played in the killings. Jeremiah O'Leary in the Washington Star (8th October, 1976) wrote: "The right-wing Chilean junta had nothing to gain and everything to lose by the assassination of a peaceful and popular socialist leader." Newsweek added: "The CIA has concluded that the Chilean secret police was not involved." (11th October).

William F. Buckley also took part in this disinformation campaign and on 25th October wrote: "U.S. investigators think it unlikely that Chile would risk with an action of this kind the respect it has won with great difficulty during the past year in many Western countries, which before were hostile to its policies." According to Donald Freed Buckley had been providing disinformation for the Pinochet government since October 1974. He also unearthed information that William Buckley's brother, James Buckley, met with Michael V. Townley and Guillermo Novo in New York City just a week before Orlando Letelier was assassinated.

The FBI eventually became convinced that Michael V. Townley was organized the assassination of Orlando Letelier. In 1978 Chile agreed to extradite him to the United States. Townley confessed he had hired five anti-Castro Cubans exiles to booby-trap Letelier's car. Guillermo Novo, Ignacio Novo, Virgilio Paz Romero, Dionisio Suárez, and Alvin Ross Díaz were eventually indicted for the crime.

Townley agreed to provide evidence against these men in exchange for a deal that involved him pleading guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to commit murder and being given a ten-year sentence. His wife, Mariana Callejas also agreed to testify, in exchange for not being prosecuted.

On the 9th January, 1979, the trial of Guillermo Novo, Ignacio Novo and Alvin Ross Díaz began in Washington. General Pinochet refused to allow Virgilio Paz Romero and Dionisio Suárez, two DINA officers, to be extradited. All three were found guilty of murder. Guillermo Novo and Alvin Ross were sentenced to life imprisonment. Ignacio Novo received eighty years. Soon after the trial Michael Townley was freed under the Witness Protection Program.

Pinochet, with the help of 400 CIA advisers, privatized the social and welfare system and destroyed the Chilean trade union movement. As Malcolm Coad pointed out: "This was achieved through wholesale privatisation, a complete opening to the international economy, fixing the exchange rate artificially low, and pumping in foreign loans during the petro-dollar glut of the late 1970s. The result was the destruction of national industry and much of agriculture, then near-collapse in the early 1980s amid a frenzy of speculation, consumer imports and debt crisis. The state bailed out most of the country's banking sector and unemployment rose to an official level of over 30 per cent."

Pinochet also received help from Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative government. This included Britain supplying arms to the regime and blocking attempts by the United Nations to investigate human rights abuses in Chile.

As a result of Pinochet's policies, the gap between rich and poor widened to give the country the worst income distribution in the region after Brazil. In 1983 mass protests took place in Chile. This resulted in further repression and in September 1986 the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front came close to assassinating Pinochet.

In October 1988 a referendum took place to decide if Pinochet should be the only candidate in the forthcoming presidential election. Much to his surprise and dismay, this proposal was rejected, and he won only 44 per cent of the vote.

In 1989 Patricio Aylwin, a Christian Democrat, won 55 per cent of the votes to become Chile's new president. Pinochet did however remain as commander-in-chief of the army, a position he was able to use to make sure there were no prosecutions against any members of the security forces suspected of human rights abuses during his period of power.

General Pinochet visited Britain in 1994 to inspect a missile project being developed jointly between the Chilean Army and the Royal Ordnance Arms Company. He was warmly welcomed by members of the John Major government. Norman Lamont, one of Major minister's became one of Pinochet's greatest defenders.

In March 1998 Pinochet resigned as head of the Chilean army but became a senator, therefore guaranteeing him parliamentary immunity for life. However, later that year, while on a visit to London, Pinochet was arrested by the British police, following a request by judges investigating the torture and disappearance of Spanish citizens during Pinochet's period in power.

Five Law Lords ruled in December 1998 that Pinochet was not immune from prosecution. However, the ruling was set aside when it was discovered that one of the judges had links with Amnesty International. In January 1999 seven Law Lords voted 6-1 that Pinochet must face extradition to Spain but that he was also immune from prosecution for crimes committed before 1988. In January 2000, the British home secretary, Jack Straw, gave permission for Augusto Pinochet to fly home to Chile on compassionate grounds.

When he arrived home the authorities in Chile stripped him of his parliamentary immunity and proceedings against him began. Eventually, in July 2001 the Chilean courts decided to suspend the investigation on grounds of "dementia".

In 2005 a US Senate investigation of terrorist financing discovered that Pinochet had opened and closed at least 128 bank accounts at Riggs Bank and other US financial institutions in an apparent money-laundering operation. It seems that Pinochet had illegally obtained a $28m fortune during his period as a dictator of Chile.

Augusto Pinochet died on 10th December, 2006.

The Chilean government applauded remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell this week that the United States was "not proud" of its role in the 1973 coup that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power, Chilean newspapers reported on Saturday.

Powell's comments on Thursday on the US Black Entertainment Television network, were seen by Chileans as the first time Washington has acknowledged that it intervened in events related to the bloody putsch and death of socialist President Salvador Allende.

In the interview, Powell was asked why Washington considers itself "the moral superior" in the Iraq conflict. The interviewer cited the Chilean coup as an example of the US government acting against the wishes of a local population.

"With respect to your earlier comments about Chile in the 1970s and what happened with Mr. Allende, it is not a part of American history that we're proud of," Powell answered.

Under Pinochet's iron-fisted rule, that lasted 17 years, leftist political groups were persecuted and about 3,000 people were killed or disappeared, according to an official report.

"We now have a more accountable way of handling such matters and we have worked with Chile to help it put in place a responsible democracy," Powell added.

Augusto Pinochet had resorted so often to claims of ill health to avoid the pressing attentions of Chile's judges that even the administration of the last rites last week failed to convince his opponents that his end was near. Pinochet's long and brutal dictatorship and its half life of lingering political influence, had invested him with such iconic status that he seemed immortal.

His death robs his opponents of the satisfaction of seeing him sentenced for his crimes. But Pinochet lived to see his corruption exposed and his claims to honourable motives discredited.

Pinochet was admitted late to the plot that led to the coup against President Salvador Allende on September 11 1973. His genius was to appropriate power to himself and to use terror, both to eliminate opponents on the left and to intimidate those members of the armed forces who upheld constitutional rule. The dictatorship he installed was not the bloodiest in Latin America. It was shocking because it happened in a country proud of its democratic traditions.

For his supporters, Pinochet was the man who had saved Chile from communism. For his opponents, he was a murderer who had destroyed the rule of law. For the last 10 years, the dismantling of his reputation has been a struggle to reassert legal norms and restore the right to remember those years.

It was a powerful process. After his arrest in London in October 1998, Pinochet claimed sovereign immunity. But on November 25 1998, the House of Lords rejected his appeal. At the Pinochet Foundation in Santiago, his supporters had prepared a 77th birthday party, complete with giant screens on which they waited for their leader's expected victory message. When the judgment went against him, the party ended in mayhem. Meanwhile, in the house of the widow of one of the disappeared, there were tears of joy.

Two years later the decision of the then home secretary, Jack Straw, to allow Pinochet to return to Chile on grounds of ill health seemed to mock that moment. But his return allowed the Chilean judiciary to declare its own breach with the regime.

Juan Guzman, a senior judge who had begun his career in Pinochet's military courts, took on the case with a diligence and seriousness that confounded both Chile's critics and Pinochet's supporters. He excavated graveyards, interviewed witnesses, took statements and patiently built his dossiers.

Pinochet's lawyers fought back with more claims of ill health, and Guzman was not able to complete the prosecution. But the trial remains a historic process that gradually dismantled Pinochet's impunity and rewrote his legacy. It became clear Pinochet would never have the statue he had planned to erect for himself behind the Moneda palace.

Supporters continued to believe the trial was just another political conspiracy in an ungrateful nation. Their disillusionment did not come until Pinochet's corruption came to light as a piece of collateral damage in the war on terror: scrutiny of suspected funds for terrorism uncovered secret bank accounts. The mythical upright soldier was discovered to have salted away a sum one judge estimated at $28m. Like Al Capone, Pinochet was finally called to account by the tax man.

By the end, Pinochet had only a handful of supporters. He lived to see Chile return to normality, and to elect as president the daughter of a man tortured to death under his regime.

For me, though, Pinochet's lasting legacy is a young woman called Nilda who as a child clung screaming to her father as soldiers dragged him away. He never came back and Nilda has never stopped looking for his grave. Her wounds will never heal.

Pinochet himself would later claim that, for security reasons, he had been planning the coup alone for two years with student officers at the military academy. Other generals, who certainly were involved in the plotting, said that he was considered untrustworthy and played no role. What is not in doubt is that three days before the coup, he was given an ultimatum by the commanders-in-chief of the navy and air force to join them or suffer the consequences.

On the day itself, there was little doubt Pinochet was in charge. "He realized what had dropped into his lap and had no alternative but to follow it through," said one of his closest civilian aides later. Amateur recordings of radio transmissions between the golpista command posts that day reveal the Pinochet the world would come to know. While negotiating Allende's surrender, he joked crudely about flying the president out of the country and crashing the plane on the way. "Kill the bitch and you finish the spawn," he said.

Within a year, as the army asserted its overwhelming strength among the armed services, plans for a rotating presidency between the four members of the ruling junta of service chiefs were dropped and Pinochet was named President of the Republic. A tight group of civilian and military advisers designed a regime focused on him as the incarnation of the military's "historic mission to remake the country". Potential rivals were either retired or died in mysterious circumstances. In 1974, General Prats became one of the victims, killed with his wife in exile in Buenos Aires by a bomb attached to their car - an attack later shown to have been carried out by Pinochet's agents.

The rank of Captain-general, hitherto held only by the Liberator of the country from the Spanish in the early 1800s, Bernardo O'Higgins, was revived for Pinochet. His uniform hat was tailored higher than that of other officers. Officially he became the visionary who, guided by "the mysterious hand of God", had made Chile "the only country in history to have broken free from the yoke of communism". He was reported to enjoy the special protection of the Virgin Mary, patron of both the army and the country. Such was the origin of the saint-like statuettes of Pinochet and the posters of "The Immortal" so widely seen at demonstrations supporting him after his arrest in London.

This personality cult was only one of the ways in which the regime so notably avoided the factionalism that plagued the region's many other military dictatorships. Chile's army was already the most hierarchically disciplined in the region, the legacy of late 18th-century Prussian advisers, and this was skilfully translated into personal devotion to Pinochet. Limitations were placed on the services' own role in day-to-day government, with the brunt of this being left in Pinochet's own hands and those of his circle of advisers. A ruthless secret police watched the regime as much as the opposition.

In the regime a strict ideology reigned, based in personal loyalty to Pinochet, anti-communist dogma of "national security", and the extreme neoliberal economic doctrine imported by a generation of technocrats known as the "Chicago Boys", after the university where some had received their training. Pinochet's own wiliness - his most evident political talent apart from ruthlessness - also came into its own, as he proved adept at nipping factions in the bud and playing them off against each other. In the mid-1980s he would use the same skill with success against the re-emerging opposition.

Especially shocking was the level of repression in a country with a longstanding parliamentary tradition and a hitherto mild record of military involvement in politics by regional standards. Official investigations since 1990 have confirmed over 3000 deaths and disappearances at the hands of Pinochet's security forces. Torture was institutionalised, secret detention centres operated into which detainees disappeared never to be seen again, and murder squads were despatched to kill prominent dissidents abroad.

Meanwhile, in laboratory conditions, with political parties and trade unions banned, the "Chicago Boys" set about radically remaking the heavily state-dependent economy. This was achieved through wholesale privatisation, a complete opening to the international economy, fixing the exchange rate artificially low, and pumping in foreign loans during the petro-dollar glut of the late 1970s. The state bailed out most of the country's banking sector and unemployment rose to an official level of over 30 per cent.

