Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (25 November 1915 – 10 December 2006) was a Chilean army general and later head of state as a military dictator. He was the Commander in Chief of the Chilean army from 1973 to 1998, president of the Government Junta of Chile from 1973 to 1981 and President of the Republic from 1974 until the return of democratic rule in 1990. He studied to become an officer and was a professor at the War Academy in Chile. At the beginning of 1972, he was appointed General Chief of Staff of the Army. In August 1973, he was appointed as Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army by president Salvador Allende.

On 11 September 1973, with active support from the CIA, Pinochet led a coup d'état which put an end to Allende's government and, along with the Navy, Air Force and Carabineros (the national police force), established a military dictatorship. In December 1974, the junta appointed Pinochet as President by a joint decree, to which Air Force General Gustavo Leigh disagreed. From the beginning, the government implemented harsh measures. According to the 1993 Rettig Report, over 3,200 people were killed, while (according to the 2004 Valech Report) at least 80,000 were incarcerated without trials and 30,000 subjected to torture. Another 200,000 people went into exile, particularly to Argentina and Peru, and applied as political refugees; however, some key individuals were followed in their exile by the DINA secret police, in the framework of Operation Condor which linked South American governments together against political opponents.

The new government also implemented economic reforms, including the privatization of several state controlled industries and the rollback of many state welfare institutions. These policies were initially very successful in recovering economic growth, and produced what is often called el milagro económico ("the economic miracle") of the military regime in Chile, but to what extent ordinary Chileans benefited is unclear as the government policies dramatically increased inequality and some attribute the devastating effect of the 1982 monetary crisis in the Chilean economy precisely to these policies. However, his economic reforms were continued and strengthened by successive governments after 1990.

Pinochet's presidency was given a legal frame through a highly controversial plebiscite in 1980, which approved a new Constitution drafted by a government-appointed commission. A plebiscite in 1988 led to democratic elections for the Presidency and Parliament. After peacefully stepping down in 1990, Pinochet continued to serve as Commander in Chief of the Chilean Army until 10 March 1998, when he retired and became a senator-for-life in accordance with the 1980 Constitution.

In 2004, Chilean Judge Juan Guzmán ruled that Pinochet was medically fit to stand trial and placed him under house arrest. At the time of his death in 10 December, 2006, around 300 criminal charges were still pending against him in Chile for various human rights violations, tax evasion and embezzlement under his rule and afterwards, though he was never convicted of any crimes. Pinochet was accused of having amassed a wealth of US$28 million or more.

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