General Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (1915–2006) was a Chilean soldier and politician who became Chile's head of state from 1973 to 1990. He came to power as a member of a council of military leaders after the overthrow of the government of President Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973. Allende, a radical Marxist, had gained power after barely winning only a 36% plurality of the popular vote in 1970, but he violated the Chilean Constitution[Citation Needed] and was condemned for his illegal conduct by the Chilean legislature and by civil society organizations.
General Pinochet headed a military government for 16 years (1974-1990) as he fought and defeated communist opponents in Chile. Leftists have hated Pinochet ever since for defeating them. Pinochet was at one time a military subordinate of Salvador Allende. After the coup, Pinochet saw support from America.
General Pinochet instituted free market reforms in Chile in the 1970s that resulted in lower inflation and an economic boom from 1976 to 1979. He held a plebiscite on his rule and 75% of the people affirmed their support for him. However, the plebiscite is regarded by some as fraudulent. Leftists complain that during his time in power over 3,000 people were killed or vanished, but that total includes treasonous Marxist terrorists and people who died in private disputes unrelated to politics. In addition, over a quarter million Chileans were arrested. Universities were purged of terrorist sympathizers, Marxist books were burned, and rival political parties banned. Thousands of members of the Socialist Party of Chile and the Communist Party of Chile fled the country out of fear of the secret police, which routinely tortured citizens.
A new constitution was adopted in Chile in 1981, which authorized General Pinochet to serve as president for another eight-year term, to be followed by a plebiscite on his presidency.
Pinochet moved Chile into a market economy, privatizing many inefficient government businesses, and opening the country to foreign investment. The stability that his government gave encouraged foreign investors to come to Chile. He also started one of the first private pension accounts pension systems in the world, which has been highly successful.
As promised, President Pinochet held another plebiscite in October 1988 on the issue of whether he should continue as president. He was defeated by a vote of 55-43%, and subsequent free elections were won by the Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin, who was installed as president on March 11, 1990.
In 1998, the leftists who long hated Pinochet for defeating them arranged for his arrest while he was in London receiving medical treatment. The leftists arranged for an unprecedented arrest warrant to be issued in Spain for alleged human rights violations that occurred in Chile during while Pinochet was president. It was outrageous that an activist court in Spain would assert jurisdiction over Pinochet in London for allegations arising long ago in Chile. The stunt failed, and Pinochet was subsequently returned to Chile in part based on his ill health. The leftists continued after him, and had him indicted and charged with kidnapping 19 supporters of Salvador Allende during the 1973 coup in which Pinochet took power. The Chilean Supreme Court suspended the prosecution in July 2002, again due to Pinochet's continuing poor health.
Pinochet died of a heart attack on December 10, 2006, before receiving any judgement from the court.