Following the debacle, a more moderate group of neoliberals succeded in stabilising the now streamlined macroeconomy. A young and vigorous new breed of capitalists emerged, centred on new exports such as fish, timber and fruit. Reforms such as the privatisation of the pension system became highly influential around the world, growth became steady and Chile became a byword for economic success - though the gap between rich and poor widened to give the country the worst income distribution in the region after Brazil.

In America, the danger is not that too much is remembered of the Pinochet era but that too much of the American role in helping to foment those old horrors may be forgotten.

There is a deceptively comforting story line that sequesters the present from the past, disguising any continuity between the regime change produced in Chile on Sept. 11, 1973, and other American experiments of that nature. In that reassuring historical narrative, Pinochet was perhaps guilty of trampling on democratic niceties and of kidnapping, torturing, and killing socialists and Marxists , but he represented, after all, the lesser of two evils. The alternative evil was commonly depicted as Soviet influence, left-wing radicalism, the expropriation of private property, and falling pro-American dominoes across Latin America.

The former US ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, who passed away three days before Pinochet, once propounded a theory to justify American backing for military dictatorships in Latin America. Her rationale rested upon a distinction between totalitarian states like those in the communist world and mere authoritarian regimes. The latter were supposed to be more tolerable because, in contrast to the communist states, they left open the possibility of eventually permitting a return to democracy. It was a theory that failed the test of time, as demonstrated by the nearly bloodless implosion of communism and the flowering of democracy in Poland, Hungary, and the former Czechoslovakia.

Reflecting the spirit of such Cold War notions, a CIA document from the month after Allende was elected president on Sept. 11, 1970, says, "It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup" and "it is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG" - US government - "and American hand be well hidden." Whatever the details of US complicity in Pinochet's eventual seizure of power, Americans must not forget that their own democratic leaders share complicity in the disappearances, torture, and killings perpetrated after 1973 by their man in Chile.

The human-rights abuses committed under Pinochet's military junta were widely known throughout the country.

Rights groups estimate that more than 3,000 people were killed after 1973 when Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president, was overthrown and allegedly took his own life with a gun given to him by his friend, Fidel Castro.

Most of the murders took place in the first year of military rule, when Santiago's National Stadium was turned into a detention and torture centre.

Pinochet was facing charges over the "Caravan of Death" in 1973, when it is alleged a military death squad rounded up suspected leftists from prisons around the country and murdered them.

However, it was not such abuses that led to his support eroding - it was allegations of corruption, in 2005, when undeclared foreign bank accounts containing some £15 million were traced to him and members of his family.

Augusto Pinochet

Augusto Pinochet, born in Valparaiso in 1915, was President of Chile between 1973 and 1990, ruling as a dictator after overthrowing the democratically-elected President Allende in a coup d&rsquoétat. His legacy remains very controversial: his supporters point to Chile&rsquos flourishing economy and its ranking as one of Latin America&rsquos most prosperous nations, while his opponents believe that these economic improvements came at a great human cost.

Pinochet was born as one of six children to Augusto and Avelina Pinochet. At the age of 17, he embarked on a military career, quickly rising through the ranks to be appointed Commander in Chief in 1973 by President Salvador Allende, the world's first democratically-elected Marxist leader. Only three weeks into his new post, Pinochet played a central role in the CIA-sponsored coup against the president in September 1973. The aim of the coup was to &ldquoliberate Chile from Marxist oppression.&rdquo The attack culminated in the surrounding of the presidential palace and President Allende&rsquos suicide. Before the coup, Chile had enjoyed a long history as a democratic country where rule of law prospered.

Chile&rsquos new military government consisted of the heads of the three armed forces, known as the junta. As head of the oldest branch, the Army, Pinochet was appointed the head of this junta. The first actions that the junta took were to ban all left-leaning political parties. Although publicly criticizing it, the United States provided support to the military government after the coup. Many of the regime&rsquos opponents were rounded up and assassinated.

In December 1974, Augusto Pinochet officially changed his title from Supreme Chief of the Nation to that of President of Chile. His principal task was to reinvigorate the country's flagging economy using free-market reforms, and his policies eventually led to substantial GDP growth, with Chile becoming a liberalized economy, well-integrated into the world market.

Government spending was reduced, state services were privatized, and the restrictions Allende had imposed on foreign investment were removed. In 1980 a referendum was held to decide whether to adopt a new constitution. Among its features were proposals to ban all left-wing parties for good, increase presidential powers, and allow Pinochet an additional eight years in office. The new document was approved by over 67% of the electorate, although the result was widely criticized as having been fixed.

A temporary fall in economic growth followed the referendum, prompting strikes and protests throughout the country, all of which were suppressed, and in 1986 Pinochet survived an assassination attempt. Another referendum was held in 1988, which asked the people for another eight years in office. Prior to the referendum, in the face of international pressure, Pinochet had legalized other political parties in 1987.

Another eight-year term was rejected by 56% of the population, leading to presidential and legislative elections in the following year. These were won by the Patricio Aylwin, who replaced Pinochet as president in March 1990. Pinochet remained the military&rsquos commander in chief until 1998, allowing him immunity from prosecution. In 1998, when General Pinochet traveled to London for back surgery, he was placed under house arrest by authorities at the request of the Spanish Government, who wished to extradite him to Spain to face charges of torture.

The arrest provoked a lengthy legal battle, in which the British House of Lords ruled that he be extradited to Spain. However, in 2000 the British government overturned that ruling, releasing Pinochet on medical grounds, who then returned to Chile. Later that year, the Chile Supreme Court indicted Pinochet on human rights abuses, a ruling which it subsequently overturned in 2002, only to reinstate it again in 2004, ruling that he was, after all, capable of standing trial. He was placed under house arrest, awaiting trial, but died of a heart attack in 2006 before full legal proceedings were underway.

What Pinochet Did for Chile

Chile’s former president, General Augusto Pinochet, died in December. Some of his legacies are well known, but others are not.

Pinochet directed the coup of September 11, 1973, and presided until 1990 over a military regime that violated human rights, shut down political parties, canceled elections, constrained the press and trade unions, and engaged in other undemocratic actions during its more than 16 years of rule. These facts are important and widely recounted.

A number of other important truths about the Pinochet period and its legacy are equally well documented but less well known. Indeed, they are often not acknowledged at all. (A notable partial exception to this rule was the Washington Post editorial of December 12 that bore the headline “A dictator’s double standard: Augusto Pinochet tortured and murdered. His legacy is Latin America’s most successful country.”) We will focus on the generally neglected, discounted, distorted, and sometimes falsely denied or suppressed aspects of the Pinochet legacy that have truly made Chile, despite its continuing challenges, “Latin America’s most successful country.”

What Kind of Democracy Did the Coup Displace?

The 1973 coup is often represented as having destroyed Chilean democracy. Such characterizations are half-truths at best. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Chile’s democracy was already well on the road to self-destruction. The historian James Whelan caught its tragic essence when he wrote that Chile’s was a “cannibalistic democracy, consuming itself.” Eduardo Frei Montalva, Chile’s president from 1964 to 1970, who helped to bring in Salvador Allende as his successor, later called the latter’s presidency “this carnival of madness.” Freedoms increasingly overwhelmed responsibilities. Lawlessness became rampant. Uncontrolled leftist violence had also been escalating during the government of Christian Democrat Frei Montalva, before Allende became president and long before Pinochet played any role whatsoever in Chilean politics.

In 1970, Allende won 36.2 percent of the popular vote, less than the 38.6 percent he had taken in 1964 and only 1.3 percent more than the runner-up. According to the constitution, the legislature could have given the presidency to either of the top two candidates. It chose Allende only after he pledged explicitly to abide by the constitution. “A few months later,” Whelan reports, “Allende told fellow leftist Regis Debray that he never actually intended to abide by those commitments but signed just to finally become president.” In legislative and other elections over the next three years, Allende and his Popular Unity (UP) coalition, dominated by the Communist and Socialist parties, never won a majority, much less a mandate, in any election. Still Allende tried to “transition” (his term) Chile into a Marxist-Leninist economic, social, and political system.

Allende’s closest UP allies were the Communists, the right wing of the UP, but both were pressed to move faster than they wanted by the left wing of the UP, mainly members of Allende’s Socialist Party, and by ultraleftists (the term used by the Communists) to the left of the UP. Violence escalated rapidly, with the extreme left, including many members of the president’s own party, seizing properties and setting up independent zones in cities and the countryside, often contrary to what Allende and the Communists thought prudent. In the process Allende, his supporters, and extremists they could not control virtually destroyed the economy, fractured the society, politicized the military and the educational systems, and rode roughshod over Chilean constitutional, legal, political, and cultural traditions. Thus by July 1973, if not earlier, Chile was looking at an incipient civil war.

Pinochet’s 1973 coup was supported by Allende’s presidential predecessor and by an overwhelming majority of the Chilean people.

Many on the left had long believed that capitalism and democracy were incompatible. In a brazen demonstration of its contempt for majority wishes, and for the institutions of what it called “bourgeois democracy,” the pro-Allende newspaper Puro Chile reported the results of the March 1973 legislative elections with this headline: “The People, 43%. The Mummies, 55%.” This attitude and the actions that followed from it galvanized the center-left and right, whose candidates had received almost two-thirds of the votes in the 1970 election, against Allende. On August 22, 1973, the Chamber of Deputies, whose members had been elected just five months earlier, voted 81–47 that Allende’s regime had systematically “destroyed essential elements of institutionality and of the state of law.” (The Supreme Court had earlier condemned the Allende government’s repeated violations of court orders and judicial procedures.) Less than three weeks later, the military, led by newly appointed army commander in chief Pinochet, overthrew the government. The coup was supported by Allende’s presidential predecessor, Eduardo Frei Montalva by Patricio Aylwin, the first democratically elected president after democracy was restored in 1990 and by an overwhelming majority of the Chilean people. Cuba and the United States were actively involved on opposite sides, but the main players were always Chilean.

Authoritarian, Not Totalitarian

The Chilean military regime from 1973 to 1990 was authoritarian, certainly, but not totalitarian. This distinction is fundamental in comparative political analysis. Totalitarian regimes legitimize and practice very high degrees of penetration into all aspects of the economy, society, religion, culture, and family, whereas authoritarian regimes do not. Totalitarian regimes have dominant single parties coherent, highly articulated, widely disseminated ideologies very high levels of mass mobilization and participation directed and manipulated by the regime and a strict control over candidates, when there are any, and policies. Authoritarian regimes have mentalities more than ideologies, low levels of political participation, and limited pluralism and competition of policies and political actors (including the press), with some constraints on regime control and manipulation of the polity, society, economy, family, religion, culture, and the press.

Consider also the two types of regimes’ different propensities to enable a transition to democracy. Totalitarian systems—once in place and short of external military conquest and occupation—are much harder to change than authoritarian ones. Pinochet’s authoritarianism in Chile ended after 16 years in a peaceful and constitutional transfer of power, permitted by a constitution passed in 1980 Castro’s totalitarian regime in Cuba has lasted 48 years so far. Chile’s democracy after 1990 has been vigorous and stable. As reported by Hector Schamis in the Journal of Democracy (October 2006), Chile’s current foreign minister, Alejandro Foxley, recognized early in the first post-Pinochet democratic government that “the constitutional rules left by Pinochet had ‘somewhat ironically fostered a more democratic system,’ for they forced major actors into compromise rather than confrontation and, by ‘avoiding populism,’ increased ‘economic governability.’”

It has become fashionable in some quarters lately to claim that Chile’s successful record of economic development in recent decades actually began in 1990, during the first civilian government since 1973. That claim is false. The historical record is clear. President Pinochet and his civilian advisers, after an elaborate and lengthy process of deliberation and decision making in 1973–1975, in which various alternative courses of action were considered, put in place the radically new set of market-oriented structures and policies that have been and remain the foundations of Chile’s subsequent three decades of economic and social development. This new model, which we call social capitalism, was adjusted, revised, and supplemented during the Pinochet years, most importantly in response to an economic crisis in the early 1980s and also in the post-1990 civilian years. But its main elements have not changed, and thus far no post-1990 government has proposed or seriously considered going back to either of the two previous, failed models, namely, state capitalism (1938–70) or state socialism (1970–73).

