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|“||Sometimes democracy must be bathed in blood.||„|
|~ Augusto Pinochet.|
Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (November 25th, 1915 - December 10th, 2006) was a Chilean general and statesman who served as the President of Chile from 1973 to 1990. He first came to power after a successful coup d'etat on September 11, 1973, and remained in power for 17 years which was nearly two full decades.
Augusto Pinochet is considered to be one of the worst of South America's Cold War-era military dictators as well as one of the most brutal dictators in history. He presided over a totalitarian regime that perpetrated numerous human rights abuses, crimes against humanity, unlawful executions, the internment of as many as 80,000 people and the torture of tens of thousands.
Life and military career
Born in Valparaiso, Chile on November 15, 1915, Pinochet was the son and namesake of Augusto Pinochet Vera and Avelina Ugarte Martínez.
Pinochet went to school at San Rafael Seminary, the Rafael Ariztía Institute, the French Fathers' School, and then to the Military School in Santiago. In 1935, he graduated with the rank of alférez (Second Lieutenant) in the infantry.
Pinochet was posted to the "Chacabuco" Regiment at Concepción in 1937. He transferred to the "Maipo" Regiment, garrisoned at Valparaso, two years later, with the rank of Sub-Lieutenant. By 1940, he returned to Infantry School and Pinochet later married a woman named Luca Hiriart Rodrguez on January 30, 1943, and the couple had five children: Inés Luca, Mara Verónica, Jacqueline Marie, Augusto Osvaldo, and Marco Antonio.
By 1945, Pinochet was eventually sent to the "Carampangue" Regiment in the northern city of Iquique. He enrolled at the Chilean War Academy three years later, but had to delay his studies because he was assigned to a service mission in the Lota mining zone since he was the youngest officer. Pinochet was eventually admitted into the regular Masonic order in 1948.
Pinochet joined as a member of the regular Masonic Lodge Victoria n°15 of San Bernardo in 1948. He was given the Scottish Rite companion degree, however it is unknown and also unlikely that he ever became a Grand Master.
The following year, he continued his studies at the Chilean War Academy and went to teach at the Military School in 1953 after earning the rank of Officer Chief of Staff. He also served as a teacher's aide at the War Academy, where he taught geography and geopolitics. He was also the editor of the Cien guilas ('One Hundred Eagles') institutional journal. After getting the rank of major, he was transferred to Arica.
He was eventually appointed as professor at the Chilean War Academy during his time there, and he eventually went back to Santiago to begin his new job.
In 1956, Pinochet and a group of officers were picked to arrange a military mission to assist in the establishment of the Ecuadorian War Academy in Quito. He stayed with the mission for four and a half years, studying geopolitics, military geography, and military intelligence as well. He returned to Chile in 1959 and was assigned to the 1st Army Division's General Headquarters at Antofagasta. He was named commander of the "Esmeralda" Regiment the following year. He was eventually promoted to Sub-Director of the War Academy in 1963 as a result of his effectiveness in this post.
He was named Chief of Staff of the 2nd Army Division which was based in Santiago, in 1968, and was elevated to brigadier general and Commander in Chief of the 6th Division, stationed in Iquique, by the end of the year. He was also named Intendent of the Tarapacá Province in his new role as well.
Pinochet was promoted to division general and appointed as General Commander of the Santiago Army Garrison in 1971. Following the death of Edmundo Perez Zujovic by left-wing extremists on June 8, 1971, Allende appointed Pinochet as the sole authority of Santiago province, enforcing a military curfew that was eventually lifted. The curfew was lifted on December 2, 1971, following a series of nonviolent rallies against Allende's economic policies.
In 1973 he took over as commander in chief of Chile. On 11 September of that year, led a coup that overthrew Chile's democratically-elected president, Salvador Allende, despite being considered a loyal ally by him, a close friend of the defense minister Jose Toha and chief of the armed forces, Calos Prats. The coup was facilitated as a part of Operation Condor, the campaign of state terrorism propagated by various South American military dictatorships to prevent the spread of communism in South America, and supported by the United States (then under the Nixon administration.) Henry Kissinger, who concurrently served as Secretary of State and National Security Advisor at the time, also played a large role in the coup.
Since then, Pinochet became the country's government, first under the office of president of the Military Junta (he held until 1981), to which was added the title of supreme head of the Nation on June 27, 1974, which gave the executive branch.
On 16 December the same year took over as President, to be ratified by the enactment of the 1980 Constitution. His government would end after the defeat in the National Plebiscite of 1988 and its replacement by Patricio Aylwin in 1990. Pinochet would remain as commander in chief until March 10, 1998, and the next day assume the post of senator for life, a fact that exercised for a couple of months. He was later arrested months later in London on the orders of Spain on October 17, 1998, a month from his 83rd birthday.
