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Augusto Pinochet (25 November 1915-10 December 2006) was President of Chile from 17 December 1974 to 11 March 1990, succeeding Salvador Allende and preceding Patricio Aylwin. He seized power in the 1973 Chilean coup d'etat, overthrowing the democratically-elected socialist government of Allende and imposing harsh military rule. As many as 80,000 people were interned during his rule, tens of thousands were tortured, and 3,095 people were either killed or "disappeared".

Biography

Augusto Pinochet was born in Valparaiso, Chile in 1915. A professional soldier who had graduated from the Santiago Military Academy in 1936, he rose to become Commander-in-Chief of Chile's armed forces in September 1973. Eighteen days after his appointment he masterminded a military coup in which President Salvador Allende was ddeposed and killed. Pinochet became President of the Council of Chile (a junta of military officers) and imposed harsh military rule, imprisoning over 100,000 people during the first three years of his rule alone. Many of these were tortured, and thousands disappeared. In1 974, he was proclaimed President of Chile. He pursued neoliberal economic policies, which reduced unemployment and inflation, but also depressed real wages, so that his free-market policies resulted in a short-lived economic boom at considerable social cost. In 1978 he organized a plebiscite in which his policies were approved by 75%. A new constitution in 1980, again endorsed by a plebiscite, gave him authority to be sworn in for another eight years as president. However, during the 1980s international pressure against his draconian regime grew, most crucially from the United States, with whose help (via the CIA) he had come to power in the first place. In addition, the deterioration of hte economy since the 1982 financial crash weakened his authority domestically, so that in 1988 he called another referendum. He lost the gamble, however, as 55% voted against his stay in power. He accepted the verdict and stood down in 1990, but remained in the pivotal position of commander-in-chief until 1998. He became a retired senator-for-life in accordance with the 1980 constitution, but he was arrested in 1998 on a visit to London. He was released on the grounds of ill-health and returned to Chile in 2000, and he was placed under house arrest from 2004 to 2006.

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