AS SEEN IN:
"Pinochet In Suburbia"
AS PLAYED BY:
Sir Derek Jacobi
Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (25 November 1915 – 10 December 2006) was a Chilean army general and dictator who assumed power in a coup d'état on 11 September 1973. Among his titles, he was the Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean army from 1973 to 1998, president of the Government Junta of Chile from 1973 to 1974 and President of the Republic from 1974 until transferring power to a democratically elected president in 1990.
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 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.
Some authors have speculated that Argentina might have won the war had the military felt able to employ the elite VIth and VIIIth Mountain Brigades which remained sitting in the Andes guarding against possible Chilean incursions. Pinochet subsequently visited Margaret Thatcher for tea on more than one occasion. Pinochet's controversial relationship with Thatcher led Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair to mock Thatcher's Conservatives as "the party of Pinochet" in 1999.The case was a watershed event in judicial history, as it was the first time that a former government head was arrested on the principle of universal jurisdiction.
After having been placed under house arrest in Britain and initiating a judicial and public relations battle, the latter run by Thatcherite political operative Patrick Robertson, he was eventually released in March 2000 on medical grounds by the Home Secretary Jack Straw without facing trial.
Pinochet returned to Chile on 3 March 2000. His first act when landing in Santiago's airport was to triumphantly get up from his wheelchair to the acclaim of his supporters. He was first greeted by his successor as head of the Chilean armed forces, General Ricardo Izurieta. President Ricardo Lagos, who had just been sworn in on 11 March, said the retired general's televised arrival had damaged the image of Chile, while thousands demonstrated against him.
In March 2000, the Congress approved a constitutional amendment creating the status of "ex-president," which granted its owner immunity from prosecution and guaranteed him a financial allowance. In exchange, it required him to resign from his seat of senator-for-life. Of the legislators, 111 voted for, and 29 (mostly, if not all, from the Left) against.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Juan Guzmán's request on August 2000, and Pinochet was indicted on 1 December 2000 for the "kidnapping" of 75 opponents in the Caravan of Death case. Guzmán advanced the charge of "kidnapping" as the 75 were officially "disappeared": even though they were all most likely dead, the absence of their corpses made any charge of "homicide" difficult.
However, in July 2002, the Supreme Court dismissed Pinochet's indictment in the various human rights abuse cases, for medical reasons (vascular dementia). The debate concerned Pinochet's mental faculties, his legal team claiming that he was senile and could not remember, while others (including several physicians) claimed that he was only physically affected but retained all control of his faculties.
On 25 November 2006, Pinochet marked his 91st birthday by having his wife read a statement written by him, and read to his admirers present for his birthday: "I assume the political responsibility of all that has been done." Two days later, he was again ordered to house arrest for the kidnapping and murder of two bodyguards of Salvador Allende who were arrested the day of the 1973 coup and executed by a firing squad during the Caravan of Death episode.
However, Pinochet died a few days later, on 10 December 2006, without having been convicted of any of the many serious crimes of which he was accused.