Augusto Pinochet

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Augusto Pinochet (1990)
Signature of Augusto Pinochet.svg

Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte [ pinoˈʧet ] (born November 25, 1915 in Valparaíso , † December 10, 2006 in Santiago de Chile ) was a Chilean general and from 1973 to 1990 dictator of Chile .

On September 11, 1973, Pinochet was instrumental in the US-sponsored military coup against the democratically elected Marxist-socialist President Salvador Allende . From that day on he ruled Chile dictatorially until March 11, 1990, first as chairman of a military junta and later as president . He was never democratically elected. To the enormous number of human rights violations during the dictatorship, including several thousands murdered, tens of thousands of cases of torture and a high number of Chileans " disappeared " by force (so-called desaparecidos ), part of the world public reacted with accusations and criticism.

In contrast, the liberal economic structural reforms that took place during his reign received a lot of international attention, especially from economic experts from the USA. 1988 Pinochet was due to set out in the 1980 Constitution referendum voted out of office by the people of Chile, which had the transition to democracy resulted. In 2001 a trial was opened against him, but he was declared unfit to stand for health reasons. He died without being convicted for the crimes of the military dictatorship like many other South American military men of that time .

Youth and military career

Pinochet was born on November 25, 1915 in Valparaíso as the eldest of six children of Augusto Pinochet Vera and Avelina Ugarte Martínez. He went to school in Quillota and Valparaíso and finally attended the Escuela Militar del Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins from 1933 in the Comuna Las Condes in Santiago de Chile , after being rejected twice there. In 1949, the government banned Videla with the Ley Maldita the Communist Party and opened concentration camp in Pisagua ( I. Region ). Pinochet became commandant of the camp and met Salvador Allende there , who was visiting the camp as a representative of the Congress. Later, he taught briefly even at the Military Academy and acquired in 1953 at de Universidad Chile a degree in law . From 1956 he served as a military attaché at the Chilean embassy in Ecuador and helped set up the local military academy. In 1959 and 1965 Pinochet attended several US Army training courses , presumably many of his close ties to high-ranking US military and the CIA secret service date from this time. In 1970 he was appointed Brigadier General by Eduardo Frei shortly before he was handed over to Allende . Salvador Allende gave him command of the army garrison in Santiago de Chile in January 1971 and promoted him to division general .

Pinochet married Lucía Hiriart Rodríguez (* 1922) in 1942 . The couple had five children: three daughters ( Inés Lucía , María Verónica, Jacqueline Marie) and two sons (Augusto Osvaldo and Marco Antonio).

1973 coup

Appointment as commander in chief

Since the end of 1970 Chile has been ruled by a socialist coalition government of the Unidad Popular under Salvador Allende . In the first half of 1973 the political and economic tensions became so severe that on August 22nd, in a symbolic vote, Congress accused the president of violating the constitution by a large majority. Three of the four commander-in-chief of the four Chilean armed forces who had been appointed ministers just two and a half weeks earlier as “neutral mediators” then resigned as ministers and commander-in-chief, including the commander-in-chief of the total armed forces and army chief Carlos Prats . Allende followed the advice of the democratic and loyal Prat and appointed Augusto Pinochet as Commander-in-Chief of the Army in August.

The coup on September 11, 1973

Hardly three weeks later - on September 11th - the military staged a coup, Pinochet coordinated the actions in the background from Peñalolén by telephone and radio. In the midday hours, fighter jets bombed the La Moneda presidential palace . The armed forces of Chile under Pinochet's command overthrew the democratically elected government of Chile. President Allende took his own life during the coup. A military junta took power and made Pinochet its chairman.

Justification of the coup

The putschists justified their actions by saying that they had to forestall alleged plans by the Allende government to establish a dictatorship. To this end, as the spokesman for the military junta himself admits today, the junta's secret service forged documents with plans by the Allende government, etc. a. murdering conservative politicians. A few days after the coup, Pinochet presented the documents fabricated by the secret service to the public and pretended to have found them in the vault of the ousted President Salvador Allende.

