Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (25 November 1915 10 December 2006), better known to the rest of the world as Augusto Pinochet, was the dictator of Chile, reigning as president of the Government Junta of Chile from 1973 to 1990. He was the commander in chief of the Chilean army from 1973 through 1998. He assumed power in a coup d'état on 11 September 1973, overthrowing the Unidad Popular government of Salvador Allende and ending civilian rule a week before its 48th anniversary.
Born in 1915, Pinochet rose slowly through the ranks of the Chilean Army, reaching the position of Commander-in-Chief in 1973, following the Resignation of his predecessor and mentor, Carlos Prats (he was unwilling to join a coup and was later assassinated in Buenos Aires). He ascended to the post in the midst of considerable national turmoil. Allendes Marxist-Social Democratic coalition government had narrowly won office in a three-way election promising a sweeping platform of land reform and nationalization. Attempts at carrying out those promises had been met with considerable opposition and outright sabotage from Chilean landowners and the bourgeoisie, amply represented in the majority-conservative Chilean congress. In addition to the mounting economic and constitutional crisis, he faced a quiet undercurrent of discontent within large parts of the military, which believed Allende was going to lead Chile down the path of a Marxist Revolution. His actions, which culminated in a month-long visit by Fidel Castro in 1971, had also alarmed the Nixon Administration, and in particular Henry Kissinger, who saw Allende as a personal enemy. With this in mind, the USA imposed sanctions to asphyxiate Chile's economy ("Make it scream" - in Nixon's words) and lent its support to Admiral José Toribio Merino and Air Force General Gustavo Leighs plot to remove Allende, a plan which was altered at the last minute to include Pinochet. On September 11th the military surrounded and bombarded the Presidential Palace. Allende killed himself and the junta assumed control of Chile, establishing the precedent that 9/11 is a bad day for democracy the world over.
Initially power was shared among the members of the junta, but within a year Pinochet, the last man to join the coup détat, managed to maneuver his way into the Presidency, eventually ousting the other junta leaders. An arch-conservative and proponent of laissez-faire economics, Pinochet reimposed social order through strict authoritarian controls, put the army in charge of all government positions, and handed control of the Chilean economy over to a group of US-educated economists known as the Chicago boys. Fans of Pinochet will point to the substantial economic growth as proof that his rule was not all bad. Non-fans will point out that Chile's economic growth lagged somewhat behind the South American average throughout Pinochet's term in office (partially but perhaps not entirely attributable to the decline in the price of the main export, copper), suffered two economic crises, and also to the severely increased poverty, inequality and social exclusion that his policies created.
Of course, no amount of economic growth can cover the fact that Pinochet was a nasty, nasty individual, who implemented incredibly harsh anti-opposition laws during his regime. Between 1,2003,200 people were killed, up to 80,000 were interned, and up to 30,000 were tortured by his regime, including women and children.
Much of what went on in Pinochet's prisons was utterly sickening, with stories of dogs being trained to rape prisoners, and rats being inserted into the vaginas and anuses of detainees not being the worst of them. The "parrilla" ("electric grill"), which involved prisoners being strapped to tables and tortured with electric shocks, was so ubiquitous that President Michelle Bachelet admitted she was treated better than other detainees because she was not subject to them. Other inhuman acts included dragging half-dead victims into parking lots and running them over with trucks repeatedly, throwing people into vats of human sewage, flogging people to death with chains and the technique known as the "telephone", which involved slamming hands on the victim's ears until they were deaf.
Many of the victims simply disappeared into the ether, never to be seen again, enduring their prolonged confinement, torture, and executions out of the public eye. Not content with savaging his own population, Pinochet lent the services of his secret police force, the DINA, to the Pan-South American Operation: Condor, a joint operation launched by Pinochet himself between the Argentine, Paraguayan, Uruguayan, Brazilian, Bolivian, Peruvian, and Chilean juntas that aimed to stamp out Communist activity (violent and peaceful alike) all across the continent. Estimates as to the deaths caused by this politicide vary, with some reaching 60,000.
Despite this, Pinochet remained popular with the prosperous conservative sectors of society, who strongly disagreed with the left-wing reforms of Allende's presidency which they identified as a chaotic regime. This may have led him to believe that he had enough support to continue governing, now through democratic means. In 1988, he held a referendum on the dictatorship, and to his surprise, lost. He was forced to step down as President, though he continued on as Commander-in-Chief of the Army until 1998, when he retired to become a Senator-for-Life. Having pardoned himself of all charges, Pinochet was immune from prosecution on all human rights violations. The subsequent centrist governments would maintain and even expand his economic policies, including regimes led by Allende's own Socialist Party. While he was put under house arrest on a trip to Britain in 1998, he made it home in 2000 only to be arrested on seventy-five charges of kidnapping from which he had not pardoned himself. The new government believed Pinochets return had damaged the countrys reputation, and pressed on with the case. Pinochets lawyers put up a strong defense, claiming the general was senile and could no longer remember the crimes he had committed. Before the case could actually reach trial, Pinochet died on the 10th of December, 2006, at the age of 91. He remains a controversial figure to this day; while most people across the political spectrum revile him he has defenders both within Chile and without, who argue that his regime was a necessary evil or even a positive good.