As the then finance minister, Alejandro Foxley, said in a 1991 interview: “We may not like the government that came before us. But they did many things right. We have inherited an economy that is an asset.” All four civilian governments since 1990 have maintained the new, more market-oriented economic and social models inherited from the military regime. Although there were changes at the margins after 1990, the point of sharpest and deepest positive change was unquestionably 1973 and immediately thereafter, not 1970 or 1990.

It is often said and widely believed that Pinochet’s economic reforms eliminated any significant role of the state in the economy. The claim is that he introduced a neoliberal model, that is, raw, savage capitalism of the kind attributed to Chile in the nineteenth century. The facts are otherwise. Chile’s largest industry and biggest foreign-exchange earner by far is copper, which was nationalized in the late 1960s and early 1970s and has remained so ever since . Domestic banks were deregulated in the late 1970s but reregulated with vigor in the early 1980s. Poverty had increased enormously during and in the wake of the UP’s disastrous economic policies, and it decreased only as a result of the state-led stabilization policies, structural reforms, and targeted social programs of the Pinochet period. Major state expenditures for direct action social programs targeted to the poorest of the poor were initiated in the middle 1980s, not after 1990. Poverty levels, as high as 50 percent in 1984, were reduced to 34 percent by 1989. They continued to fall after 1990 to 15 percent in 2005. The Concertación, the alliance of political parties of the center and left that has won the past four presidential elections, deserves some credit for the post-1990 years, but so does the Pinochet government. It created the underlying economic policies and structures in the 1970s and 1980s that the Concertación maintained and that produced jobs for the poor and an economic surplus to enable targeted state antipoverty programs.

The innovations in economic and social policy of the Pinochet government had significant influences on, and implications for, not only subsequent governments in Chile but also the rest of Latin America and the wider world. Today almost the entire globe relies on the state less and on markets more than in 1973. The first country in the world to make that momentous break with the past—away from socialism and extreme state capitalism toward more market-oriented structures and policies—was not Deng Xiaoping’s China or Margaret Thatcher’s Britain in the late 1970s, Ronald Reagan’s United States in 1981, or any other country in Latin America or elsewhere. It was Pinochet’s Chile in 1975.

What once looked like a reactionary economic model is now the standard in much of the world.

At that time the Chilean economic model was considered anathema almost everywhere—partly because of its association with Chile’s military regime but also because it was viewed (wrongly, as it turned out) as an unthinkable, reactionary model per se, especially for developing countries. (Of the many military regimes in Latin America in the sixties, seventies, and eighties, the only one to break with state capitalism was Chile’s.) But global perceptions of the Chilean economic model changed, slowly at first, more rapidly and massively after the mid-1980s. By now, the economic policies of most countries of Latin America North America Western, Central, and Eastern Europe China India Russia and its former republics much of Africa and many other places around the world have followed the Chilean lead rather than fled from it.

The autumn of Two Dictators

Pinochet’s death occurred just as Fidel Castro was lying gravely ill in Cuba. Have commentators described and evaluated them with equal accuracy and fairness over the decades?

Castro killed at least as many Cubans as Pinochet did Chileans. Pinochet’s government has been justly condemned for engaging in some terrorist activities abroad, from Argentina to the United States. Amnesty International strongly supported the Chilean leader’s extradition to Spain in 1998 for a trial it thought would enact justice. But Castro trained thousands of guerrillas from countries all over the world and sent hundreds of thousands of Cuban troops to many countries on at least three continents to launch and wage wars that brought untold death and destruction. We can’t recall human rights organizations agitating for his extradition, or for his being brought to justice even posthumously in Cuba. Finally, Chile is the most successful case of economic, social, and political development in Latin America and a pioneer in the global shift to enlightened social capitalism. Cuba is a dismal, impoverished, dynastic totalitarian anachronism.

All four civilian governments since 1990 have maintained the new, more market-oriented economic and social models inherited from the military regime.

How many nations a decade or century from now will aspire to the “successes” of Fidel Castro—or of Salvador Allende? A much more positive case can be made for major parts of Pinochet’s legacy. It’s time to acknowledge that the legacies of the Pinochet years are a much better mix than they are usually said to be.


There has been a large amount of debate over the extent of US government involvement in destabilising the Allende government. [6] [7] Recently declassified documents show evidence of communication between the Chilean military and US officials, suggesting covert US involvement in assisting the military's rise to power. Some key figures in the Nixon administration, such as Henry Kissinger, used the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to mount a major destabilization campaign. [8] As the CIA revealed in 2000, "In the 1960s and the early 1970s, as part of the US Government policy to try to influence events in Chile, the CIA undertook specific covert action projects in Chile . to discredit Marxist-leaning political leaders, especially Dr. Salvador Allende, and to strengthen and encourage their civilian and military opponents to prevent them from assuming power." [9] The CIA worked with right-wing Chilean politicians, military personnel, and journalists to undermine socialism in Chile. [10] One reason for this was financial, as many US businesses had investments in Chile, and Allende's socialist policies included the nationalization of Chile's major industries. Another reason was the propagandized fear of the spread of communism, which was particularly important in the context of the Cold War. The rationale was that US feared that Allende would promote the spreading of Soviet influence in their ‘backyard’. [11] However, the fact that Allende's peaceful path was toward Socialism—not Communism—and because of the vested interests of the U.S. copper industry in Chile, the rationale had more to do with U.S. financial interests. As early as 1963, the U.S. via the CIA and U.S. multinationals such as ITT intervened in Chilean politics using a variety of tactics and millions of dollars to interfere with elections, ultimately helping plan the coup against Allende. [12] [13] [14]

On 15 April 1973, workers from the El Teniente mining camp had ceased working, demanding higher wages. The strike lasted 76 days and cost the government severely in lost revenues. One of the strikers, Luis Bravo Morales, was shot dead in Rancagua city. On June 29, the Blindados No. 2 tank regiment under the command of Colonel Roberto Souper, attacked La Moneda, Chile's presidential palace. Instigated by the anti-Marxist militia Patria y Libertad ("country and freedom"), the armoured cavalry soldiers hoped other units would be inspired to join them. Instead, armed units led by generals Carlos Prats and Augusto Pinochet quickly put down the coup attempt. In late July, 40,000 truckers, squeezed by price controls and rising costs, tied up transportation in a nationwide strike that lasted 37 days, costing the government US$6 million a day. [15] Two weeks before the coup, public dissatisfaction with rising prices and food shortages led to protests like the one at the Plaza de la Constitución which had been dispersed with tear gas. [16] Allende also clashed with Chile's largest circulation newspaper El Mercurio. Tax-evasion charges were trumped up against the newspaper and its director arrested. [17] The Allende government found it impossible to control inflation, which grew to more than 300 percent by September, [18] further dividing Chileans over the Allende government and its policies.

Upper- and middle-class right-wing women also played an important role in destabilising the Allende government. They co-ordinated two prominent opposition groups called El Poder Feminino ("female power"), and Solidaridad, Orden y Libertad ("solidarity, order, and freedom"). [19] [20] These women who opposed Allende felt as though their fundamental values of family and motherhood were being threatened by Marxism. Furthermore, the economic chaos that Allende's regime was seeing meant that there were struggles to buy food and thus look after their families. Allende's regime therefore threatened the most important aspect of a woman's role. These women used many tactics to destabilise the Allende regime. They carried out the ‘March of the Empty Pots and Pans’ in December 1971, and emasculated the military. These women criticised the military for being ‘cowards’ for not getting rid of Allende, arguing that they were not carrying out their role of protecting Chilean women.

On August 22, 1973, the Chamber of Deputies passed, by a vote of 81 to 47, a resolution calling for President Allende to respect the constitution. The measure failed to obtain the two-thirds majority in the Senate constitutionally required to convict the president of abuse of power, but the resolution still represented a challenge to Allende's legitimacy. The military were staunch supporters of the constitution and therefore believed that Allende had lost legitimacy as Chile's leader. [21] As a result, reacting to widespread public demand for intervention, the military began planning for a military coup which would ultimately take place on September 11, 1973. Contrary to popular belief, Pinochet was not the mastermind behind the coup. It was, in fact, naval officers who first decided that military intervention was necessary to remove President Allende from power. [22] Army generals were unsure of Pinochet's allegiances, as he had given no prior indication of disloyalty to Allende, and thus was only informed of these plans on the evening of 8 September, just three days before the coup took place. [23] On 11 September 1973, the military launched a coup, with troops surrounding La Moneda Palace. Allende died that day of suspected suicide.

The military installed themselves in power as a Military Government Junta, composed of the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Carabineros (police). Once the Junta was in power, General Augusto Pinochet soon consolidated his control over the government. Since he was the commander-in-chief of the oldest branch of the military forces (the Army), he was made the titular head of the junta, and soon after President of Chile. Once the junta had taken over, the United States immediately recognized the new regime and helped it consolidate power. [24]

Suppression of political activity Edit

On September 13, the junta dissolved the Congress and outlawed or suspended all political activities in addition to suspending the 1925 constitution. All political activity was declared "in recess". The Government Junta immediately banned the socialist, Marxist and other leftist parties that had constituted former President Allende's Popular Unity coalition [25] and began a systemic campaign of imprisonment, torture, harassment and/or murder against the perceived opposition. Eduardo Frei, Allende's predecessor as president, initially supported the coup along with his Christian Democratic colleagues. However, they later assumed the role of a loyal opposition to the military rulers. Though they soon lost most of their influence they were subjected to the same treatment that the UP members had been before them. [ citation needed ] During 1976–77, this repression even reached independent and Christian Democrat labour leaders who had supported the coup, several were exiled. [26] Christian Democrats like Radomiro Tomic were jailed or forced into exile. [27] [28] Retired military personnel were named rectors of universities and they carried out vast purges of suspected left-wing sympathisers. [29] With such strong repression, the Catholic church became the only public voice allowed within Chile. By 1974, the Commission of Peace had established a large network to provide information to numerous organisations regarding human rights abuses in Chile. As a result of this, Manuel Contreras, Director of DINA, threatened Cardinal Silva Henriquez that his safety could be at risk if the Church continued to interfere which in turn resulted in death threats and intimidation from agents of the regime. [30]

A key provision of the new constitution of 1980 aimed at eliminating leftist factions, “outlawed the propagation of doctrines that attack the family or put forward a concept of society based on the class struggle”. Pinochet maintained strict command over the armed forces thus he could depend on them to censor the media, arrest opposition leaders and repress demonstrations. This was accompanied by a complete shutting down of civil society with curfews, prohibition of public assembly, press blackouts, draconian censorship and universities were purged. [31]

Human rights violations Edit

The military rule was characterized by systematic suppression of all political dissidence. Scholars later described this as a "politicide" (or "political genocide"). [32] Steve J. Stern spoke of a politicide to describe "a systematic project to destroy an entire way of doing and understanding politics and governance." [33]

Estimates of figures for victims of state violence vary. Rudolph Rummel cited early figures of up to 30,000 people killed. [34] However, these high estimates have not held to later scrutiny.