Human rights violations during the coup

Former train station in Pisagua, on the right the remains of a concentration camp of the Pinochet regime
The Estadio Nacional today

In the immediate aftermath of the coup, most victims were torture and political murders . On September 11th alone, 2,131 people were arrested for political reasons; by the end of the year there were 13,364. 43% of the victims were arrested by the police , another 30% by army soldiers (the rest mostly by members of the air force and navy or secret services). The victims were mainly members and sympathizers of the overthrown Allende government, left-wing parties and trade unions. Most of the arrests took place in factories, universities and government, left-wing parties and trade union buildings. There were often mass arrests in which almost everyone present was arrested. Public buildings such as stadiums, conference halls and schools were converted into concentration camps . The most notorious case is the Estadio Nacional , in which thousands of prisoners were rounded up and tortured, some of which were later executed. There were also concentration camps in Pisagua and Chacabuco, and the notorious Colonia Dignidad was also used for torture. Detainees were denied contact with a lawyer or their family, as well as due process. The relatives of the approximately 2500 disappeared were left in the dark about their whereabouts. The end of this first phase was initiated by the closure of the concentration camp in the Estadio Nacional in November of the same year. At the same time, secret prisons were opened in Santiago, including Villa Grimaldi and Londres 38, and informally the Dirección Nacional de Inteligencia (DINA), the most important secret service in the period from 1974 to 1977. Over a million Chileans from the left-wing party spectrum had to do that at the time Leaving the country to escape the junta's grip, they sought refuge on every continent.

Human rights violations during military rule

State terror

As in the other authoritarian dictatorships, torture in Chile had two fundamental goals. On the one hand, the person concerned should be made to speak himself and prevented from doing further opposition work (if he had done this at all before). Along with political murders and the disappearance of people, all opponents of the regime should be systematically intimidated and civil society and grassroots democratic organizations wiped out. The fallen members of the government were persecuted like public enemies. Pinochet used the arrest, torture, murder or exile of political opponents as a means of his politics. Thus a state concept shaped by terrorism was formed.

The " Commission for Truth and Reconciliation " (also known as the "Rettig Commission") mentioned 2,095 deaths and 1,102 detainees missing in its records, other reports counted hundreds more.


People have been systematically persecuted and tortured for nearly 17 years since the Pinochet coup on September 11, 1973. The Valech Commission recognized 27,255 political prisoners . Other sources suspect some 10,000 more victims. 13% of the detainees were women, 94% were tortured. Torture was carried out in all regions of Chile, mainly in concentration camps, prisons, barracks and on ships.

In late 1973, union leader Werner Simon was tortured for 39 days on the Lebu torture ship in the port of Valparaiso . He survived thanks to the intervention of Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt . One of his sons documented his fate through a book and an interview.

A man, captured in May 1988, reported to the government's Valech Commission about the torture in the Cuartel General de Investigaciones on calle General Mackenna Nº 1314 in Santiago

... they came into our house, beat my family, destroyed the house looking for weapons, they beat me in front of my family, they put a hood on me and pushed me into a car. We got to the barracks, where they put me in a narrow room, where they handcuffed my hands and feet, then the torture began with beating on the temple, electricity in the mouth and ears, beating on the legs, later because If they did not achieve anything, they beat me with their fists, then they brought in a compañero and tortured him in front of my eyes to make me talk. That was the first day ...

Crimes outside of Chile

The persecution of Chilean opposition members also resulted in violent crimes by the Chilean military abroad. In September 1976, for example, the former Chilean ambassador to the USA, Orlando Letelier , was killed by a car bomb in Washington . CIA documents released in 2015 show that Pinochet personally ordered the murder and commissioned his intelligence chief, Manuel Contreras, to do it. General Carlos Prats , Pinochet's predecessor as army commander, had died in the same way in Buenos Aires two years earlier . The Chilean secret service DINA was responsible for both attacks .


Abolition of democracy

The military junta under Pinochet took power after the successful coup. It banned left-wing political associations, especially the parties of the Unidad Popular , via radio and television, dissolved Congress and restricted civil, human and political rights. Pinochet arranged for the arrest of political leaders on the left.

Pinochet was officially appointed president (head of government and president) by the other members of the junta on December 17, 1974 without a democratic basis. Gustavo Leigh , Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force and Pinochet's most important rival, lost the power struggle for the presidency and left the junta in 1978.

Economic policy

After the coup in September 1973 , all important ministries were initially headed by the military. From September 1973 to April 1975, the regime essentially reversed Allende's economic policy decisions by lowering tariffs, freeing prices, devaluing the currency and privatizing state-owned companies. The regime was politically divided. Some generals, called duros , advocated an authoritarian corporatism in the style of Franquism . Another group were the blandos , who did not strive for a permanent military dictatorship, they supported the Chicago Boys . From 1975 - after Milton Friedman's visit to Chile - the most important ministries were occupied by economists instead of the military. These were members of the Chicago Boys, a group of Chilean economists who initiated liberal economic reforms. Numerous privatizations were carried out , social spending was cut, and price liberalization and restrictive monetary policy were pursued with the aim of reducing inflation . The US economist Milton Friedman later described it as the “miracle of Chile” that a dictatorial regime was willing to support reforms that greatly reduced the state's influence on the economy.