(In recent years, he got a somewhat misaimed fandom among right wing and libertarian circles. )
Works featuring Augusto Pinochet and his regime include:
- In Diablo, Alex/Diablo's father made a Deal with the Devil to make suffering to the world in exchange of protection. And the way to make this deal is being a DINA/CNI agent and torturer for Pinochet's regime. Before he died, he reconvert into Catholicism, so the deal will be passed to his son.
- Also, in Diablo: Crónicas, Alex himself goes to Pinochet's house to make a visit in the time he was ill (in the late 90s, implied after he returned to Chile after being judged in England).
- One of Diablo's artists and who also works for Mitos Y Leyendas, Juan Vásquez, made the 1986 series, a 2-issue collection: the first issue is a compilation of anti-Pinochet stories he made during the dictatorship in The '80s, the second one (also called as El Canto del Delirionote ) is a Graphic Novel made during the Turn of the Millennium that continued what the first issue left.
- The Academy Award-nominated Chilean film No (2012), starring Gael García Bernal, chronicles the attempts of Chile's opposition parties to oust Pinochet in 1988 and 1990, with the focus being on the media battle that was waged against him. Pinochet himself is not portrayed by any actor—rather old footage of him is used.
- The Costa-Gavras 1982 film Missing, starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek, chronicles the disappearance of American journalist Charles Horman, who vanished in the aftermath of Pinochet's coup while on assignment in Chile.
- The House of the Spirits, a critically panned All-Star Cast film (Antonio Banderas, Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Winona Ryder, and so on) based on Isabel Allende's novel of the same name.
- Of Love And Shadows, also based on an Isabel Allende novel (and also starring Antonio Banderas), is a romantic film set in Pinochet's Chile, in which magazine editor Irene falls in love with Francisco, a photographer with leftist sympathies who opens her eyes to the atrocities being committed by the military.
- While it is never explicitly confirmed, the unnamed South American country in Death and the Maiden is often identified as Chile under Pinochet.
- Machuca is about two friends, one poor and one wealthy, living through the last days of the Allende presidency, and the first days of the coup d'etat. The richer friend, Gonzalo Infante, eventually abandons the poorer one, Pedro Machuca, in order to save himself from Pinochet's soldiers during the clearing out of a ghetto.
- The Black Pimpernel, a Swedish production filmed in Chile, chronicles the life of Swedish Ambassador Harald Edelstam, who saved the lives of more than 1300 Chileans during Pinochet's coup, transporting them first to his embassy, and then to Sweden.
- Dawson Isla 10 is a historical drama about the lives of Allende's former cabinet members who were imprisoned on the titular islands by the Chilean Navy in the aftermath of the coup d'etat.
- Post Mortem, set during the coup itself, is about a pathologist's assistant trying desperately to track down his lover who has vanished in the coup, even as the military forces him to cover up the causes of death of the people whose bodies are piling up in his mortuary.
- Nostalgia for the Light, a beautiful award-winning documentary about women who, decades after the end of the dictatorship, are still searching for the bodies of the relatives that Pinochet had disappeared.
- The Battle of Chile, a three-part documentary from the same director as Nostalgia for the Light, chronicling Chile's history from the end of the Allende government through the coup d'etat.
- It's Raining On Santiago, a 1975 French film on the coup d'etat (taking its name from the code words broadcast over the radio to signal its start) and the immediate aftermath.
- The 2015 German film La Colonia starts with Pinochet's coup. Most of the story focuses on the Colonia Dignidad, an agrarian commune (actually a cult) founded in Chile by German émigrés in the Fifties, and which served as a secret internment and torture center for the regime during Pinochet's dictatorship.
- The novella By Night in Chile is set in Pinochet's Chile, and features the dictator, portraying him as a petty man engaged in one upmanship with the dead Allende, claiming to be more educated than the dead President. The novella is told from the point of view of Father Urrutia, a dying priest who was once chosen to give Pinochet and his other top generals lessons on Marxism.
- The novella Distant Star, from the same author as By Night in Chile, tells the story of Alberto Ruiz-Tagle, a Chilean airman and would-be poet who is gradually revealed as one of the architects of Pinochet's regime.
- 'The plot of The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende takes place with the overthrow of Salvador Allende's government in 1973 by Pinochet as background.
- Miguel Serranos The Final Avatar contains a long chapter about how much the author despised Pinochet and considered him to be Worse Than Hitler.
- Is mentioned in the opening of the song "Forces Of Victory" by Golgo Bordello.
My dear friend we must not forgetIf we could take down Pinochet
- "Mothers of the Disappeared" from U2's album The Joshua Tree commemorates the "Madres de Plaza de Mayo", a group of women who protested in the streets and whose children had been "disappeared" by the dictatorial regimes of Pinochet in Chile and Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina. The song also criticizes the Reagan administration for backing these regimes.
Jara sang, his song a weapon in the hands of loveYou know his blood still cries from the ground
- "One Tree Hill", from the same album, references the Chilean political activist and folk singer Víctor Jara, who was tortured and murdered when dictator Pinochet took over Chile in 1973.
- Bear Story is a cartoon about a bear kidnapped from his family and imprisoned in the circus, which is also an allegory for all the kidnapped and disappeared during the Pinochet regime.