José Toribio Merino
|Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Navy|
September 11, 1973 – March 8, 1990
|Preceded by||Raúl Montero|
|Succeeded by||Jorge Martínez Busch|
|President of the Government Junta of Chile|
December 17, 1974 – March 8, 1990
Serving with Augusto Pinochet
(December 17, 1974 – March 11, 1981)
|Preceded by||Augusto Pinochet|
|Born||December 14, 1915|
La Serena, Chile
|Died||August 30, 1996 (aged 80)|
Viña del Mar, Chile
|Years of service||1936-1990|
José Toribio Merino Castro (December 14, 1915 – August 30, 1996) was a Chilean admiral who was one of the principal leaders of the 1973 Chilean coup d'état, along with General Augusto Pinochet of the Army, General Gustavo Leigh of the Air Force, and General César Mendoza of the Carabineros (national police). Together they established a military government that ruled Chile from 1973 until 1990.
Born in La Serena, he was son of Vice Admiral José Toribio Merino Saavedra, Navy Inspector General, and of Bertina Castro Varela. He entered the Naval Academy in 1931, graduating in 1936 as a midshipman. During World War II he served in the US Navy at the USS Raleigh until 1945. After World War II he served in different units of the Chilean Navy such as: Destructor Serrano (2do), Crucero O'Higgins (4to) (CL02), Corbeta Papudo(1º), Transporte Angamos (3ro)
Between 1955 and 1957 he served as aide and counsel in weaponry to the Chilean embassy in London. During the construction of the Almirante-class destroyers Williams and Riveros. In 1960, he was assigned as a teacher at the Naval War Academy (AGN) teaching Logistics, Geopolitics, Geostrategy. In 1969 he became Naval Director of Weapons. In January 1970 he was appointed as Director of Navy Services, and in November of the same year he assumed the command of the Chilean main combat fleet (CJE).
After the military coup that ousted socialist President Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973, a military junta was formed to govern the country, and Merino was named commander-in-chief of the Chilean Navy. General Pinochet was soon named as the chairman of the ruling junta, as he was head of the army, the oldest branch of the Chilean military. As the navy was the second oldest branch, Merino was vice-chairman and second-in-command to Pinochet.
As the second in command and also as member of the Governing Junta he was in charge of the economic sector of the country and presided over the Economic Committee of the Council of Ministers, where the economic measures were born. In addition, all the decrees were elaborated and the laws on the matters had to dictate to regulate the economic sector.
From the Economic Committee of the Council of Ministers, he impelled, the first economic measures of the Military Government, the liberation of prices of goods and services; the fiscal cost was reduced and the interest rates were freed to give birth to capital markets ; the companies of the State were reorganized as well, standardizing them.
By the end of 1974, he represented the Government and State of Chile before the Spanish Government, to renegotiate contracts that appeared unfavorable to Chile. Specially, the Pegaso contract renegotiated, successfully. The study of the Statute for foreign investors was initiative of Admiral Merino. He impelled the study and the decree law of exporter promotion of Chile, which gave origin to PROCHILE. In 1975 he participated in the Statute of the Governing Junta, the Legislative Commissions and the Secretariat of Legislation were created.
Admiral Merino presided over the First Legislative Commission after a law established the organization of the junta was enacted on 1974 which made the ruling junta the legislative power of the country and vested formally Pinochet the executive power as the self-proclaimed new President of Chile. Under Merino's leadership, the junta as the Legislative Commission first legislated mainly for the economic sectors and of Foreign Relations, and soon, the Fourth Legislative Commission of the junta enacted laws for the Defense Sector. In this period impulse the Decree Law to discount the forestation, settling down incentives to develop the plantations of this nature in the country. Again it represented the Government of Chile before the United States Government and one met with President Jimmy Carter. With great sense of social justice, Law N 3,480, allowed to indebted of the System of Saving and the Loan Houses to re-pact its debts, which came to favour of workers of the medium class sector.
During the conflict with Argentina over the Beagle Channel, Merino was one of the most belligerent junta members. He only reluctantly accepted Pope John Paul II's peace proposal, telling him, "I only signed the treaty because I'm Catholic and I respect Your Holiness. If I weren't, I wouldn't have signed it." Also, he ordered the commander of the surface fleet "go there... and win the war".
In 1980 law N 3,500 was dictated to the decree that created the new provisional system. Admiral Merino was a great defender of this legislation, giving his approval and endorsement during the study and discussion of this matter. He was the main legislative person in charge of the materialization. When in 1980 the new constitution was approved, Admiral Merino presided over the Governing Junta. This constituted the legislative power legitimized by the constitution and remained in effect until March 1990, when democratic government was restored. In addition the admiral presided over the fifth Legislative Commission of the junta.
In 1982 the country was affected by the worldwide recession and the Government had to take economic measures to palliate the crisis that developed. Admiral Merino, from the Legislative Power, impelled laws on the modernization of the financial sector, guarantee of the State to the deposits and savings, lowering of the tariffs to the imports and in general, the normalization of the sectors more affected by the crisis, giving the maximum support to the Executive authority, which was allowed to remove to the country from the crisis.
During this period he impelled the initiative of the Law of promotion to the Merchant Marine, remarkably contributing to the growth of this sector and also to the sector of shipyards and naval industry through the Law N 18.454. He presented the relative motions to replace the Code of Commerce; to adapt the Chilean marine limits to the Convention of Jamaica, by means of the corresponding reform to the Civil Code, and to countermand the legislation that allowed the therapeutic abortion, everything which was approved by means of the corresponding laws dictated in that period.
Also, he impelled all the Constitutional Statutory laws, which allowed the Military Government to fulfill the constitutional itinerary and delivery the power to the civil elected authority. In 1989 he proposed to the Executive authority the law of Fishing and Agriculture, which was obtained after a great discussion in the sector. Its aim was to put the conditions for the conservation of renewable the marine resources.
Finally, it corresponded to him to preside over the Joint Legislative Commission destined to reform the Political Constitution, whose text, approved by the Governing Junta, was ratified by the conducted plebiscite the 30 of June 1989. During the period of government of the FF.AA., under his tuition 3,660 Decrees were promulgated Laws and 1,090 Laws that take his signature. But Pinochet as the president of the country has the final authority to ratify and implement such laws passed by the junta and approved by Merino. He retired from the navy as its commander in chief on the 8 of March 1990, after more than 50 years of service. He was also the President of the Government Junta of Chile, the de facto Vice-President of the country from March 11, 1981 until his resignation on March 8, 1990.
After his retirement, he stayed out of politics and dedicated himself to his favorite pastime, playing golf. He started to write his memoirs, but did not live to see them published. He died of lymphoma in 1996, in Viña del Mar, at the age of 80.
The Chilean Navy in honour of the Admiral named after him the BMS Almirante Merino. This ship is the main surface logistic platform for the submarine force.
| Member of Government Junta
Jorge Martínez Busch
| President of Government Junta
Jorge Martínez Busch
| Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Navy
Jorge Martínez Busch