In 1996, human rights activists announced they had presented another 899 cases of people who had disappeared or been killed during the dictatorship, taking the total of known victims to 3,197, of whom 2,095 were reported killed and 1,102 missing. [35] Following the return to democracy with the Concertacion government, the Rettig Commission, a multipartisan effort by the Aylwin administration to discover the truth about the human-rights violations, listed a number of torture and detention centers (such as Colonia Dignidad, the ship Esmeralda or Víctor Jara Stadium), and found that at least 3,200 people were killed or disappeared by the regime. Later, the 2004 Valech Report confirmed the figure of 3,200 deaths but reduced the estimated number of disappearances. It tells of some 28,000 arrests in which the majority of those detained were incarcerated and in a great many cases tortured. [36] In 2011, the Chilean government officially recognized 36,948 survivors of torture and political imprisonment, as well as 3,095 people killed or disappeared at the hands of the military government. [37]

The worst violence occurred within the first three months of the coup, with the number of suspected leftists killed or "disappeared" (desaparecidos) reaching several thousand. [38] In the days immediately following the coup, the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs informed Henry Kissinger that the National Stadium was being used to hold 5,000 prisoners. Between the day of the coup and November 1973, as many as 40,000 political prisoners were held there [39] [40] and as late as 1975, the CIA was still reporting that up to 3,811 were imprisoned there. [41] 1,850 of them were killed, another 1,300 are still missing to this day. [40] Some of the most famous cases of desaparecidos are Charles Horman, a U.S. citizen who was killed during the coup itself, [42] Chilean songwriter Víctor Jara, and the October 1973 Caravan of Death (Caravana de la Muerte) wherein at least 70 people were killed.

Leftist guerrilla groups and their sympathizers were also hit hard during the military regime. The MIR commander, Andrés Pascal Allende, has stated that the Marxist guerrillas lost 1,500–2,000 fighters that were either killed or had simply disappeared. [43] Among the people that were killed or had disappeared during the military regime were at least 663 MIR guerrillas. [44] The Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front stated that 49 FPMR guerrillas were killed and hundreds tortured. [45]

According to the Latin American Institute on Mental Health and Human Rights, 200,000 people were affected by "extreme trauma" this figure includes individuals executed, tortured, forcibly exiled, or having their immediate relatives put under detention. [46] 316 women have reported to having been subjected to rape by soldiers and agents of the dictatorship, however the number is believed to be much larger due to the preference of many women to avoid talking about this. Twenty pregnant women have declared to have suffered abortion due to torture. [47] In the words of Alejandra Matus detained women were doubly punished, first for being "leftists" and second for not conforming to their ideal of women usually being called "perra" (lit. "bitch"). [48]

In addition to the violence experienced within Chile, many people fled from the regime, while others have been forcibly exiled, with some 30,000 Chileans being deported from the country. [49] [50] [51] particularly to Argentina, however, Operation Condor, which linked South American dictatorships together against political opponents, meant that even these exiles could be subject to violence. [52] Some 20,000–40,000 Chilean exiles were holders of passports stamped with the letter "L" (which stood for lista nacional), identifying them as persona non grata and had to seek permission before entering the country. [53] According to a study in Latin American Perspectives, [54] at least 200,000 Chileans (about 2% of Chile's 1973 population) were forced into exile. Additionally, hundreds of thousands left the country in the wake of the economic crises that followed the military coup during the 1970s and 1980s. [54] In 2003, an article published by the International Committee of the Fourth International claimed that "Of a population of barely 11 million, more than 4,000 were executed or 'disappeared,' hundreds of thousands were detained and tortured, and almost a million fled the country." [55]

There were also internal exiles who due to a lack of resources could not escape abroad. [56] In the 1980s a few left-wing sympathisers hid in Puerto Gala and Puerto Gaviota, Patagonian fishing communities with a reputation of lawlessness. There they were joined by delinquents who feared torture or death by the authorities. [56]

Several scholars including Paul Zwier, [57] Peter Winn [58] and human rights organizations [59] have characterized the dictatorship as a police state exhibiting "repression of public liberties, the elimination of political exchange, limiting freedom of speech, abolishing the right to strike, freezing wages." [60]

Fake combats Edit

Starting in the late 1970s the regime began to use a tactic of faking combats, usually known by its Spanish name: "falsos enfrentamientos". [61] This meant that dissidents who were murdered outright had their deaths reported in media as if they had occurred in a mutual exchange of gunfire. This was done with support of journalists who "reported" the supposed events in some cases, the fake combats were also staged. The faked combat tactic ameliorated criticism of the regime implicitly putting culpability on the victim. It is thought that the killing of the MIR leader Miguel Enríquez in 1974 could be an early case of a faked combat. The faked combats reinforced the dictatorship narrative on the existence of an "internal war" which it used to justify its existence. [62] A particular fake combat event, lasting from September 8 to 9 1983, occurred when forces of the CNI lobbed grenades into a house, detonating the structure and killing the two men and a woman who were in the building. The agents would later state, with help from the Chilean press, that the people in the house had fired on them previously from their cars and had escaped to the house. The official story became that the three suspects had caused the explosion themselves by trying to burn and destroy incriminating evidence. Such actions had the effect of justifying the existence of heavily armed forces in Chile. And by extension, justified the dictatorship's conduct against such "violent" offenders. [63]

Pinochet–Leigh conflict Edit

During the 1970s, junta members Gustavo Leigh and Augusto Pinochet clashed on several occasions, dating back from the beginning of the 1973 Chilean coup d'état. Leigh criticized Pinochet for having joined the coup very late and then subsequently pretending to keep all power for himself. In December 1974, Leigh opposed the proposal to name Pinochet president of Chile. Leigh recalls from that moment that, "Pinochet was furious: he hit the board, broke the glass, injured his hand a little and bled. Then, Merino and Mendoza told me I should sign, because if not the junta would split. I signed.". Leigh's primary concern was Pinochet's consolidation of the legislative and executive branches of government under the new government, in particular, Pinochet's decision to enact a plebiscite without formally alerting the other junta members. [64] Leigh, although a fervent supporter of the regime and hater of Marxist ideology, had already taken steps to separate the executive and legislative branches. Pinochet was said to have been angered by Leigh's continued founding of a structure to divide the executive and legislative branches, eventually leading to Pinochet consolidating his power and Leigh being removed from the regime. [65] Leigh tried to fight his dismissal from the military and government junta but on July 24, 1978 his office was blocked by paratroopers. In accordance with legal rights established by the junta government, its members could not be dismissed without evidence of impairment, hence Pinochet and his ally junta members had declared Leigh to be unfit. [64] [66] Airforce General Fernando Matthei replaced Leigh as junta member. [67]

Another dictatorship member critical of Pinochet, Arturo Yovane, was removed from his post as minister of mining in 1974 and appointed ambassador at the new Chilean embassy in Tehran. [68]

Civilian collaborators Edit

Over time the dictatorship incorporated civilians into the government. Many of the Chicago boys joined the government, and Pinochet was largely sympathetic to them. This sympathy, scholar Peter Winn explains, was indebted to the fact that the Chicago boys were technocrats and thus fitted Pinochet's self-image of being "above politics". [69] Pinochet was impressed by their assertiveness as well as by their links to the financial world of the United States. [69]

Another group of civilians that collaborated extensively with the regime were the Gremialists, whose movement started in 1966 in the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. [70] The founder of the Gremialist movement, lawyer Jaime Guzmán, never assumed any official position in the military dictatorship but he remained one of the closest collaborators with Pinochet, playing an important ideological role. He participated in the design of important speeches of Pinochet, and provided frequent political and doctrinal advice and consultancy. [71]

According to scholar Carlos Huneeus the Gremialists and the Chicago Boys shared a long-term power strategy and were linked to each other in many ways. [70] In Chile, it has been very hard for the outside world to fully understand the role that everyday civilians played in keeping Pinochet's government afloat. Partly because there has been scant research into the topic, partly because those who did help the regime from 1973 to 1990 have been unwilling to explore their own part. One of the exemptions being an Univision interview with Osvaldo Romo Mena, a civilian torturer in 1995, recounting his actions. Osvaldo Romo died while incarcerated for the murder of three political opponents. For the most part, civilian collaborators with Pinochet have not broken the code of silence held by the military of the 1970s to 1990s. [72]

Constitution of 1980 Edit

Establishing a new constitution was a core issue for the dictatorship since it provided a mean of legitimization. [4] For this purpose the junta selected notable civilians willing to join the draft commission. Dissidents to the dictatorship were not represented in the commission. [73]

Chile's new constitution was approved in a national plebiscite held on September 11, 1980. The constitution was approved by 67% of voters under a process which has been described as "highly irregular and undemocratic." [74] Critics of the 1980 Constitution argue that the constitution was created not to build a democracy, but to consolidate power within the central government while limiting the amount of sovereignty allowed to the people with little political presence. [75] The constitution came into force on March 11, 1981.

Removal of César Mendoza Edit

In 1985, due to the Caso Degollados scandal ("case of the slit throats"), General César Mendoza resigned and was replaced by General Rodolfo Stange. [67]

Youth policy Edit

One of the first measures of the dictatorship was to set up a Secretaría Nacional de la Juventud (SNJ, National Youth Office). This was done on October 28, 1973, even before the Declaration of Principles of the junta made in March 1974. This was a way of mobilizing sympathetic elements of the civil society in support for the dictatorship. SNJ was created by advise of Jaime Guzmán, being an example of the dictatorship adopting a Gremialist thought. [76] Some right-wing student union leaders like Andrés Allamand were skeptical to these attempts as they were moulded from above and gathered disparate figures such as Miguel Kast, Antonio Vodanovic and Jaime Guzmán. Allamand and other young right-wingers also resented the dominance of the gremialist in SNJ, considering it a closed gremialist club. [77]

From 1975 to 1980 the SNJ arranged a series of ritualized acts in cerro Chacarillas reminiscent of Francoist Spain. The policy towards the sympathetic youth contrasted with the murder, surveillance and forced disappearances the dissident youth faced from the regime. Most of the documents of the SNJ were reportedly destroyed by the dictatorship in 1988. [76]

Women during the dictatorship Edit

In 1962 under the presidency of Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Montalva, the women's section expanded pre-existing neighbourhood 'mothers' centres' (which initially helped women to purchase their own sewing machines) to help garner support for their social reforms amongst the poorer sections. By the end of the 1960s, there were 8,000 centres involving 400,000 members. [78] Under Allende they were reorganised under the rubric National Confederation of Mothers' Centres (Confederación Nacional de Centros de Madres, COCEMA) and leadership of his wife, Hortensia Bussi, to encourage community initiatives and implement their policies directed at women. [79]

Attacks on military personnel Edit

One of the first armed groups to oppose the dictatorship was the MIR, Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria. Immediately after the coup MIR-aligned elements in Neltume, southern Chile, unsuccesfully assaulted the local Carabino station. Subsequently, MIR conducted several operations against the Pinochet government until the late 1980s. MIR assassinated the head of the Army Intelligence school, Lieutenant Roger Vergara, with machine gun fire in the late 1970s. The MIR also executed an attack on the base of the Chilean Secret Police (Central Nacional de Informaciones, CNI), as well as several attempts on the lives of carabineros officials and a judge of the Supreme Court in Chile. [80] Throughout the beginning years of the dictatorship the MIR was low-profile, but in August 1981 the MIR successfully killed the military leader of Santiago, General Carol Urzua Ibanez. Attacks on Chilean military official increased in the early 1980s, with the MIR killing several security forces personnel on a variety of occasions through extensive use of planted bombs in police stations or machine gun use [81]

Representing a major shift in attitudes, the CPCh founded the FPMR on 14 December 1983, to engage in a violent armed struggle against the junta. [82] Most notably the organisation attempted to assassinate Pinochet on the 7 September 1986 under 'Operation XX Century' but were unsuccessful. [83] The group also assassinated the author of the 1980 Constitution, Jaime Guzmán on 1 April 1991. [84] They continued to operate throughout the 1990s, being designated as a terrorist organisation the U.S. Department of State and MI6, until supposedly ceasing to operate in 1999. [85]

Church opposition to human rights violations Edit

The Catholic Church, which at first expressed its gratitude to the armed forces for saving the country from the horrors of a "Marxist dictatorship" became, under the leadership of Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez, the most outspoken critic of the regime's social and economic policies. [ citation needed ]

The Catholic Church was symbolically and institutionally powerful within Chile. Domestically, it was the second most powerful institution, behind Pinochet's government. While the Church remained politically neutral, its opposition to the regime came in the form of human rights advocacy and through the social movements that it gave a platform to. It achieved this through the establishment of the Cooperative Committee for Peace in Chile (COPACHI) and Vicariate of Solidarity. COPACHI was founded by Cardinal Raul Silve Henriquez, Archbishop of Santiago, as an immediate response to the repression of the Pinochet regime. It was apolitical in a spirit of collaboration rather than conflict with the government. Pinochet developed suspicion of COPACHI, leading to its dissolution in late 1975. In response Silva founded the Vicariate in its place. Historian Hugo Fruhling's work highlights the multifaceted nature of Vicaria. [86] Through developments and education programs in the shantytown area of Santiago, the Vicaria had mobilised around 44,000 people to join campaigns by 1979. The Church published a newsletter called Solidarity published in Chile and abroad, and supplied the public with information through radio stations. Vicaria pursued a legal strategy of defending human rights, not a political strategy to re-democratise Chile.

