Augusto Pinochet

The quintessential South American dictator

Biography of a Dictator

Augusto Pinochet joined the army in 1936, and quickly rose in rank until 1968, when he led Santiago's garrison as a brigadier general. During this time, there was alarm in the upper class over Salvador Allende's rise to power, which led Pinochet, in 1973, when he rose to commander-in-chief, to take the unprecedented step of forming a junta, and overthrowing the government.

The next three years were terror. On the day he took power, the Eleventh of September, he bombed Santiago. He abolished the legislature, established military control of the universities, eliminated press freedom, established martial law, and killed, and exiled hundreds of thousands for disagreeing with him. His reign is infamous for the rounding up hundreds of dissidents into soccer stadiums, who were then shot on the spot, and for his carnivals of death, which traversed the country, and killed thousands of dissidents.

Pinochet enacted dated free market principles, which put the country into a drastic depression. By 1984, the economy was decimated, with 30% unemployment, and staggering foreign debt.

Soon, there would be disagreements within his Junta, and Pinochet, thinking he had the country's love, and support, called for a referendum on his rule. The result was that 55% said no. As commander in chief, he still had enormous power until he stepped down, and was granted a seat as Senator for life, which also made him untouchable in court.

In the late 1990s, and early 2000s, Pinochet dodged his way out of court by appearing to be mentally incompetent, until 2004, when he took an interview, looking perfectly healthy. He died in 2006, under house arrest in his mansion during trial.

La Junta de 1973

Creative Piece -- 1973 Speech in Responce

What we are creating today is nothing short of democracy. Many say that I am killing democracy, but it is a well oiled machine, oiled with blood. It is only fitting that the Marxist snake that occupied the office of President would be disappointing now, disappointed with democracy. He hails the death of freedom in Chile, but today its birth.

There will be no elections in 1976. It is more efficient for everyone to agree that I am great. The Junta will manage the country indefinitely. That is all.
News conference delivered by Military leadership after the 1973 coup. August Pinochet speaks for the first forty-two seconds.

Essential Question

Why is Augusto Pinochet competent, or not competent to lead Chile?