Augusto Pinochet

Political Leader / President of Chile

Born: 25 November 1915
Died: 10 December 2006 (heart attack)
Birthplace: Valparaiso, Chile
Best known as: Dictator, then president of Chile, 1973-1990

Name at birth: Augusto Pinochet Ugarte

Augusto Pinochet is alleged to have caused the kidnapping, death or "disappearance" of more than 3,000 political opponents after he rose to power in Chile in a 1973 coup. A career military man, he overthrew a democratically elected socialist president, Salvador Allende, only months after Allende had named him commander-in-chief. Pinochet is then said to have ruthlessly eliminated Allende's remaining supporters, in some cases by giving orders to a squad of assassins known as the "Caravan of Death." Pinochet appointed himself President in 1974, and with the approval of a new constitution (a 1980 plebiscite) he secured an 8-year elected term. Voters called for an election in 1988 to choose a new president. Patricio Aylwin took office in 1990, but Pinochet continued as army commander until 1998. While recovering from back surgery in London that year, he was arrested on an international warrant calling for extradition to face charges for the deaths of Spanish nationals under his regime. Through a combination of diplomatic maneuvering and ill health, Pinochet was never tried for those or other charges brought against him. He suffered a heart attack on 3 December 2006 and died a week later. Though thought to be one of the more infamous of modern dictators, he still has his supporters.

Extra credit: Pinochet is sometimes referred to by the additional name "Ugarte," from the name of his mother, Avelina Ugarte Martinez.

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