Pinochet Ugarte, Augusto

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Pinochet Ugarte, Augusto

Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (ougōōs´tō pēnōchā´ ōōgär´tā), 1915–2006, president and dictator of Chile (1973–90). An army general who served as chief of staff (1972–73) and commander of the army (1973), he led the coup that overthrew socialist president Salvador Allende (Sept., 1973). As head of a four-man military junta, he resorted to mass arrests and was responsible for more than 2,000 political assassinations. He also returned many nationalized businesses and farms to private owners. Though condemned for its brutality, his regime is credited with stimulating economic growth. After losing a plebiscite in 1988, he was succeeded (1989) as president by Patricio Aylwin.

Pinochet remained as commander of the army until 1998, when he was made senator for life, a title that brought with it lifelong immunity from criminal prosecution. On a trip to London that year, he was arrested at the request of the Spanish government on charges including terrorism and murder, stemming from his former regime, and held for possible extradition to Spain. In 1999 a British judge ruled that he should be extradited; nonetheless, Pinochet was subsequently released for health reasons and returned to Chile.

In 2000 he was stripped of his immunity from prosecution, and he was later charged with involvement in kidnappings and murders that occurred after the coup. The Chilean supreme court, however, ultimately ruled that he was not healthy enough to stand trial. Pinochet resigned his senate seat in 2002. New investigations began in 2004, leading to charges of kidnapping and murder and, prompted by revelations of Pinochet's secret offshore bank accounts, tax evasion, and this time the supreme court allowed them to proceed. The tax evasion investigation subsequently extended to the other members of his family. Pinochet died in 2006, however, before ever being tried on any charges, and charges were later dropped (2013) against his family members.

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