Latin America & Caribbean

Chile's Gen Pinochet 'tried to cling to power' in 1988

Augusto Pinochet. Photo: August 2000
Gen Pinochet died in 2006 before he could be brought to trial

Late Chilean military leader Augusto Pinochet wanted to hold on to power when he lost a referendum on his rule in 1988, newly declassified documents in the US suggest.

They say Gen Pinochet sought the support of his closest military allies to overthrow the results.

But they refused and Gen Pinochet had to accept defeat.

The following year, Chileans elected a civilian government and Gen Pinochet was replaced in 1990.

US-backed vote

The documents, from the US National Security Archive, say the general planned to do "whatever was necessary to stay in power."

"I'm not leaving, no matter what," he reportedly told advisers.

The declassified papers say Gen Pinochet was furious after the 5 October referendum results were confirmed, and summoned members of the military government to his office to try to have the results overturned.

But a US defence department paper, citing an informant, said Air Force commander Gen Fernando Matthei rejected the plan.

When Gen Pinochet made the same request to other generals, they also refused and the military ruler accepted he would have to relinquish power, the documents say.

They also show the US government backed the anti-Pinochet referendum campaign, despite its initial support for the military government that overthrew the socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973.

Chile voted for a civilian government in 1989, and the following year Patricio Aylwin became the country's first president after democracy was restored.

Official estimates say more than 3,000 Chileans were killed by the military government between 1973 and 1990.

Gen Pinochet was facing numerous charges for alleged human rights abuses as well as corruption when he died in 2006.

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