Pinochet (Ugarte), Augusto
born , Nov. 25, 1915, Valparaiso, Chile
leader of the military junta that overthrew the Marxist government of President
Salvador Allende of Chile on Sept. 11, 1973. He subsequently headed Chile's
military government (197490).
Pinochet, a graduate of the military academy in Santiago (1936), was a
military officer who was appointed army commander in chief by President
Allende 18 days before the coup. He planned and led the military coup in which
Allende died. Pinochet was named president of the victorious junta's governing
council, and he immediately moved to crush Chile's liberal opposition, arresting
approximately 130,000 individuals in a three year period. In June 1974
Pinochet assumed sole power, relegating the rest of the junta to an advisory
role and dropping plans to rotate the presidency among its members.
Pinochet was determined to extirpate leftism in Chile and to reassert
the primacy of free market
policies in the country's economy. His junta was widely condemned for its harsh suppression of
dissent at the same time that its reversal of the Allende government's socialist policies resulted in a
lower rate of inflation and an economic boom in the period from 1976 to 1979. A modest political
liberalization began in 1978, after the regime announced that, in a plebiscite, 75 percent of the
electorate had endorsed Pinochet's rule.
A new constitution went into effect in March 1981. Under its terms,
the military junta's candidate for
president, Pinochet, would serve as president for another eight year term, and in 1989 the military's
candidate would be submitted to a national referendum for either approval or rejection by a
majority of the voters. During Pinochet's 198088 term, his free market policies were generally
credited with maintaining a low rate of inflation and an acceptable rate of economic growth despite a
severe recession in 198083. Pinochet continued to maintain tight controls over the political
opposition, but he fulfilled his constitutional obligation to hold the plebiscite scheduled for 1989. The
actual plebiscite, held in October 1988, resulted in a no vote of 55 percent to a yes vote of 43
percent for Pinochet's continuation as president. Thus rejected by the electorate, Pinochet remained
in office until after free elections installed a new president, the Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin,
on March 11, 1990.