Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte, more commonly known as Augusto Pinochet, (25 November 1915 – 10 December 2006) was an army general and dictator of Chile from 1973 until transferring power to a democratically elected president in 1990. He was the commander-in-chief of the Chilean army from 1973 to 1998 and president of the Government Junta of Chile from 1973 to 1981. He assumed power in a coup d'état on 11 September 1973 that overthrew the Unidad Popular government of Salvador Allende and ended civilian rule a week before its 48th anniversary.

By early 1972, Pinochet was General Chief of Staff of the Army. On 23 August 1973, he was promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army by president Allende. On 11 September 1973, Pinochet joined a coup d'état, which overthrew Allende's socialist government. In December 1974 the military junta appointed Pinochet as President by a joint decree, with which Air Force General Gustavo Leigh disagreed. From the beginning, the government implemented harsh measures against its political opponents. According to various reports and investigations 1,200–3,200 people were killed, up to 80,000 were interned, and up to 30,000 were tortured by his regime including women and children.

Under the influence of the free market-oriented neoliberal Chicago Boys, the new government also implemented economic reforms, including currency stabilization, tariff cutting, opening Chile's markets to global trade, restricting labor unions, privatizing social security, and the privatization of hundreds of state-controlled industries. These policies produced what has been referred to as the "Miracle of Chile", but critics claim the government policies dramatically increased economic inequality. But the devastating effect of the 1982 monetary crisis in the Chilean economy can be attributed to the Finance Minister Sergio de Castro's decision to peg Chile's currency to the U.S. dollar - to align Chile's high inflation rate with the U.S. inflation rate, but triggered a tremendous devaluation when the U.S. dollar fell, and set off a bank crisis. Economist Milton Friedman, whose ideas influenced the Chicago Boys, criticized De Castro for his decision as it distorted markets. Chile has been for most of the nineties the best-performing economy in Latin America, though academics continue to dispute the legacy of Pinochet's reforms.

Pinochet's 17-year regime was given a legal framework through a controversial 1980 plebiscite, which approved a new Constitution drafted by a government-appointed commission. A 1988 plebiscite (which saw 56% vote against continuing his presidency) led to democratic elections for the Presidency and Congress. 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. However, Pinochet was arrested in London on 10 October 1998 in connection with numerous human rights allegations, but following a legal battle was released and returned to Chile in March 2000. In 2004, Chilean Judge Juan Guzmán Tapia ruled that Pinochet was medically fit to stand trial and placed him under house arrest. By the time of his death on 10 December 2006, about 300 criminal charges were still pending against him in Chile for numerous human rights violations, tax evasion, and embezzlement during his 17-year rule and afterwards. Pinochet was accused of having corruptly amassed a wealth of US$28 million or more.

Read more about Pinochet:  Early Life and Military Career, Military Coup of 1973, Military Junta, Presidency, Ideology and Public Image, Arrest and Court Cases in Britain, Return To Chile, Secret Bank Accounts, Tax Evasion and Arms Deal, Human Rights Violations, Death, See Also