Augusto Pinochet: Captain General and Dictator

Thirty years ago, something happened in Chile that seemed unthinkable to many: Augusto Pinochet left the post of president (in fact, an all-powerful dictator who ruled the country alone). At the same time, for many years he remained the commander-in-chief and the owner of the highest military rank, as well as inviolable status. However, this was the beginning of the end of a whole era associated with a man whose name was inscribed in Chilean and world history with blood.

I must say that a native of far from aristocratic circles of Chilean society began and built his career according to the most classical canons: four years of an ordinary infantry school, the rank of junior lieutenant, service in linear units, studies at the Higher Military Academy, teaching at military educational institutions and again the most common service as a regiment commander. Also on his account was work in the Chilean military mission in Ecuador and the headquarters of several divisions.

Before the first truly high rank (brigadier general) and the command of the division, Pinochet “chopped off” for more than 30 years. Age 63 – one could already think about a decent pension. However, at this time, the general went beyond the purely military service and became a political figure – the military governor of the Tarapaca province. Three years later, the Government of Popular Unity, led by Salvador Allende, makes a fatal mistake – Pinochet is appointed commander of the garrison of Santiago.

Completely oblivious to the fact that the general, in his earlier literary works on geopolitics, admired Hitler and generally adhered to extreme right-wing views, Allende, who firmly believed that in the person of Pinochet he had the “most loyal general,” and continued to promote his the future executioner: he becomes first the chief of the General Staff of the ground forces, and then their commander-in-chief. After that, on September 11, 1973, a military coup took place in Chile, precisely organized by Pinochet.

However, it has long been proven that the United States, acting through the hands of the CIA and other similar structures, played a significant role in those bloody events and the further radical change in the country’s political and socio-economic course. The shortsightedness of Allende and his comrades cost them their own lives, as well as tens of thousands of Chileans who became victims of the most brutal dictatorial regime, which dealt with its opponents both inside the country and abroad. The exact number of those killed during the years of Pinochet’s rule has not been established to this day.

From late 1973 to 1981, Pinochet was chairman of the military junta formed immediately after the coup. True, the rest of its participants somehow very quickly left – some from power, and some from life. From 1974 to 1990, he was in addition the President of Chile (first “temporary”, and since 1981 – “constitutional”, that is, kind of legitimate). And at the same time, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces – Pinochet held this position for the longest, until 1998. It was then that he became captain-general.

By the way, there is no “exotic” in this title, and it is close. In European armies, it appeared in the XIV-XVI centuries, being the highest military rank, in contrast to the rank of generalissimo, which was usually assigned to representatives of crowned dynasties. Tellingly, the rank of captain-general was awarded to the conquerors of Latin America: Hernan Cortes and Francisco Pizarro. It was generally spread in Spain and its colonies. The captains-general were most of the Spanish kings (including the current one) and the dictator Francisco Franco. He went on in his vanity, becoming a generalissimo. Pinochet, with all his admiration for the caudillo infinitely close to him in spirit, ideas and methods, had enough sense of proportion to focus on the captain-general.

By the time of Pinochet’s death (in 2006), he had been stripped of all statuses of statesman and legal immunity and charged with many grave crimes. Nevertheless, no one took away his high rank and the right to a funeral with military honors.

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