It was 25 years ago today that Chileans (and foreigners with at least five years’ legal residence in the country, including this blogger) went to the polls to cast ‘yes’ or ‘no’ votes in a one-man presidential referendum to extend General Augusto Pinochet’s rule for eight more years. The actual balloting was clean, but the regime delayed releasing the results, announcing very partial returns that suggested Pinochet was ahead. At midnight Chile’s air force commander decided to “pull out the detonators,” as he put it, and told a group of reporters that the ‘no’ vote had won.
Here is a link to a short BBC’s Spanish language interview with former air force commander and junta member Fernando Matthei recalling that moment: http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/noticias/2013/10/130930_video_chile_plebiscito_aniversario_matthei_pea.shtml
In Bangkok, where he just signed a free trade agreement between Chile and Thailand, President Sebastián Piñera said that October 5, 1988 was “a great day for Chile and a great day for our democracy.”http://noticias.terra.cl/nacional/politica/pinera-y-el-triunfo-del-no-fue-una-decision-sabia,d248fcf032881410VgnCLD2000000ec6eb0aRCRD.html
And Chile’s national television channel is preparing a miniseries based on Pablo Larrain’s Oscar-nominated film No, about the campaign to defeat Pinochet, to be aired next year: http://entretenimiento.terra.cl/television/serie-sobre-la-pelicula-no-llegara-el-2014-a-tvn,b415fd6320481410VgnVCM10000098cceb0aRCRD.html
With no little nostalgia and sense of accomplishment, I remember handling media relations (complete with a press conference for more than 200 journalists) for the largest foreign election observation team in Chile, run by the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The delegation leaders included Spain’s Adolfo Suarez and Colombia’s Misael Pastrana (http://www.ndi.org/files/257_cl_transition.pdf)