Birthday: November 25, 1915
Died At Age: 91
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte
Born in: Valparaíso
Famous as: Former President of Chile
Spouse/Ex-: Lucía Hiriart
father: Augusto Pinochet Vera
mother: Avelina Ugarte Martínez
children: Augusto Osvaldo Pinochet, Jacqueline Marie Pinochet, Lucía Pinochet, Marco Antonio Pinochet, María Verónica Pinochet
Died on: December 10, 2006
place of death: Santiago
Augusto Pinochet was a military officer in Chile who led the U.S.-backed military coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende’s socialist government. He became the head of the subsequent military government, a role he retained for nearly two decades. While many characterize his government as fascist, others describe the regime as ultra-nationalistic and Pinochet as a despot. His rule was characterized by widespread arrests and torture of liberal dissenters as well as the development of Chile’s free market economy. While his privatization policies did provoke a revival of Chile’s floundering economy, they also are believed to have greatly increased economic inequality. After being voted out of office, he remained commander of the armed forces until he was given the office of senator-for-life. In this capacity he was detained by the British government in response to a Spanish extradition request regarding his torture of Spanish citizens in Chile. This action was a legal landmark as it was the first time universal jurisdiction had been applied to the head of a government. While he was deemed unfit to stand trial, he was beset by allegations of human rights violations, tax evasion, and embezzlement for the rest of his life. He was survived by his wife Lucía and his five children.
Childhood & Early Life
Augusto Pinochet was born on November 25, 1915, the son of Augusto Pinochet Vera and Avelina Ugarte Martínez. He was of French Breton and Basque descent, and was raised a Roman Catholic.
He attended military school and graduated with the rank of second lieutenant. He subsequently rose swiftly through the infantry, and with periodic returns to the ‘Infantry School’ and the ‘War Academy’ he made the rank of major by 1953.
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Pinochet rose through Chile’s military ranks, becoming a regiment commander, a Chief of Staff, brigadier general, and Commander in Chief for the 6th Division. In 1971 he became a division general and was named General Commander.
In the period 1972–1973, he was named General Chief of Staff of the Army, but after General Prats resigned he was quickly promoted by President Salvador Allende to Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army. A month later he participated in the military coup that overthrew President Allende.
As a result of the military coup against President Allende’s government, a junta was immediately established which included Pinochet. He was subsequently named President in 1974.
As President, he sought to exterminate leftism in Chile and to introduce a free market economy. He did so through harsh policies suppressing dissent, while dismantling government control of industry.
During the Pinochet government, at least 3,197 people were murdered, 29,000 tortured, and over 200,000 forced to go into exile.
The Chilean economy, hurt by the extreme sanctions imposed by the ‘Nixon administration’, grew steadily under the new privatization and economic liberalization policies.
In 1980, he enacted a constitution that gave the office of the President an eight-year term and created new institutions such as the ‘Constitutional Tribunal’ and ‘National Security Council’.
In 1988, in response to international pressure, the constitution was amended to allow for a transition to a more democratic government. He was subsequently voted out of office and, per the ‘1980 constitution’s terms’, sworn in as a senator-for-life.
In 1998, he was arrested in London in regards to a Spanish extradition request. The government of Spain had issued a warrant for his arrest so that he might stand trial for human rights violations, many victims of which had been Spanish citizens. He was kept under house arrest for two years but finally returned to Chile on the grounds of ill health. For the next six years his immunity from prosecution would be repeatedly challenged and reinstated.
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While his actual role in planning the coup has never been fully clarified, Augusto Pinochet was one of the leading strategists involved in the coup that deposed President Salvador Allende and ultimately led to Allende’s death. He subsequently became the de facto leader of the military junta and then President of Chile, radically altering the course of the nation.
Personal Life & Legacy
On the 30th of January, 1943, he married Lucía Hiriart Rodríguez, to whom he would stay married throughout his life. They had five children: Ines Lucía, María Verónica, Jacqueline Marie, Augusto Osvaldo, and Marco Antonio.
He allegedly had an affair in the late 1950s while stationed in Quito, Ecuador, with a woman named Piedad Noe, with whom he fathered a son named Juan.
The arrest of Pinochet was hailed as a landmark in human rights cases, showing that even elite members of society were not above the law. Since that time human rights organizations have become more aggressive, and more successful, in prosecuting world leaders for human rights violations.
Augusto Pinochet died on December 10, 2006, from congestive heart failure following a heart attack.
In 2005 both his wife Lucía and his son Marco were sued and subsequently for tax evasion relating to Pinochet’s arms dealings.
In 2007, Lucía and all five Pinochet children were arrested on charges of embezzlement and use of false passports in connection to the ‘Riggs Bank’ case.
The specter of Chile’s past reared its head once more in the 2013 presidential race. Both candidates were daughters of generals who served at the time of the coup, one on the side of President Allende, the other on the side of then-General Pinochet.
At the time of his death, Augusto Pinochet was believed to have amassed a fortune of at least $28 million. Many believe he acquired this fortune through arms dealing, tax evasion, and embezzlement.
This famous politician’s opponents called him ‘pinocho’, which is Spanish for ‘Pinocchio’.