By Pearl Rimon
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, Chile — Recently declassified documents revealed that the late Chilean military leader, Augusto Pinochet, wanted to stay in power despite losing a referendum in 1988. Pinochet died in 2006, before he could be brought to trial for numerous charges for corruption and various human rights abuses.

General Pinochet. (Photo Courtesy of AP)

The documents reveal that Pincohet urged his closest military allies in his attempt to overthrow the results. Pinochet’s allies refused and he was forced out of office. His plan was to use military force to seize the country’s capital, Santiago.

In 1990, citizens elected a civilian government to replace Pinochet. The documents released from the U.S. National Security Archive reveal that Pinochet said he would do “Whatever was necessary to stay in power.” He confided in his advisers, “I’m not leaving, no matter what.” U.S. officials warned Chilean leaders against violence if Pinochet used force to stay in office.

The declassified papers reveal that Pinochet was angered after the October 5th 1988 referendum and attempted to overturn the results by summoning members of the military government.  Air Force commander, Fernando Matthei rejected Pinochet’s plans for throwing out the results, and other generals followed suit. A CIA informant present at the meetings said, “Pinochet was prepared on the night of 5 Oct to overthrow the results of the plebiscite,” this information is located in a report by the State Department titled: “Chilean junta meeting the night of the plebiscite.”

The papers also reveal that the anti-Pinochet referendum campaign was supported by the U.S. government despite its early support of the military government due to its overthrow of former president Salvador Allende.

The country voted for a civilian government in 1989, and in 1990, Patricio Aylwin became the country’s first democratic president.The former military government of Chile is estimated to have killed more than 3,000 people between 1973 and 1990.

Pinochet died while under house arrest. The country is divided on how to view Pinochet’s regime, to some he is seen as a violator of human rights due to outlawing political parties, forcing thousands into exile, and having a brutal police force. Pinochet’s loyalist see him in a positive light due to Chile’s growth in economic prosperity.

The newly declassified papers were released at the same time as the movie “No”,  centering on the campaign that caused Pinochet’s downfall. The film was nominated in Sunday’s Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film.

For more information, please see:

Global Post — US pressed Pinochet to accept defeat: documents – 24 Feb 2013

South China Morning Post —

Declassified papers show Pinochet tried to ‘cling on to power’ in 1988 – 24 Feb 2013

 BBC News — Chile’s Gen Pinochet ‘tried to cling to power’ in 1988 – 23 Feb 2013

Times Standard — Report: Chile’s Pinochet wanted anti-vote violence – 23 Feb 2013


Author: Pearl Rimon