Pinochet's dictatorship has been widely characterized as inhumane both at home and in the rest of the world by various egregious human rights violations committed in the period known as the military regime, so Pinochet faced various trials to date of its death. He was never formally charged, however.
The sheer brutality of his crimes are incredible, after his Coup he sent armed troops to search the capital for left-wing sympathisers. Students, writers, Catholics, indigenous people, and union workers were rounded up, and sent to torture centers, set up in Santiago. These were sometimes police cells or army barracks, but more often they were converted homes, hotels or offices. His most infamous was that he converted the international soccer stadium into a massive holding centre, the people were split into two lines, ones for death and ones for interrogation. The ones in the death line were taken to a field and shot, while the ones for interrogation were often tortured for weeks before being released. At the height of the repression, he had over sixty of these working around the clock. He practically turned the whole capital into one giant concentration camp.
He also ran his secret police (DINA) who were renowned for their cruelty. Among DINA's methods of torture towards prisoners were electrocutions, breaking their bones with hammers, forcing them to play Russian Roulette, crushing their legs under car wheels, melting their flesh with flame throwers, pushing them out of helicopters (known as "death flights") and forcing them to commit cannibalism and eat the flesh of fellow murdered prisoners. Other methods specialized in humiliation and depravity, such as forcing their heads into buckets filled with excrement, having women raped by men with Venereal diseases, and one unit was even notorious for forcing their prisoners to have sex with dogs.
Quite often the methods of death were particularly brutal as well; some victims were tied to railway tracks, others were loaded into helicopters and pushed out into the icy depths of the Pacific Ocean, others were sent to death camps in the Atacama desert. Others were blown to pieces with dynamite or loaded into planes and forced out into the Andes, higher than anyone ever went.
Fearing that his puppet officials outsides the cities, in the towns may not be implementing his policy's Pinochet organised the Caravan of Death, an elite death squad that went from town to town with orders to exterminate any leftists (or anyone who was perceived to have communist or leftist sympathies) who avoided the camp. Armed with machine guns, knives and grenades they would enter round up any of Pinochet's opponents and execute them. Though only active for twenty-two days, they killed almost 100 people, up and down the 2,485-mile spine of Chile.
Pinochet also arranged a terrorist bombing in Washington DC, that killed rising star Orlando Letelier, a former minister in the previous government and Pinochet's greatest critic. The attack also killed 25-year-old United States citizen Ronni Moffitt, who was in the car with Orlando when the bomb his forcing placed underneath it, went off.
Role in Operation Condor
Pinochet was one of the leading participants in Operation Condor alongside fellow dictators Alfredo Stroessner, Jorge Rafael Videla, and Hugo Banzer. It was essentially a pact between various South American regimes to hunt down dissidents wherever they were, and murder them. Condor allowed Pinochet to kill opponents as far away as Rome. But it was also the DINA’s expertise that allowed the lesser dictatorships on the continent to murder a phenomenal number of opponents at home. It’s estimated now that 60,000 leftists, students, human rights advocates and intellectuals “disappeared” in Condor.
Pinochet is considered a "hero" by some, and he still has many supporters today. His supporters claim that Pinochet "saved" the country from the establishment of a communist regime in the hands of Salvador Allende (a socialist and noted supporter of Fidel Castro and the Soviet Union) and a possible civil war. However, like all dictators he has his fair share of critics who consider him to be a vile tyrant. His critics condemn his totalitarian and oppressive methods in ruling Chile and the brutality enforced against opponents of his regime.
In recent years, the Alt-Right has made memes about his "Helicopter rides" and have generally celebrated his actions during his rule, describing him often as the "lesser of two evils" compared to Salvador Allende and other socialist dictators such as Castro, whom he disliked.
By the time of his death on 10 December 2006, about 300 criminal charges were still pending against him in Chile for numerous human rights violations, tax evasion and embezzlement during his 17-year rule and afterwards. Pinochet was accused of having corruptly amassed a wealth of US $28 million or more.
Death and Legacy
Pinochet suffered a heart attack on December 3, 2006, and was given the last rites. He died from complications a week later on December 10, at the age of 91 and was given a state funeral. He was never convicted on any charges brought to him, and by the time of his death, about 300 criminal charges were still pressed against him.
- Pinochet harbored Nazis during his rule.
- Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of the UK, was a staunch supporter of Pinochet.
- Pinochet was of French descent on his father's side.