The 1980 Constitution

After Letelier was assassinated in Washington, the new US President Jimmy Carter began to put pressure on Chile. When the UN condemned the regime for human rights violations, Pinochet held a referendum in 1978 to reject the conviction. Under the undemocratic conditions of the military dictatorship, Pinochet's opponents did not have a say. 75 percent of the votes cast supported the government.

A little later, in October 1978, a commission presented a draft constitution. The main author of the draft was the student leader and government advisor Jaime Guzmán , who later founded the right-wing UDI party , who drafted the text together with the conservative ex-president Jorge Alessandri and the Pinochet minister Sergio Fernández . The junta made major changes to the draft. In 1980, the Pinochet government put the new constitution called the “ Carta fundamental ” to a vote, which was passed by the people with a two-thirds majority under conditions similar to the 1978 declaration. With the backing of the constitution, Pinochet was able to remain in office as president until 1989.

The dictatorial regime wanted to legitimize its rule internally and externally. In addition, an institutionalized distribution of power should be found between the other generals and Pinochet. Furthermore, the transition to a democracy should be determined, but postponed far into the future and, even after a transition, the supremacy of the military and the establishment of a radically market-oriented economy should be ensured.

The constitution provided for a strong position for the president. In particular, the “reactive” rights, that is to say defending the status quo, were extensive, while “proactive”, that is to say changing rights, were less pronounced. The National Security Council of Chile ( Consejo de Seguridad Nacional de Chile , COSENA) was an instrument with which the military leadership could actively intervene in politics. It decided on important issues, such as the dismissal of generals or the declaration of a state of emergency, and was a central body of Chile. The carabineros (police) were established as the fourth type of armed forces (alongside the army, air force and navy) in the Ministry of Defense. From 1980 Chile had a two-chamber parliament with a House of Representatives and a Senate. The MPs were elected every four years in 60 constituencies according to the binomial electoral system , which favored the opposition right. The Senate was composed of 26 elected (2 from each region, half-elected every four years) and nine nominated senators. The Leyes Orgánicas Constitucionales (LOC), in German for example constitutional body laws , were, so to speak, a “second-class constitution”. They were not part of the constitution, but regulated central policy areas such as the central bank, the constitutional court, the right to vote, the police and the military. In addition, there were increased hurdles for the change (4/7 members of both chambers of parliament).

Return to democracy

In accordance with the 1980 constitution, a referendum was held in October 1988 on whether Pinochet should be the only candidate in the 1989 presidential election. Since 56 percent of the voters voted for several candidates, there were free elections a year later. There were plans for a coup in the event of a vote defeat, but these were not implemented. Pinochet was replaced as President on March 11, 1990 by Patricio Aylwin . In accordance with a constitution that was tailor-made by him, Pinochet remained Commander in Chief of the Army until 1998. He also remained a senator for life under the constitution, which also gave him political immunity.

Coming to terms with the crimes

Pinochet has not been convicted of any crimes such as murder or torture committed during his dictatorship because he died before the most advanced process was completed.

Detained in the UK from 1998 to 2000

In late September 1998, Pinochet traveled to Great Britain as a Senator and a member of the Defense Committee . The British Foreign Office had been informed a week earlier . Pinochet had his back treated in Great Britain and met with the British ex- Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher . a. was on friendly terms because of his support in the Falklands War .

The Spanish examining magistrate Baltasar Garzón had long been investigating Pinochet for genocide , state terrorism and torture , as Spanish citizens were among the victims of the military dictatorship . During Pinochet's stay in London, Spain therefore filed an extradition request , on the basis of which Pinochet was arrested by British police in London on October 16 .

The arrest sparked riots in Chile. The country was deeply divided into both opponents and supporters of Pinochet. President Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle called for Pinochet to be extradited so that he could be tried in a Chilean court.

The Switzerland had provided an extradition request. The Spanish request had priority, but if Spain had withdrawn, Pinochet might have been extradited to Switzerland because of the disappearance of the Swiss Alexi Jaccard . Alexi Jaccard was arrested in Argentina - presumably at the request of Pinochet - and "disappeared" there.

