Pinochet: Shrewd, Combative, Determined to Stay in Command With Chile Bjt
Sep. 08, 1986
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Shrewd, combative and firmly in command of his army, Gen. Augusto Pinochet has repeatedly defended his 13-year-old rule as a bastion against communism.
After ruling Chile longer than any other man, Pinochet is running for re- election, even though most accounts indicate the air force, navy and national police commanders as well as four out of five Chileans would prefer someone else.
The 70-year-old president has scheduled a public rally Tuesday to show he is wanted for another eight-year term.
''He (Pinochet) is determined to get to 1989 in a position of enough strength to win by the rules,'' said Federico Willoughby, Pinochet's former presidential spokesman.
Pinochet said Monday the rally would go on despite an assassination attempt Sunday by leftist guerrillas that left him slightly wounded and five bodyguards dead, and led to imposition of a 90-day state of siege.
The government is counting on public employees, members of pro-government labor unions, and relatives of military officers to fill Santiago's main boulevard Tuesday. Opposition leaders say many public employees are being ordered to attend.
The rally comes two days before the 13th anniversary of the military coup that overthrew the elected government of Marxist President Salvador Allende and placed Pinochet in power.
Under the 1980 constitution, Pinochet and the commanders of the air force, navy and national police must choose a lone presidential candidate by late 1988 for a yes-or-no voter referendum. If approved, the candidate would serve from 1989 until 1997.
Most of his foes fear that, if blocked, Pinochet will impose himself by force.
To dissidents, he is the bloodstained tyrant who closed congress, outlawed political parties and banished tens of thousands of dissidents, while his police, they say, tortured and killed hundreds more.
At the peak of his power, however, most Chileans accepted order and relative prosperity at the price of political freedom. In 1980, two-thirds of the voters endorsed the constitution that extended his one-man rule.
Since a 1982-83 recession undermined his popularity, Pinochet has stood his ground against huge demonstrations calling for a prompt return to democracy.
''Now they attack me,'' he once said of the protesters. ''But later, sometime in the future, I am going to be remembered as the man who fought against communism and did well for his country.''
Pinochet was born in the port city of Valparaiso on Nov. 25, 1915, one of six children of a customs official. He ignored paternal advice to study medicine and entered the Military Academy after twice being rejected as too young or physically weak.
In the army, he filled out to 185 pounds and earned a university degree. At the War College, he taught geopolitics and wrote books espousing his belief that the forces of communism and of the West would be in a permanent world war.
Pinochet claims in one book that he plotted with fellow officers for more than a year to overthrow Allende, but retired officers later portrayed him as a vacillating general who joined the plotters two days before the coup.
Pinochet, who once compared himself to ''the best Roman emperors,'' has managed to hold onto power despite crises.
Facing a chorus of worldwide condemnation, Pinochet narrowed the scope of police repression in 1977, then asked Chileans in a referendum whether they supported his government ''in the face of international aggression.''
Bolstered by a 75 percent yes vote, he ignored U.S. pressure to extradite three Chilean secret police officers indicted in Washington for the 1976 car bomb slaying of Allende's former defense minister, Orlando Letelier.
When mass anti-government protests erupted in mid-1983, Pinochet eased his grip dramatically, letting thousands of exiles come home and permitting open criticism of his rule.
Without taking promised steps toward civilian rule, he used the ''liberalization'' to expose and exploit divisions between his Marxist and moderate foes, then abruptly ended it a year later with a state of siege.
Pinochet and his wife, Lucia Hiriart Rodriguez, live in the army commander's official residence, rebuilt after the coup at an estimated cost of $1.5 million. They have bought at least three other expensive properties for themselves and some of their five grown children.
A vigorous man, the president maintains his boxer's physique by rising before dawn each day to work out with weights. He eats frugally. At official functions, his wine glass is filled with ginger ale.
Chileans hoping for his departure from office do not count nature on their side. Pinochet suffers no known ailment. His mother died this year at age 92.