Midnight in Chile, 24 years ago

The October 6, 1988 edition of the Chilean government newspaper La Nacion went to press with the very partial returns predicting a Pinochet victory in the one-man presidential plebiscite.

It was a one-man presidential election in which voters were asked to cast “yes” or “no” ballots for a measure to extend General Augusto Pinochet’s rule for eight more years. The first official returns were announced at 7:30 that evening and showed that with 0.36 percent of the votes counted, Pinochet was ahead by 57 percent. Three hours later there was a second announcement with another tiny fraction of the vote counted, indicating that Pinochet was still ahead by 51.3 percent. Then, rather ominously, there were no more official returns announced.

“The GOC [government of Chile] is obviously sitting on the results and releasing them very slowly, and this has sparked concern by the opposition which continues to receive reports of a major victory from its voting table representatives,” the U.S. Embassy in Santiago wrote in a cable to Washington that evening.http://foia.state.gov/documents/StateChile3/00007B72.pdf

But as midnight approached the commanders of Chile’s navy, air force and carabinero police arrived at the presidential palace for a meeting with Pinochet.  Air force commander General Fernando Matthei decided to “pull out the detonators,” as he later described it, and stopped to talk to a group of Chilean reporters waiting for news.

“It looks to me like the “no” vote has won,” he said. “And we are going to analyze this now.”

The rest, as they say, is Chilean history.

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