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 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, after he was unwilling to join a coup and following a bizarre traffic incident that made Prats lose support in the Army (he was later assassinated in Buenos Aires). Pinochet ascended to the post in the midst of considerable national turmoil. Allende’s Marxist-Social Democratic coalition government had narrowly won office in a three-way election promising a sweeping platform of land reform and nationalization. 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 Richard 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 Leigh’s plot to remove Allende, a plan which was altered at the last minute to include Pinochet, until then, they did not know which side he would be on since he had been vital in defending the government in the "Tanquetazo" (attempted coup) on June 29 of the same year, as were others loyal to General Carlos Prats. 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 long before the events of 2001.
Initially power was shared among the members of the junta, but within a year Pinochet, the last man to join the coup d’état, 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 and the rise in fuel prices), suffered two economic crises, and also to the severely increased poverty, inequality and social exclusion that his policies created. If anything, GDP per capita doubled compared to Allende's administration, but its true takeoff occurred after the end of Pinochet's regime and the return of democracy.
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 1,200–3,200 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, throwing people off helicopters into the ocean or the Andes 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.
Contrary to the popular imagination in the 1988 plebiscite, the return to democracy was not debated, that had already been decided by Pinochet himself, so there would be elections for parliamentarians, what was defined was whether he would continue to be president or a new one would be elected, winning the option "No" that implied presidential elections. 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 Pinochet’s return had damaged the country’s reputation, and pressed on with the case. Pinochet’s 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.
Works featuring Augusto Pinochet and his regime include:
- Ikaros Publishing released in 2012 the controversial artwork Nyotaika!! Dictator Biographies in the World, which represents infamous dictators from 20th century as cute and/or sexy girls accompanied with their biographies. As expected, Pinochet appears in this artwork, represented as a green-eyed blonde cougar with a book burning in the background, a known action made during the first years of his regime.
- 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 also illustrator 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 Chilean political Satire magazine Topaze was a famous magazine born in The '30s until 1970, reborn 1989 and continuing during The '90s, being the first media to satirize Pinochet's regime after the return of democracy. One of its artists, Guillo, go further and years later made the Graphic Novel Pinochet Illustrated where he put him in his own version of The Emperor's New Clothes.
- Felipe, one of the friends of Mafalda, was inspired by one of Quino's friends, who was a journalist who covered The Coup in 1973 where Pinochet took the power, being one of the last ones who talked with Allende before he died that morning.
- One of Mortadelo y Filemón books is called "The Tyrant" and is about the eponymous secret agents going to the Republic of Chula to stop the dictator Antofagasto Panocho, and ironically later escort him for his extradition to be judged.
- In Zombies en la Moneda, the zombie apocalypse that the country suffers is the responsibility of an augusto pinochet resurrected by an Ancient Conspiracy... possibly.
- 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 1982 Costa-Gavras film missing. (1982), 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 German film The Colony (2016) 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.
- Los Prisioneros' Biopic movie Miguel San Miguel is about the beginnings of the band when they were youngsters and how the band was created, all of this with the background of the dictatorship with various events that marked them, as being part of the protests and the police's repression, with the final decision of becoming "the voice of a generation."
- French thriller The Mark of the Angels - Miserere, set in France and Belgium during The New '10s, has Pinochet's regime as an important part of its backstory. The story begins with the murder of a Chilean exile working as a choir master in a Parisian church. Turns out he actually was a Chilean torturer, not an opponent. The movie also gives an important role to a fictional Chilean cult heavily based on the aforementioned Colonia Dignidad.
- 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.
- Chilean diplomat and esoteric Neo-Nazi Miguel Serrano dedicated a long chapter of his book Adolf Hitler, the Final Avatar to expounding how much he despised Pinochet.
- Los 80 is about an average mid-class family during The '80s, all in the time of Pinochet's regime.
- Sudamerican Rockers, the Biopic series of Los Prisioneros loosely based on Miguel San Miguel movie, tells the story behind the iconic band from The '80s with the backgound of the Pinochet's regime.
- In Breaking Bad, it's implied Gustavo "Gus" Fring (a Chilean national) had substantial ties to the Pinochet regime. The Chilean government has no records of Fring prior to his immigration to Mexico in 1986, which Gus claims to Hank is a result of the dictatorship's poor record keeping. In a flashback, Hector Salamanca calls Fring "Gran Generalissimo" and Don Eladio notes that while they are "not in Chile anymore", he will spare Fring since he knows who he really is. If all of this is taken together and at face value, Fring might have been a high-ranking military officer in Pinochet's regime, or perhaps even involved in military intelligence.
- Narcos shows that shortly after he overthrew Allende, Pinochet had the military round up all known drug traffickers in Chile and shot all those they could find. One who escapes manages to reach Colombia and hooks up with Pablo Escobar, who'd soon grow into the most powerful drug kingpin on the continent.
- Is mentioned in the opening of the song "Forces Of Victory" by Gogol 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.
- Los Prisioneros's protest songs were usually acid critics about his regime and the then-actual style of life but without directly pointing at them. But in Ni Por a Razón Ni Por La Fuerza, a Greatest Hits Album which has B-sides and unpublished records, there's a song called "Zombie", which is about a zombie trying to live a normal life, also contains this proper anti-Pinochet line:
Y bueno tú sabes, las cosas se han puesto difíciles para los zombies. Antes, cuando había democracia era tan distinto, así es que por lo mismo los zombies llamamos a votar NO en el plebiscito para derrocar a Pinochet.note
- Canadian singer-songwriter Bob Wiseman's song "Rock and Tree" recounts the story of the indigenous Mapuche people, Allende's ascent to power, his efforts to help them, and his death, as told to a tree by a rock. Pinochet isn't mentioned, but the lyrics implicate Richard Nixon, his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the CIA, and then-CEO of PepsiCo Donald M. Kendall for their roles in helping stage Pinochet's coup. The song appeared on initial pressings of Wiseman's 1989 debut solo album In Her Dream before his label excised the song from future pressings and ordered all existing copies destroyed under threat of a libel lawsuit from PepsiCo. The song was added back to the album when Wiseman reissued it on an independent label in 2009.
- Sting's song "They Dance Alone" (from his album Nothing Like the Sun), like "Mothers of the Disappeared", is about mothers of those kidnapped and killed under Pinochet's regime. The beginning of the last verse mentions him specifically ("Hey Mr. Pinochet/You've sown a bitter crop").
- On more than one occasion in Hitman, Agent 47 has had to clean up after Pinochet's mess:
- In Hitman: Blood Money, Agent 47 is given a contract to take out one Don Fernando Delgado, a former colonel of Pinochet's regime who is running a cocaine ring out of his vineyard in Colchagua Valley, Chile.
- One of the Elusive Targets in Hitman (2016) is Father Adalrico Candelaria, a cardinal (widely considered to be on the short list for the next Pope) who was part of Pinochet's regime.
- 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.