Pinochet spent his imprisonment in Great Britain under house arrest . He was allowed to receive unlimited visitors; Among other things, he had a priest flown in from Chile for Christmas.

The verdict was delayed by a long political tug-of-war between Great Britain, Spain, Chile and other countries. In addition to Switzerland, France and Belgium had also submitted extradition requests.

In November 1998, the first judgment was passed, according to which Pinochet had lost immunity . This judgment was overturned due to possible bias of a judge. This had connections to the human rights organization Amnesty International , which appeared as a joint plaintiff against Pinochet. In a second hearing in March 1999, the court ruled that Pinochet did not have diplomatic immunity. He could not be prosecuted for acts before 1988, as Great Britain had only acceded to the UN Convention against Torture in 1988 . In addition, many charges brought by the Spanish judiciary were dismissed. See also → State immunity .

In April 1999, the British Home Secretary Jack Straw decided that Pinochet could be extradited to Spain. The Chilean government then asked London to release Pinochet on humanitarian grounds. The Santiago government cited Pinochet's old age and poor health as arguments. The Holy See also called for the release of the Catholic Pinochet on several occasions.

After examining his state of health in January 2000, Pinochet was found to have difficulty concentrating and memory loss after several minor strokes. He was released on March 2, 2000 on the instructions of Interior Minister Straw and immediately returned to Chile. There he was received by enthusiastic supporters. Until his death, he was under house arrest several times in Santiago, the capital of Chile.

The Pinochet Cause

Human rights groups and the relatives of the victims of the regime held protests and vigils after Pinochet's return from London, but there were also solidarity rallies with several hundred participants. Two days later, at the request of investigating judge Juan Guzmán Tapia , the appeal court in Santiago withdrew Pinochet's immunity by 13-9 votes. The investigation concerned the so-called “death caravan”, the murder of 75 opponents of the regime in October 1973. A special army unit under the command of General Arellano Stark had murdered these people on the orders of Pinochet. Since 18 bodies have not yet been found in this case, it is not covered by the 1978 Amnesty Act.

On December 1, 2000, Guzmán initiated the proceedings. On January 5, 2001, the military published a report in which the fate of the "disappeared" (but only of 200 out of more than 1,100) is investigated: Allegedly 17 of the 18 corpses were dropped over the sea, but this cannot be proven . The military still demand employment under the amnesty law.

The lawyers said Pinochet was incapable of litigation. On January 18, a team of doctors attested “subcortical, vascular-related dementia ” - in Chile (unlike in Great Britain ) too little to be incapable of proceeding. Guzmán brought charges on January 29. This triggered a wave of solidarity among generals and RN and UDI politicians. Pinochet was released on March 12 on bail of 2,000,000 pesos (about 3,500 euros). In July 2001, a court ruled Pinochet incapable of standing. This marked the end of his political career as a senator for life. On September 15, 2005, the waiver of his senatorial immunity was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Truth commissions

In 1991, President Aylwin called the Comisión Nacional de Verdad y Reconciliación under Raul Rettig . This truth commission only investigated political murders and so-called disappeared prisoners ( Detenidos-Desaparecidos ), but no exiles, no torture and no other human rights violations.

On November 30, 2004, the state-run Chilean Comisión Nacional sobre Prisión Política y Tortura (about: National Commission for Political Imprisonment and Torture, or Valech Commission for short) published its report on the atrocities of the Pinochet regime. The report shows that people were abducted, tortured and killed by the secret police simply on suspicion of being “leftist”. It is also documented that the torture was used systematically and was by no means exceptional: all branches of the armed forces and all security forces - police and secret services - were involved. The report also states that the methods of torture have continuously evolved over time.

Operation Condor

On December 14, 2004, the responsible examining magistrate in Santiago de Chile , Juan Guzmán, charged the kidnapping of nine people (as part of Operation Condor ) and the murder of one of the kidnapping victims and the murder of 119 opponents of the regime in 1975.

Corruption and tax evasion

In 2005 it became known that the British aerospace and defense company British Aerospace (BAe) is said to have paid Pinochet a total of 1.1 million pounds (around 1.5 million euros ) between December 2004 and October 2005. In return, Pinochet brokered arms deals. The money was paid in fourteen wire transfers to companies affiliated with Pinochet - Takser Investment , Cornwall Overseas Corporation, and Eastview Finance . After it became known that Pinochet had covertly invested millions of US dollars abroad, his reputation also declined in conservative circles. Tax evasion lawsuits and investigations into suspected corruption were discontinued after his death.