Jornadas de Protesta Nacional Edit

The Days of National Protest (Jornadas de Protesta Nacional) were days of civil demonstrations that periodically took place in Chile in the 1980s against the military junta. They were characterized by street demonstrations in the downtown avenues of the city in the mornings, strikes during the day, and barricades and clashes in the periphery of the city throughout the night. The protests were faced with increased government repression from 1984, with the biggest and last protest summoned in July 1986. The protests changed the mentality of many Chileans, strengthening opposition organizations and movements in the 1988 plebiscite.

After the military took over the government in 1973, a period of dramatic economic changes began. The Chilean economy was still faltering in the months following the coup. As the military junta itself was not particularly skilled in remedying the persistent economic difficulties, it appointed a group of Chilean economists who had been educated in the United States at the University of Chicago. Given financial and ideological support from Pinochet, the U.S., and international financial institutions, the Chicago Boys advocated laissez-faire, free-market, neoliberal, and fiscally conservative policies, in stark contrast to the extensive nationalization and centrally-planned economic programs supported by Allende. [87] Chile was drastically transformed from an economy isolated from the rest of the world, with strong government intervention, into a liberalized, world-integrated economy, where market forces were left free to guide most of the economy's decisions. [87]

From an economic point of view, the era can be divided into two periods. The first, from 1975 to 1982, corresponds to the period when most of the reforms were implemented. The period ended with the international debt crisis and the collapse of the Chilean economy. At that point, unemployment was extremely high, above 20 percent, and a large proportion of the banking sector had become bankrupt. The following period was characterized by new reforms and economic recovery. Some economists argue that the recovery was due to an about-face turnaround of Pinochet's free market policy, since he nationalized many of the same industries that were nationalized under Allende and fired the Chicago Boys from their government posts. [88]

1975–81 Edit

Chile's main industry, copper mining, remained in government hands, with the 1980 Constitution declaring them "inalienable," [89] but new mineral deposits were open to private investment. [89] Capitalist involvement was increased, the Chilean pension system and healthcare were privatized, and Superior Education was also placed in private hands. One of the junta's economic moves was fixing the exchange rate in the early 1980s, leading to a boom in imports and a collapse of domestic industrial production this together with a world recession caused a serious economic crisis in 1982, where GDP plummeted by 14%, and unemployment reached 33%. At the same time, a series of massive protests were organized, trying to cause the fall of the regime, which were efficiently repressed.

1982–83 Edit

In 1982-1983 Chile witnessed a severe economic crises with a surge in unemployment and a meltdown of the financial sector. [90] 16 out of 50 financial institutions faced bankruptcy. [91] In 1982 the two biggest banks were nationalized to prevent an even worse credit crunch. In 1983 another five banks were nationalized and two banks had to be put under government supervision. [92] The central bank took over foreign debts. Critics ridiculed the economic policy of the Chicago Boys as "Chicago way to socialism". [93]

1984–90 Edit

After the economic crisis, Hernán Büchi became Minister of Finance from 1985 to 1989, introducing a return to a free market economic policy. He allowed the peso to float and reinstated restrictions on the movement of capital in and out of the country. He deleted some bank regulations, and simplified and reduced the corporate tax. Chile went ahead with privatizations, including public utilities and the re-privatization of companies that had briefly returned to government control during the 1982–83 crisis. From 1984 to 1990, Chile's gross domestic product grew by an annual average of 5.9%, the fastest on the continent. Chile developed a good export economy, including the export of fruits and vegetables to the northern hemisphere when they were out of season, and commanded high export prices.

Evaluation Edit

Initially the economic reforms were internationally praised. Milton Friedman wrote in his Newsweek column on 25 January 1982 about the Miracle of Chile. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher credited Pinochet with bringing about a thriving, free-enterprise economy, while at the same time downplaying the junta's human rights record, condemning an "organised international Left who are bent on revenge."

With the economic crises of 1982 the "monetarist experiment" was widely regarded a failure. [94]

The pragmatic economic policy after the crises of 1982 is appreciated for bringing constant economic growth. [95] It is questionable whether the radical reforms of the Chicago Boys contributed to post-1983 growth. [96] According to Ricardo Ffrench-Davis, economist and consultant of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the 1982 crises as well as the success of the pragmatic economic policy after 1982 proves that the 1975–1981 radical economic policy of the Chicago Boys actually harmed the Chilean economy. [97]

Social consequences Edit

The economic policies espoused by the Chicago Boys and implemented by the junta initially caused several economic indicators to decline for Chile's lower classes. [98] Between 1970 and 1989, there were large cuts to incomes and social services. Wages decreased by 8%. [99] Family allowances in 1989 were 28% of what they had been in 1970 and the budgets for education, health and housing had dropped by over 20% on average. [99] [100] The massive increases in military spending and cuts in funding to public services coincided with falling wages and steady rises in unemployment, which averaged 26% during the worldwide economic slump of 1982–85 [99] and eventually peaked at 30%.

In 1990, the LOCE act on education initiated the dismantlement of public education. [89] According to Communist Party of Chile member and economist Manuel Riesco Larraín:

Overall, the impact of neoliberal policies has reduced the total proportion of students in both public and private institutions in relation to the entire population, from 30 per cent in 1974 down to 25 per cent in 1990, and up only to 27 per cent today. If falling birth rates have made it possible today to attain full coverage at primary and secondary levels, the country has fallen seriously behind at tertiary level, where coverage, although now growing, is still only 32 per cent of the age group. The figure was twice as much in neighbouring Argentina and Uruguay, and even higher in developed countries—South Korea attaining a record 98 per cent coverage. Significantly, tertiary education for the upper-income fifth of the Chilean population, many of whom study in the new private universities, also reaches above 70 per cent. [89]

The junta relied on the middle class, the oligarchy, domestic business, foreign corporations, and foreign loans to maintain itself. [101] Under Pinochet, funding of military and internal defence spending rose 120% from 1974 to 1979. [102] Due to the reduction in public spending, tens of thousands of employees were fired from other state-sector jobs. [102] The oligarchy recovered most of its lost industrial and agricultural holdings, for the junta sold to private buyers most of the industries expropriated by Allende's Popular Unity government.

Financial conglomerates became major beneficiaries of the liberalized economy and the flood of foreign bank loans. Large foreign banks reinstated the credit cycle, as the Junta saw that the basic state obligations, such as resuming payment of principal and interest installments, were honored. International lending organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Inter-American Development Bank lent vast sums anew. [99] Many foreign multinational corporations such as International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT), Dow Chemical, and Firestone, all expropriated by Allende, returned to Chile. [99]

Having risen to power on an anti-Marxist agenda, Pinochet found common cause with the military dictatorships of Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and later, Argentina. The six countries eventually formulated a plan known as Operation Condor, in which the security forces of participating states would target active left-wing militants, guerrillas fighters, and their alleged sympathizers in the allied countries. [103] 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.) It is known, however, that the American Secretary of State at the time, Henry Kissinger, practiced a policy of supporting coups in nations which the United States viewed as leaning toward Communism. [104]

The new junta quickly broke diplomatic relations with Cuba and North Korea, which had been established under the Allende government. Shortly after the junta came to power, several communist countries, including the Soviet Union, North Vietnam, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia, severed diplomatic relations with Chile however, Romania and the People's Republic of China both continued to maintain diplomatic relations with Chile. [105] Pinochet has nurtured his relationship with China. [106] [107] The government broke diplomatic relations with Cambodia in January 1974 [108] and renewed ties with South Korea in October 1973 [ citation needed ] and with South Vietnam in March 1974. [109] Pinochet attended the funeral of General Francisco Franco, dictator of Spain from 1936–75, in late 1975.

In 1980, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos had invited the entire Junta (consisting at this point of Pinochet, Merino, Matthei, and Mendoza) to visit the country as part of a planned tour of Southeast Asia in an attempt to help improve their image and bolster military and economic relations with the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong. Due to intense U.S. Pressure at the last minute (while Pinochet's plane was halfway en route over the Pacific), Marcos cancelled the visit and denied Pinochet landing rights in the country. Pinochet and the junta were further caught off guard and humiliated when they were forced to land in Fiji to refuel for the planned return to Santiago, only to be met with airport staff who refused to assist the plane in any way (the Fijian military was called in instead), invasive and prolonged customs searches, exorbitant fuel and aviation service charges, and hundreds of angry protesters who pelted his plane with eggs and tomatoes. The usually stoic and calm Pinochet became enraged, firing his Foreign Minister Hernan Cubillos, several diplomats, and expelling the Philippine Ambassador. [110] [111] Relations between the two countries were restored only in 1986 when Corazon Aquino assumed the presidency of the Philippines after Marcos was ousted in a non-violent revolution, the People Power Revolution.

Argentina Edit

President of Argentina Juan Perón condemned the 1973 coup as a "fatality for the continent" stating that Pinochet represented interests "well known" to him. He praised Allende for his "valiant attitude" and took note of the role of the United States in instigating the coup by recalling his familiarity with coup-making processes. [112] On 14 May 1974 Perón received Pinochet at the Morón Airbase. Pinochet was heading to meet Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay so the encounter at Argentina was technically a stop over. Pinochet and Perón are both reported to have felt uncomfortable during the meeting. Perón expressed his wishes to settle the Beagle conflict and Pinochet his concerns about Chilean exiles in Argentina near the frontier with Chile. Perón would have conceded on moving these exiles from the frontiers to eastern Argentina, but he warned "Perón takes his time, but accomplishes" (Perón tarda, pero cumple). Perón justified his meeting with Pinochet stating that it was important to keep good relations with Chile under all circumstances and with whoever might be in government. [112] Perón died in July 1974 and was succeeded by his wife Isabel Martínez de Perón who was overthrown in 1976 by the Argentine military who installed themselves as a new dictatorship in Argentina.

Chile was on the brink of being invaded by Argentina, as the Argentina junta initiated Operation Soberania on 22 December 1978 because of the strategic Picton, Lennox and Nueva islands at the southern tip of South America on the Beagle Canal. A full-scale war was prevented only by the call off of the operation by Argentina due to military and political reasons. [113] But the relations remained tense as Argentina invaded the Falklands (Operation Rosario). Chile along with Colombia, were the only countries in South America to criticize the use of force by Argentina in its war with the UK over the Falkland Islands. Chile actually helped the United Kingdom during the war. The two countries (Chile and Argentina) finally agreed to papal mediation over the Beagle canal that finally ended in the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1984 between Chile and Argentina (Tratado de Paz y Amistad). Chilean sovereignty over the islands and Argentinian east of the surrounding sea is now undisputed.

