Chilean National Plebiscite

It was October 5, 1988 when the Chilean people took to the streets to vote on the national plebiscite; a national referendum that was to decide if dictator Augusto Pinochet would continue his military dictatorship for the period of 1989-1997. People were ask two simple questions. A vote for Yes would allow Pinochet to continue his dictatorship. A vote for No would end his dictatorship and pave the way for general elections to be held the following year.

After months of campaigning, the people finally headed to the polls. 44.01% voted Yes and 55.99% voted No. When news got out that the NO campaign had won, thousands of people took to the streets rejoicing, dancing and just filled with joy. The people had put an end to the 16?? year military dictatorship.

In December of 1988, Patricio Aylwin won the presidential elections and on March 11, 1989, he took office paving the way for a Chile in transition to democracy. Although, the dictatorship ended in 1988, I must say that there weren’t many changes. The neo liberal policies of the dictatorship continue to be present. Pinochet was never sentenced for his crimes against humanity. The soldier who killed Victor Jara,  Edwin Dimter Bianchi, was never charged by the chilean court. Bianchi, was a chilean military officer who attended the School of the Americas (SOA) in 1970. He also participated in a failed coup attempt against President Salvador Allende in June 29, 1973 known as the “Tanquetazo.” 

It was very dissapointing for me to find out that Dimter was working under the government of Michelle Bachelet as a public servant. Here we have Bachelet, a victim of the Pinochet dictatorship allowing someone like Dimter to be a public servant under her government. It just doesn’t sound right to me. I feel that he should be tried not only for killing Victor Jara but being responsible for all the hundreds of people who lost their lives on the horrific day at the Estadio de Chile.

Patricio Aylwin, Ricardo Lagos and Michelle Bachelet didn’t do much to help the thousands of people who voted No in 1988. The Chile of today you will find almost everything privatized from health care to social security. When George Bush tried to privatized the social security he tried to get inspiration from the Chilean model. Another one of my dissapointments under the “Chile in Democracy” is that the Mapuches, the indigenous people of Chile, continue to be treated like terrorist in their own land based on the anti terrorist law 18.314.

I don’t expect many positive changes for the working class under the government of Sebastian Pinera, the first right wing president to take office since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship.

But as the world is changing, I hope Chile will adhere to the changes that are sweeping across Latin America. Salvador Allende was right when he said in his last speech,  “Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again where free men will walk to build a better society…..Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!”

Here is a song from the group, Sol y Lluvia who campaign for the vote NO of 1988 and were strong supporters of Allende. Enjoy.


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