Pinochet received the anointing of the sick on December 3, 2006 at around two in the morning after a severe heart attack . The state of health was classified as extremely critical even after a bypass operation . In addition, the ex-dictator suffered from diabetes and weak lungs. He succumbed to his illness on December 10, 2006 at the age of 91.

On the day of his death, riots broke out in Santiago de Chile through rallies by opponents and supporters of Pinochet. President Michelle Bachelet allowed the armed forces and military facilities to hoist the flags at half mast , but refused the state funeral for the former president and a corresponding three-day state mourning demanded by supporters of Pinochet . The conservative opposition under Sebastián Piñera joined this decision.

Human rights groups deeply regretted the fact that Pinochet had not been convicted prior to his death and demanded that the pending investigations, including a. also to continue in Great Britain and Spain even after his death. In contrast, since his death became known, tens of thousands of followers of Pinochet have said goodbye to him. For this purpose, the body was laid out for a whole night in the Santiago Military Academy.

At the ceremony in the military academy in the capital Santiago, Pinochet was only given the military honors for an army chief. In a speech in front of the coffin, his daughter Lucía defended Pinochet's coup against Allende. The controversies about the role of Pinochet in Chilean history were also reflected in the different reactions of the mourners: Francisco Cuadrados Prats, grandson of the army chief Carlos Prats , who was murdered by the Pinochet regime in Buenos Aires in the early years , spat on the coffin during the funeral Supporters of the deceased raised their right hand in the Hitler salute. After the funeral service, Pinochet's coffin was transferred to Viña del Mar by helicopter. The body was cremated in the coastal town of Concón, 130 kilometers northwest of Santiago de Chile. After the cremation , the urn with Pinochet's remains was kept at the request of Pinochet's family in the private chapel of the Los Boldos manor in Bucalemu , where the ex-dictator spent the weekends during the summer months.

See also


Web links

Commons : Augusto Pinochet  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Friedrich Paul Heller: Pinochet - a perpetrator biography in Chile . Butterfly publishing house, Stuttgart, 2012, ISBN 978-3-89657-097-0 , p. 36 f.
  2. ^ Salvador Allende committed suicide according to the autopsy. In: , July 19, 2011, accessed on July 20, 2011.
  3. ^ Chile: Scientific autopsy confirms Allende suicide. In: US-Today , July 19, 2011, accessed July 20, 2011.
  4. ^ NDR television: Eiskalt - Pinochets Plan Z ( Memento from September 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Final report of the Valech Commission on Torture in Chile (Spanish), especially p. 351 (PDF, 1.2 MB) ( Memento from August 24, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  6. Torture under Pinochet
  7. Interview with Ulli Simon, mare No. 139, April / May 2020, p. 36 ff
  8. Final report of the “Comisión Nacional de Prisón Política y Tortura”, 2005, p. 228 (PDF) ( Memento of February 6, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  9. Guardian: Pinochet directly ordered killing on US soil of Chilean diplomat, papers reveal , October 8, 2015
  10. ^ Anil Hira: Ideas and Economic Policy in Latin America , Praeger Publishers, 1998, ISBN 0-275-96269-5 , p. 80.
  11. ^ Anil Hira: Ideas and Economic Policy in Latin America , Praeger Publishers, 1998, ISBN 0-275-96269-5 , p. 77.
  12. ^ William R. Keech: Democracy, Dictatorship and Economic Performance in Chile. ( Memento from May 28, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 654 kB)
  14. ^ Milton Friedman: Free Markets and the Generals. In: Newsweek . January 25, 1982.
  15. 30 years of Pinochet: The dictator with the sneaker collection. In: , accessed on April 29, 2011.
  16. ^ A putschist with a democratic exit. In: , December 10, 2006.
  17. a chronicle
  18. Great Britain releases Pinochet
  19. Chile's most famous judge. In: BBC News , December 14, 2004, accessed April 7, 2010.
  20. ^ BAE 'payments to Pinochet firms'. In: BBC News , September 15, 2005, accessed February 15, 2010
  21. 60,000 at Pinochet's coffin - daughter defends coup. In: , accessed on April 29, 2011; see here, from Pinochet es velado en la Escuela Militar for the photo mentioned.
  22. a b Pinochet funeral - grandson of a victim of the regime spits on coffin. In: Spiegel Online