United States Edit

The U.S. government had been interfering in Chilean politics since 1961, and it spent millions trying to prevent Allende from coming to power, and subsequently undermined his presidency through financing opposition. Declassified C.I.A documents reveal U.S. knowledge and alleged involvement in the coup. [114] They provided material support to the military regime after the coup, although criticizing it in public. A document released by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2000, titled "CIA Activities in Chile", revealed that the CIA actively supported the military junta during and after the overthrow of Allende and that it made many of Pinochet's officers into paid contacts of the CIA or U.S. military, even though some were known to be involved in human rights abuses. [115] The U.S. continued to give the junta substantial economic support between the years 1973–79, despite concerns from more liberal Congressmen, as seen from the results of the Church Committee. U.S. public stance did condemn the human rights violations, however declassifies documents reveal such violations were not an obstacle for members of the Nixon and Ford administrations. Henry Kissinger visited Santiago in 1976 for the annual conference of the Organisation of American States. During his visit he privately met with Pinochet and reassured the leader of internal support from the U.S. administration. [116] The U.S. went beyond verbal condemnation in 1976, after the murder of Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C., when it placed an embargo on arms sales to Chile that remained in effect until the restoration of democracy in 1989. This more aggressive stance coincided with the election of Jimmy Carter who shifted the focus of U.S. foreign policy towards human rights.

United Kingdom Edit

Britain's initial reaction to the overthrowing of Allende was one of caution. The Conservative government recognised the legitimacy of the new government, but didn't offer any other declarations of support. [117]

Under the Labour government of 1974-79, Britain's relations with Chile were cordial, if not close. While Britain regularly condemned the junta at the United Nations for its human rights abuses, bilateral relations between the two were not affected to the same degree. [118] Britain formally withdrew its Santiago ambassador in 1974, however reinstated the position in 1980 under the Margaret Thatcher government. [119]

Chile was neutral during the Falkland War, but its Westinghouse long-range radar deployed at Punta Arenas, in southern Chile, gave the British task force early warning of Argentinian air attacks, which allowed British ships and troops in the war zone to take defensive action. [120] Margaret Thatcher said that the day the radar was taken out of service for overdue maintenance was the day Argentinian fighter-bombers bombed the troopships Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram, leaving approximately 50 dead and 150 wounded. [121] According to Chilean Junta and former Air Force commander Fernando Matthei, Chilean support included military intelligence gathering, radar surveillance, British aircraft operating with Chilean colours and the safe return of British special forces, among other things. [122] In April and May 1982, a squadron of mothballed RAF Hawker Hunter fighter bombers departed for Chile, arriving on 22 May and allowing the Chilean Air Force to reform the No. 9 "Las Panteras Negras" Squadron. A further consignment of three frontier surveillance and shipping reconnaissance Canberras left for Chile in October. Some authors suggest that Argentina might have won the war had she been allowed to employ the VIth and VIIIth Mountain Brigades, which remained guarding the Andes mountain chain. [123] Pinochet subsequently visited Margaret Thatcher for tea on more than one occasion. [124] Pinochet's controversial relationship with Thatcher led Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair to mock Thatcher's Conservatives as "the party of Pinochet" in 1999.

France Edit

Although France received many Chilean political refugees, it also secretly collaborated with Pinochet. French journalist Marie-Monique Robin has shown how Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's government secretly collaborated with Videla's junta in Argentina and with Augusto Pinochet's regime in Chile. [125]

Green deputies Noël Mamère, Martine Billard and Yves Cochet on September 10, 2003 requested a Parliamentary Commission on the "role of France in the support of military regimes in Latin America from 1973 to 1984" before the Foreign Affairs Commission of the National Assembly, presided by Edouard Balladur. Apart from Le Monde, newspapers remained silent about this request. [126] However, deputy Roland Blum, in charge of the commission, refused to hear Marie-Monique Robin, and published in December 2003 a 12 pages report qualified by Robin as the summum of bad faith. It claimed that no agreement had been signed, despite the agreement found by Robin in the Quai d'Orsay. [127] [128]

When then Minister of Foreign Affairs Dominique de Villepin traveled to Chile in February 2004, he claimed that no cooperation between France and the military regimes had occurred. [129]

Peru Edit

Reportedly one of Juan Velasco Alvarado's main goal was to militarily reconquer the lands lost by Peru to Chile in the War of the Pacific. [130] It is estimated that from 1970 to 1975 Peru spent up to US$2 Billion (roughly US$20 Billion in 2010's valuation) on Soviet armament. [131] According to various sources Velasco's government bought between 600 and 1200 T-55 Main Battle Tanks, APCs, 60 to 90 Sukhoi 22 warplanes, 500,000 assault rifles, and even considered the purchase of the British Centaur-class light fleet carrier HMS Bulwark. [131]

The enormous amount of weaponry purchased by Peru caused a meeting between former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Pinochet in 1976. [131] Velasco's military plan was to launch a massive sea, air, and land invasion against Chile. [131] In 1999, General Pinochet claimed that if Peru had attacked Chile during 1973 or even 1978, Peruvian forces could have penetrated deep south into Chilean territory, possibly military taking the Chilean city of Copiapó located half way to Santiago. [130] The Chilean Armed Forces considered launching a preventive war to defend itself. Though, Pinochet's Chilean Air Force General Fernando Matthei opposed a preventive war and responded that "I can guarantee that the Peruvians would destroy the Chilean Air Force in the first five minutes of the war". [130] Some analysts believe the fear of attack by Chilean and US officials as largely unjustified but logical for them to experience, considering the Pinochet dictatorship had come into power with a coup against democratically elected president Salvador Allende. According to sources, the alleged invasion scheme could be seen from the Chilean's government perspective as a plan for some kind of leftist counterattack. [132] While acknowledging the Peruvian plans were revisionistic scholar Kalevi J. Holsti claim more important issues behind were the "ideological incompatibility" between the regimes of Velasco Alvarado and Pinochet and that Peru would have been concerned about Pinochet's geopolitical views on Chile's need of naval hegemony in the Southeastern Pacific. [133]

Chileans should stop with the bullshit or tomorrow I shall eat breakfast in Santiago.

Spain Edit

Francoist Spain had enjoyed warm relations with Chile while Allende was in power. [135] [136] Pinochet admired and was very much influenced by Francisco Franco, but Franco's successors had a cold attitude towards Pinochet as they did not want to be linked to him. [135] [136] When Pinochet traveled to the funeral of Francisco Franco in 1975 the President of France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing pressured the Spanish government to refuse Pinochet to be at the crowning of Juan Carlos I of Spain by letting Spanish authorities know that Giscard would not be there if Pinochet was present. Juan Carlos I personally called Pinochet to let him know he was not welcome at his crowning. [137]

While in Spain Pinochet is reported to have met with Stefano Delle Chiaie in order to plan the killing of Carlos Altamirano, the Secretary General of the Socialist Party of Chile. [138]

Foreign aid Edit

The previous drop in foreign aid during the Allende years was immediately reversed following Pinochet's ascension Chile received US$322.8 million in loans and credits in the year following the coup. [139] There was considerable international condemnation of the military regime's human rights record, a matter that the United States expressed concern over as well after Orlando Letelier's 1976 assassination in Washington DC.(Kennedy Amendment, later International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act of 1976).

Cuban involvement Edit

After the Chilean military coup in 1973, Fidel Castro promised Chilean revolutionaries far-reaching aid. Initially Cuban support for resistance consisted of clandestine distribution of funds to Chile, human rights campaigns at the UN to isolate the Chilean dictatorship, and efforts to undermine US-Chilean bilateral relations. Eventually Cuba's policy changed to arming and training insurgents. Once their training was completed, Cuba helped the guerrillas return to Chile, providing false passports and false identification documents. [140] Cuba's official newspaper, Granma, boasted in February 1981 that the "Chilean Resistance" had successfully conducted more than 100 "armed actions" throughout Chile in 1980. By late 1980, at least 100 highly trained MIR guerrillas had reentered Chile and the MIR began building a base for future guerrilla operations in Neltume, a mountainous forest region in southern Chile. In a massive operation spearheaded by Chilean Army Para-Commandos, security forces involving some 2,000 troops, were forced to deploy in the Neltume mountains from June to November 1981, where they destroyed two MIR bases, seizing large caches of munitions and killing a number of MIR commandos. In 1986, Chilean security forces discovered 80 tons of munitions, including more than three thousand M-16 rifles and more than two million rounds of ammunition, at the tiny fishing harbor of Carrizal Bajo, smuggled ashore from Cuban fishing trawlers off the coast of Chile. [141] The operation was overseen by Cuban naval intelligence, and also involved the Soviet Union. Cuban Special Forces had also instructed the FPMR guerrillas that ambushed Augusto Pinochet's motorcade on 8 September 1986, killing five bodyguards and wounding 10. [142]

Influenced by Antonio Gramsci's work on cultural hegemony, proposing that the ruling class can maintain power by controlling cultural institutions, Pinochet clamped down on cultural dissidence. [143] This brought Chilean cultural life into what sociologist Soledad Bianchi has called a "cultural blackout". [144] The government censored non-sympathetic individuals while taking control of mass media. [144]

Music scene Edit

The military dictatorship sought to isolate Chilean radio listerners from the outside world by changing radio frequencies to middle wavelengths. [145] This together with the shutdown of radio stations sympathetic the former Allende administration impacted music in Chile. [145] The music catalog was censored with the aid of listas negras (black lists) but little is known on how these were composed and updated. [146] The formerly thriving Nueva canción scene suffered from the exile or imprisonment of many bands and individuals. [144] A key musician, Víctor Jara, was tortured and killed by elements of the military. [144] According to Eduardo Carrasco of Quilapayún in the first week after the coup, the military organized a meeting with folk musicians where they announced that the traditional instruments charango and quena were banned. [144] The curfew imposed by the dictatorship forced the remaining Nueva Canción scene, now rebranded as Canto Nuevo, into "semiclandestine peñas, while alternative groove disseminated in juvenile fiestas". [147] A scarcity of records and the censorship imposed on part of the music catalog made a "cassette culture" emmerge among the affected audiences. [147] The profiferation of pirate cassettes was enabled by tape recorders, [146] and in some cases this activity turned commercial as evidenced by the pirate cassette brand Cumbre y Cuatro. [145] The music of Silvio Rodríguez became first known in Chile this way. [146] Cassettes aside, some music enthusiasts were able to supply themselves with rare or suppressed records with help of relatives in exile abroad. [145]

The dictatorship controlled the Viña del Mar International Song Festival and used it promote sympathetic artists, in particular those that were part of the Acto de Chacarillas in 1977. [148] In the first years of dictatorship Pinochet was a common guest at the festival. [149] Pinochet's advisor Jaime Guzmán was also spotted on ocasion at the festival. [149] Festival presenter Antonio Vodanovic publicly praised the dictator and his wife Lucia Hiriart on one ocasion on behalf of "the Chilean youth". [149] Supporters of the dictatorship appropriated the song Libre of Nino Bravo, and this song was performed by Edmundo Arrocet in the first post-coup edition while Pinochet was present in the public. [150] [151] From 1980 onward when the festival begun to be aired internationally the regime used it to promote a favourable image of Chilea abroad. [148] For that purpouse in 1980 the festival spent a big budget on bringing popular foreign artist including Miguel Bosé, Julio Iglesias and Camilo Sesto. [148] The folk music contest of the Viña del Mar International Song Festival had become increasingly politicized during the Allende years and was suspended by organizers from the time of coup until 1980. [148]

Elements of military distrusted Mexican music which was widespread in the rural areas of south-central Chile. [145] There are testimonies of militaries calling Mexican music "communist". [145] Militaries dislike of Mexican music may be linked to the Allende administration's close links with Mexico, the "Mexican revolutionary discourse" and the over-all low prestige of Mexican music in Chile. [145] The dictatorship did however never suppressed Mexican music as a whole but came distinguish different strands, some of which were actually promoted. [145]

