Magellan sighted what is now Chile in 1520. Subsequently Spaniards colonized the land in the 1530s and 1540s, defeating the Incas in the north and subjugating the Araucanian Indians in the South. In 1810 the Republic of Chile threw off allegiance to the Spanish crown. However, there were seven years of fighting before Chile was recognized as an independent republic. A constitution was adopted in 1883, and the country enjoyed stable government. In 1925 the constitution was amended to strengthen the executive at the expense of the legislature. In 1970 Dr Salvador Allende Gossens was elected president as the Marxist leader of a left-wing coalition. This government was overthrown in 1973 by a military junta headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. President Allende died in the course of the coup and tens of thousands of his supporters were murdered. A new constitution came into force on 11 March 1981 providing for a return to democracy. Gen. Pinochet continued as head of state until 1989 and army commander until March 1998 when he claimed his constitutional right to become a senator for life (and hence immune from prosecution). While clearing the way for much-needed economic reforms, the Pinochet regime was responsible for wholesale human rights abuses, a legacy which had its consequences in 1999 when Pinochet, in Britain for medical treatment, was held on human rights charges instigated by Spain.
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