Cueca and Mexican music coexisted with similar levels of popularity in the Chilean countryside in the 1970s. [152] [145] Being distinctly Chilean the cueca was selected by the military dictatorship as a music to be promoted. [145] The cueca was named the national dance of Chile due to its substantial presence throughout the history of the country and announced as such through a public decree in the Official Journal (Diario Oficial) on November 6, 1979. [153] Cueca specialist Emilio Ignacio Santana argues that the dictatorship's appropriation and promotion of cueca harmed the genre. [145] The dictatorship's endorsement of the genre meant according to Santana that the rich landlord huaso became the icon of the cueca and not the rural labourer. [145]

The 1980s saw an invasion of Argentine rock bands into Chile. These included Charly García, the Enanitos Verdes, G.I.T. and Soda Stereo among others. [154]

Contemporary Chilean rock group Los Prisioneros complained against the ease with which Argentine Soda Stereo made appearances on Chilean TV or in Chilean magazines and the ease they could obtain musical equipment for concerts in Chile. [155] Soda Stereo was invited to Viña del Mar International Song Festival while Los Prisioneros were ignored despite their popular status. [156] This situation was because Los Prisioneros were censored by media under the influence of the military dictatorship. [155] [156] Los Prisioneros' marginalization by the media was further aggravated by their call to vote against the dictatorship on the plebiscite of 1988. [156]

Theater and literature Edit

Experimental theatre groups from Universidad de Chile and Pontifical Catholic University of Chile were restricted by the military regime to performing only theatre classics. [158] Some established groups like Grupo Ictus were tolerated while new formations like Grupo Aleph were repressed. This last group had its members jailed and forced into exile after performing a parody on the 1973 Chilean coup d'état. [158] In the 1980s a grassroots street theatre movement emerged. [158]

The dictatorship promoted the figure of Nobel laureate Gabriela Mistral who was presented as a symbol of "summission to the authority" and "social order". [159]

1988 plebiscite Edit

Following the approval of the 1980 Constitution, a plebiscite was scheduled for October 5, 1988, to vote on a new eight-year presidential term for Pinochet.

The Constitution, which took effect on 11 March 1981, established a "transition period," during which Pinochet would continue to exercise executive power and the junta's legislative power, for the next eight years. Before that period ended, a candidate for president was to be proposed by the Commanders-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Carabinero Chief General for the following period of eight years. The candidate then was to be ratified by registered voters in a national plebiscite. On 30 August 1988 Pinochet was declared to be the candidate. [160]

The Constitutional Court of Chile ruled that the plebiscite should be carried out as stipulated by Article 64 in the Constitution. That included a programming slot in television (franja electoral) 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 primetime from 21:30 to 22:30). The opposition No campaign, headed by Ricardo Lagos, produced colorful, upbeat programs, telling the Chilean people to vote against the extension of the presidential term. Lagos, in a TV interview, pointed his index finger towards the camera and directly called 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 56% of the votes rejected the extension of the presidential term, against 44% for "", and, following the constitutional provisions, he stayed as president for one more year. The presidential election was held in December 1989, at the same time as congressional elections that were due to take place. Pinochet left the presidency on March 11, 1990 and transferred power to his political opponent Patricio Aylwin, the new democratically-elected president. Due to the same transitional provisions of the constitution, Pinochet remained as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, until March 1998.

1989 general elections Edit

From the 1989 elections onwards, the military had officially left the political sphere in Chile. Pinochet did not endorse any candidate publicly. Former Pinochet economic minister Hernán Büchi ran for president as the candidate of the two right-wing parties RN and UDI. He had little political experience and was relatively young and credited with Chile's good economic performance in the second half of the 1980s. The right-wing parties faced several problems in the elections: there was considerable infighting between RN and UDI, Büchi had only very reluctantly accepted to run for president and right-wing politicians struggled to define their position towards the Pinochet regime. In addition to this right-wing populist Francisco Javier Errázuriz Talavera ran independently for president and made several election promises Büchi could not match. [4]

The centre-left coalition Concertación was more united and coherent. Its candidate Patricio Aylwin, a Christian Democrat, behaved as if he had won and refused a second television debate with Büchi. Büchi attacked Aylwin on a remark he had made concerning that inflation rate of 20% was not much and he also accused Aylwin of making secret agreements with the Communist Party of Chile, a party that was not part of Concertación. [4] Aylwin spoke with authority about the need to clarify human rights violations but did not confront the dictatorship for it in contrast, Büchi, as a former regime minister, lacked any credibility when dealing with human right violations. [4]

Büchi and Errázuriz lost to Patricio Aylwin in the election. The electoral system meant that the largely Pinochet-sympathetic right was overrepresented in parliament in such a way that it could block any reform to the constitution. This over-representation was crucial for UDI in obtaining places in parliament and securing its political future. The far-left and the far-right performed poorly in the election. [4]

Presidential election results Edit

Candidate Party/coalition Votes %
Patricio Aylwin PDC/CPD 3,850,571 55.17
Hernán Büchi Independent/D&P 2,052,116 29.40
Francisco Javier Errázuriz Independent 1,077,172 15.43
Valid votes 6,979,859 100.00
Null votes 103,631 1.45
Blank votes 75,237 1.05
Total votes 7,158,727 100.00
Registered voters/turnout 7,557,537 94.72
Source: Tricel via Servel

Following the restoration of Chilean democracy and the successive administrations that followed Pinochet, the Chilean economy has increasingly prospered. Unemployment stands at 7% as of 2007, with poverty estimated at 18.2% for the same year, both relatively low for the region. [161] However, in 2019 the Chilean government faced public scrutiny for its economic policies. In particular, for the long-term effects of Pinochet's neoliberal policies. [162] Mass protests broke out throughout Santiago, due to increasing prices of the metro ticket. [163] For many Chileans this highlighted the disproportionate distribution of wealth amongst Chile.

The "Chilean Variation" has been seen as a potential model for nations that fail to achieve significant economic growth. [164] The latest is Russia, for whom David Christian warned in 1991 that "dictatorial government presiding over a transition to capitalism seems one of the more plausible scenarios, even if it does so at a high cost in human rights violations." [165]

A survey published by pollster CERC on the eve of the 40th anniversary commemorations of the coup gave some idea of how Chileans perceived the dictatorship. According to the poll, 55% of Chileans regarded the 17 years of dictatorship as either bad or very bad, while 9% said they were good or very good. [166] In 2013, the newspaper El Mercurio asked Chileans if the state had done enough to compensate victims of the dictatorship for the atrocities they suffered 30% said yes, 36% said no, and the rest were undecided. [167] In order to keep the memories of the victims and the disappeared alive, memorial sites have been constructed throughout Chile, as a symbol of the country's past. Some notable examples include Villa Grimaldi, Londres 38, Paine Memorial and the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. [168] These memorials were built by family members of the victims, the government and ex-prisoners of the dictatorship. These have become popular tourist destinations and have provided a visual narrative of the atrocities of the dictatorship. These memorials have aided in Chile's reconciliation process, however, there is still debate amongst Chile as to whether these memorials do enough to bring the country together.

The relative economic success of the Pinochet dictatorship has brought about some political support for the former dictatorship. In 1998, then-Brazilian congressman and retired military officer Jair Bolsonaro praised Pinochet, saying his regime "should have killed more people". [169]

Every year on the anniversary of the coup, Chile becomes more polarized and protests can be seen throughout the country. [170] Leftist supporters use this day to honour the victims of the dictatorship and highlight the atrocities for which the perpetrators still haven't been brought to justice.

The indictment and arrest of Pinochet occurred on 10 October 1998 in London. He returned to Chile in March 2000 but was not charged with the crimes against him. On his 91st birthday on 25 November 2006, in a public statement to supporters, Pinochet for the first time claimed to accept "political responsibility" for what happened in Chile under his regime, though he still defended the 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. [171] Despite this statement, Pinochet always refused to be confronted to Chilean justice, claiming that he was senile. He died two weeks later while indicted on human rights and corruption charges, but without having been sentenced.

Augusto Pinochet: How will he be remembered?

(CNN) -- Chilean General and former President Augusto Pinochet died Sunday at 91, without ever being tried on accusations of ordering the torture and killing of thousands of people during his 1973-1990 regime. Considered a horrendous ruler by some and a savior by others, Pinochet is credited with laying the groundwork for Chile's modern market economy. His death sparked demonstrations by supporters and opponents.

We asked CNN.com readers what they though Pinochet's legacy would be. Here is a selection of the responses, some of which have been edited for length and clarity.

Mark Helsten of London, Ontario
Pinochet was a fascist dictator in the same vein as Hitler, albeit on a smaller scale, so it is very difficult for me to imagine how anyone could call him a savior. When I hear people praising Pinochet [who lets not forget was responsible for killing thousands and detaining/torturing tens of thousands] I have to think there is something very wrong that people are able to do this without a hint of irony or outrage.

Christopher Weaver of Laurel, Maryland
General Augusto Pinochet ushered the wave of democracy that has given present-day Chile its socio-economic status and position in the Southern Cone region of South America. His leadership not only became the foundation of Chile's economy today but also prevented Chile from becoming another Cuba.

Antonio Faundez of Geneva, Switzerland
Legacy? The only one that Pinochet left to opponents that fled the country was a loss of identity. I will always remember my parents telling us that he broke their youth. Thousands of Chileans abroad will remember their parents, grand-parents or other family members that stayed behind and died in the meantime without ever embracing them again. Whatever the economical benefits Chile experienced from Pinochet's politics, it was not worth so many lives destroyed, so much violence. Who did experience the benefits of Pinochet's market economy -- certainly not the poorest who became poorer than poor. Hell does not deserve Pinochet.

Pier Lombardi of Arica, Chile
I was born in Chile in October 1970, shortly after Mr. Allende took office. By the time I was eight months old, my parents had to smuggle powdered milk from a neighboring Peruvian city because there was nothing in Chile. By 1973, there where lines for blocks and blocks in the streets so one could buy their monthly quota of butter and inflation was a rampant 300%. There were also thousands of Cuban guerillas training Chileans in subversive actions. Pinochet saved us from what surely was to become a civil war which would have left tens of thousands of deaths.

Abasi Kiyimba of Kampala, Uganda
I empathize with the Chilean people in their suffering. As a Ugandan, I fully understand what it is to go through such torture as General Pinochet is said to have carried out. However, as a Muslim, I am guided to believe that no death should be celebrated, for death comes to us all, evil or not evil.

Gustavo Wielandt of Santiago, Chile
General Augusto Pinochet saved my country from starving it was a total mess when he got in power. It was possible that his actions may have saved millions of lives acting before a civil war started. He gave to my country a sense of pride that made us to become one of the best economies in Latin America.

Francisco Montes of Chicago, Illinois
I am Chilean and presently live in Chicago. Chile has been and will be polarized in regards to Pinochet's legacy. One pole will criticize the human rights abuses towards the left wing and the other applauds the fact that he turned the country around with a path to development. I believe we must look at both angles and make an effort to critique and give recognition for the different facets.

Geoff Hartman of Washington, DC
His legacy is as his life had been: One of torturing people and the causing of many innocent Chileans to "disappear" and remain so to this day. It is an unfortunate episode of injustice that such a criminal could go formally unpunished.

James Ottenstein of Denver, Colorado
Frankly, I'm horrified that this subject is even up for debate. He was a monster, another Saddam Hussein propped up by the United States.

Chris Lynch of San Anselmo, California
We're going to have to wait a generation to figure out what his legacy is. But we do have a democratic and prosperous Chile at this moment due to the role that the U.S. played in ensuring that Pinochet respected the results of the plebiscite in 1989. The U.S. actively supported the opposition campaign to vote him out peacefully and then-U.S. Ambassador Harry Barnes stepped in the night of the plebiscite to make sure that the will of the people was respected. I was a young Foreign Service Officer at the US Embassy in Santiago at that time and I'm proud to say this was one of the few unambiguous foreign policy successes with which I was associated.

Eugene Berkovich of Aventura, Florida
Pinochet was a dictator who violently removed a democratically elected Chilean president, instituted state terror to deal with political opposition and has more than 3500 deaths and disappearances attributed to his regime. It is very sad that our government supported him, participated in events leading up to the coup, and welcomed him with open arms. He was no better than Saddam Hussein, another dictator installed with our support.

Mi General Augusto Pinochet (song)

The composer, Luis González, wrote the song after the end of Pinochet's government. Its diffusion is mainly due to social media, where it reached popularity in the 2010s, being currently one of the most popular songs that represents Pinochetism.

The original version has an introduction narrated by Rafael Martínez Barberi, however, in most online versions, it is omitted.

The musical arrangements were made by Gustavo Alcántara Ramírez.

The song was included in a 90s cassette called Himno en Honor al Capitán General Don Augusto Pinochet Ugarte - Apología y marchas al Ejército de Chile (Hymn in Honor of Captain General Mr Augusto Pinochet Ugarte - Apology and marches to the Chilean Army in english) made by the musical stamp "Dragón" owned by Mr. Luis González from the city of Iquique, Chile.

The cassette included the songs: Himno a Don Augusto Pinochet (Mi General Augusto Pinochet with an introduction), Marcha A Campaña, Marcha Contento Estoy (Soy Soldado Conscripto), Marcha Mensaje a mi Madre & Apología al Soldado (not a march). [2]

Life under Pinochet: “They were taking turns to electrocute us one after the other”

The first time Lelia Pérez felt the sear of a cattle prod it was at the hands of a Chilean soldier. She was a 16 year old high school student, used as a guinea pig to help Pinochet’s security services hone their skills in torture. They didn't even bother to ask any questions.

“They would teach them how to interrogate, how to apply the electricity, where and for how long. When they were torturing me, I went into my own world - it was as if I was looking down on myself - like it wasn’t happening to me. It was brutal,” she said.

On September 11, 1973, Augusto Pinochet seized power in Chile by force. In the days that followed his military coup, hundreds of people, were rounded up and taken to the two main sport stadiums in the capital, Santiago.

Lelia told Amnesty International how she was arrested along with 10 of her classmates and taken to the Estadio Chile (now called Victor Jara after the singer who was imprisoned there). There detainees were kept in the stands, with their hands tied, with soldiers constantly pointing machine guns at them.

“You would quickly loose sense of time as lights were constantly on. The only way we knew if it was day or night was by the food the guards were eating,” she said.

While they watched, special booths were constructed. It was in these that the worst of the torture took place. Lelia spent five days in Estadio Chile. Finally she was released with no explanation, pushed out onto the streets late at night.

“I was forced to wear the clothes of people we had seen being killed. There was a curfew and the few people around just walked away from us. The street was full of brothels and the sex workers took me in. They bathed me and gave me clothes. I went in the stadium as a 16-year-old and left as a 60-year-old.”

Those days of horror would only be the beginning of a long, incredible story that took Lelia through some of Pinochet’s darkest prisons. She was held in detention on three separate occasions over a two year period each time abused and tortured by soldiers of the brutal Pinochet regime.

A country of terror When Lelia was released from the Estadio Chile, her country was almost unrecognizable. Pinochet had imposed a number of restrictions on his citizens and thousands of social activists, teachers, lawyers, trade unionists and students were being detained and held in dozens of clandestine centres across the country.

Undeterred by her experience, Lelia enroled in the Universidad Técnica del Estado, noted for its political activism, to study history.

But she paid a heavy price and her freedom was short lived.

One night in late October 1975, Pinochet’s political police knocked on her door once again. She and her boyfriend were arrested.

“They made me leave the house in handcuffs and they put me in a car. They put tape on my eyes and made me wear dark glasses. The tape was so I couldn’t see where they were taking me and the dark glasses, so people on the street wouldn’t know I had been taken.”

Behind closed doors The car drove around 30 minutes outside of downtown Santiago to Villa Grimaldi, an old colonial weekend house. It had been taken over by the DINA - Pinochet’s political police - as a centre of detention and torture.

“They took us to an interrogation room where they had a metal bunk-bed. There was another detainee on the top and my partner was tied to the side. They were interrogating all three of us at the same time, taking turns to electrocute us one after the other. The interrogation session lasted through the night to the next morning.”

In Villa Grimaldi detainees would be electrocuted, water boarded, had their heads forced into buckets of urine and excrement, suffocated with bags, hanged by their feet or hands and beaten. Many women were raped and for some detainees, punishment was death.

For detainees, the dark, damped cell they were held in was the only world that existed and, in time, a sense of community emerged.

“After an interrogation you would be thrown back your cell. They would shut the door and then first thing you would experience is someone coming closer, they would hold you, help you lie down, take the blindfold off, and put some water on your lips. The electric shocks would make you stream with sweat and you’d get extremely dehydrated - so very, very thirsty,”

It is estimated that 4,500 people crossed Villa Grimaldi’s doors. Many never made it out and of those, hundreds are still missing.

Lelia spent the best part of a year in Villa Grimaldi. She was then transferred to a labour camp where she was held for another 12 months before she was forced to leave the country in late 1976.

Over a decade later, when Pinochet was ousted after a general referendum, she returned to Chile and to Villa Grimaldi in an attempt to come to terms with the past. Now the colonial house is now a cultural centre for the local community.

“We have turned this place of destruction into one of construction. This house of torture and death has now become a space that promotes life.”

Augusto Pinochet

Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006) was a Chilean general who seized control of the South American country after a bloody coup in September 1973.

Born to a middle-class family in the coastal town of Valparaiso, Pinochet moved from high school to military academy, graduating in 1936. He received a lieutenant’s commission in the Chilean infantry and set about building a military career. Pinochet rose through the ranks, despite seeing no combat or active service.

In 1953, he became the commandant of a detention camp that housed, among other prisoners, suspected communists. He later studied and taught in military academies in both Chile and Ecuador. In 1971 Pinochet was promoted to general and the following year was appointed Army Chief of Staff. In August 1973 Chilean president Salvador Allende appointed Pinochet commander-in-chief of all Chilean military forces.

The following month Pinochet initiated a military coup, backed by other military officers and right-wing politicians, and with the tacit support of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This coup overthrew the government and led to Allende’s death, probably by suicide.

Pinochet governed Chile for a year as head of a military junta, after which he assumed the powers of a fascist military dictator. The United States welcomed Pinochet’s coup and provided his government with almost $US400 million in aid and loans. The CIA also provided information and training to Pinochet’s secret police, the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA).

Pinochet’s grip on Chile became oppressive: thousands of his political opponents were hunted down, arrested and detained, while others vanished without a trace, probably murdered. All were deemed “communists” by Pinochet, though the majority of his opponents and victims were moderate socialists, social democrats and liberals. The human rights abuses in Chile were investigated and widely publicised during the late 1970s, discrediting Pinochet.

Domestically, the new regime in Chile undertook significant economic reform, opening the country for business development and foreign investment. This restored economic growth, however, unemployment and poverty both grew under Pinochet’s rule.

Pinochet’s reign ended in 1990 following several years of pressure for democratic reform, both within Chile and also from the US. During a visit in April 1987, Pope John Paul II also urged the Chilean ruler to relax his grip and allow democratic reform. Pinochet agreed to a referendum (October 1988) that effectively shattered his dictatorial power. The country began its transition to democracy and Pinochet was ousted from the presidency in March 1990.

In 1998, the ageing former dictator travelled to Britain for specialist medical care. In October 1988 he was arrested for authorising the assassination and torture of Spanish diplomats and civilians in the 1970s. In a controversial decision the British government – one of Pinochet’s allies during his presidency – ruled the former dictator could not be extradited to face justice in Spain.

Pinochet was instead returned to Chile, where he was granted immunity from prosecution. This immunity was revoked in 2004 but Pinochet died in December 2006, before any charges could be laid. Subsequent investigations into Pinochet’s years in power have uncovered evidence of political murders, widespread torture, corruption, tax fraud and money laundering.

Citation information
Title: “Augusto Pinochet”
Authors: Jennifer Llewellyn, Steve Thompson
Publisher: Alpha History
URL: https://alphahistory.com/coldwar/augusto-pinochet/
Date published: October 25, 2018
Date accessed: June 23, 2021

Copyright: The content on this page may not be republished without our express permission. For more information on usage, please refer to our Terms of Use.

The Big Scare That Launched Operation Condor

On November 3,1970, Salvador Allende became president of Chile in a close three-way race. A well known democratic socialist with over 40 years of involvement in Chile’s politics and the head of the Popular Unity alliance party, had previously run for president three times unsuccessfully.

Allende had a close relationship with the Chilean Communist Party which had previously endorsed him as the alternative to their own candidate. He also had a secret which he held close to his vest, but well known to the CIA and Chilean military insiders he had been courted by Cuba’s Fidel Castro and the USSR.

Almost immediately after being inaugurated, and contradicting previous commitments he had made to other political parties as well as to the legislature, he began a large scale nationalization of industries which included copper mining and banking. He expanded land and property seizures, began a program of agrarian reform, instituted some price controls, as well as began aggressive redistribution of wealth.

While the economy showed some initial signs of improvement, by 1972 it began to falter. Some claim the economy’s poor performance was due to CIA money being provided to the country’s main trucker union for them to strike. There are also claims that other money went to strategic sectors of the economy in order to buy allegiance against Allende. Whatever the causes for the economic downturn, shortages in food and other consumer products began to surface. All of these events created an extremely chaotic economic environment.

The thought of another Communist government in Latin America, specially at the height of the Cold War, was anathema to current U.S. President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. National archives contain a CIA document which declared, “It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup.” The rest is history. The CIA quickly mobilized to make plans for a coup d’état with General Augusto Pinochet and other military leaders.

On September 11 1973 an attack on the presidential palace La Moneda took place. By that evening Allende laid dead, officially reported as an apparent suicide, however, it is widely believed he was executed.

Augusto Pinochet

Augusto Pinochet Ugarte was born the son of a customs official, rose quickly through the officer corps and, as early as the 1950s, was involved in politics, as he headed the clampdown on the Chilean Communist party.

Paradoxically, it was for his apparent lack of political ambition that he advanced to the rank of commander-in-chief, under the left-wing Popular Unity government, led by Salvador Allende in the early 1970s.

But in September 1973, President Allende discovered how wrong he had been. He lost his life in the coup led by General Pinochet, who lead a military junta representing Chile's armed forces.

Pinochet ordered the purges that saw more than 3,000 supporters of the Allende regime killed, and many thousands more tortured or forced into exile.

He closed down the Chilean Parliament, banned all political and trade union activity and, in 1974, appointed himself president.

But by the mid-1980s left-wing parties had re-grouped and organised huge protests, while in 1986 he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt.

The 1980 national constitution, brought in by his military government, set a timetable for the election of a president. It allowed for a referendum on whether or not Pinochet should be the only candidate.

Much to his surprise and dismay, this proposal was rejected, and Pinochet was forced to allow the return of civilians to government.

In 1990 he reluctantly stepped down as president. However, he remained commander-in-chief of the army, a position he used to ensure both that there were no prosecutions against members of the security forces suspected of human rights abuses, and to block any radical political initiatives.

In 1998 General Pinochet finally relinquished his post as commander-in-chief. The next day, he took up a seat in parliament as a senator-for-life, another position he had created for himself in the 1980 constitution.

The same year, Spain sought his extradition from Britain to face charges connected with the “disappearance” of Spanish nationals. However, Britain ruled that he was not fit to stand trial and denied the request. The attempts to prosecute him for his atrocities are ongoing.

Pinochet suffered a heart attack on the morning of December 3, 2006, and subsequently the same day he was given the last rites.
This occurred days after he was put under house arrest. On December 4, 2006, the Chilean Court of Appeals ordered the release of this house arrest.

On 10 December 2006 he died of congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema, surrounded by his family. His last word was believed to be "Lucy", the name of his wife (Lucia Hiriart).

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