After the vote, I went to the Diego Portales building to wait for the results announced by the dictatorship. I saw when they delayed and delayed things. And there was great expectation, and talking to the journalists there they said: “Hey, but this thing is strange, maybe they won’t recognize the results. Another coup may come.” I told them: “No, how can you say that? It would be the maximum discredit. They have everyone watching them do this.” And we made jokes: “The Soviet Union or the United States will come invade us, because this cannot be!”
My school was mostly YES, but I do remember very clearly that there was a debate […] and I remember very well that Juan Diego Santa Cruz who was two years above me defended the NO vote […]. And I was very impressed because the way he defended the NO was very powerful. Not only because he denounced the violation of human rights, but because he made a distinction between what a dictatorship was and a democracy, and the value of democracy itself. Because he defended democracy, more than attacking Pinochet […]. And he came to say: There is something much better and more interesting than Pinochet, and that is democracy, and it is freedom, and it is public debate, and it is critical thinking, and it is the diversity of opinions, and it is competition, and it’s the political parties, and it’s the elections, and it’s when the people decide, and the parties compete and the best ideas win.
The next day everyone celebrated. Everyone called each other on the phone. In those days there were no cell phones, so the telephones collapsed from calling each other, congratulating each other. At last, at last! Many people cried. I, we all cry. I think, out of emotion: knowing the board was finally going to leave.
I did not participate in any of the celebrations. I went home because I had a feeling of sadness because this was over, which was a unique experience of dedication, of mysticism, of generosity from people, of fellowship, of friendship, of a very great fraternity that […] never again, as I assumed at the time, would ever happen again.
I had a mental short circuit from which it took me a long time to recover, because I cannot understand to this day (look at the years that have passed), I do not understand to this day how that model that was bringing so much well-being to many people (only economically, right?, not necessarily in other important aspects for human life, but economically, which was what we were going to do there) was not enough to maintain that model.
There is a moment that is super exciting. It is a moment in which they cross the field – my father enters with my mother – and they cross the entire field of the Stadium. The whole stadium applauds them. […] And the lovely thing is that there is no police. (During seventeen years, every time Pinochet arrived anywhere, the security operation was there.) There was no one around the president and his wife. There was only the official television camera that was broadcasting this moment, but there was no bodyguard, no escort. It was the return of democracy and the return of freedom.
I lived in a rural area with very little information […]. My parents went to vote that day with a lot of fear. And that I do remember perfectly, because all the people who went to vote were very afraid, because there was a lot of speculation and a lot of myth among the people (mainly the rural people and those who could vote) that they were asking in the voting locations how people were voting.
In the case of the Radio Cooperativa, we were reporting on everything that was happening that day, and the television […] hid the information at one point, because when everyone wanted to know the news and how the count was in the different polling stations, they broadcast the Roadrunner cartoon. And that also marked a moment of great fear.
The strip was very nice. I think it marked us all because I saw it, well, we saw it every day and it was always something new. And it gives you hope because it was very joyful, then, wow, joy came. We laughed like that because there was a part where a man came walking and we said: that’s the joy that comes. Here we all told ourselves that happiness would come later because it was a child who was walking out and we laughed at that.
At the time of Pinochet, foreigners who settled in Chile had to sign a paper specifically stating that they were not going to participate in politics. And that helped me to be able to say “no” to working on the YES campaign, and say “yes” to working on the NO campaign clandestinely, without anyone knowing.
It was my turn, together with Juan Gabriel Valdés and Patricio Silva […] to be the representatives of the NO option before the National Television Council. Forty-eight hours before the broadcast of the program, we had to take our tape to pass the censorship, and that was a routine of about 30 days. It was normally taken over at 12:30 at night two days in advance. Initially, we were very disciplined […] and then, due to some circumstances, we discovered that if the tape had some kind of technical error, we could give ourselves another 24 hours.
Chile: Un país ganador
That’s when I said it was the best night of my life. And a journalist told me: “But how can that be, if they say that you might be president?” And I told him: “I don’t know if that’s going to be the case or not, I have no idea, but I can assure you that if I become president, that night is not going to be like this.” I became president and that night was not like that.
I remember a famous journalist very close to the Communist Party who hugged me that night and said: “You were right.” Which was enough to show that those friends of mine who had said that the plebiscite was necessarily going to be a fraud, that we had no chance of winning, were admitting that they had been wrong.
In that minute, when the plebiscite of ’88 comes and the NO vote wins, and when the general outburst occurs, so to speak, we decided […] that it was the moment to have children, to raise children maybe, to dare to transcend in that aspect. There was no longer fear, or rather the fear was removed, the barrier that each of us had at that moment in Chile to expand the family or raise a family was removed, right? There was something that the plebiscite or the result of the plebiscite did, which was to allow everyone to think about their life in a normal way, or in a more normal way, than it had been until then.
The most important thing was for us, through our volunteers, to carry out activities so that people would lose their fear and learn to vote. The training that we did was very important because, on the one hand, you had to be very didactic, but at the same time people had to be with a spirit of seeking consensus. We were not directly looking for people to vote for one position or another, but the important thing for us was that people dare to vote on October 5. And vote correctly.
I always remember that on that day of the plebiscite I had to represent the YES at the voting table. And the NO representative was a close neighbor of my neighborhood, who was a Christian Democrat […]. I was with this gentleman all day. So in the end, we were able to talk a lot. And in the afternoon, we said, let’s be reasonable.
I had planned to have a family. But I said, I am not going to have a family while we are under a dictatorship. I wanted my son to be born in freedom, not in a dictatorship because I had suffered a lot […]. I always tell my son: No, you were not going to be born into a dictatorship, that’s why I had you when I was so old!
On October 5, 1988, Chile faced a fundamental plebiscite for the future of the country and its people. This documentary examines the environment and the situation in the country in the months prior to the realization of this transcendental dilemma. If the “Yes” vote won, the dictator Augusto Pinochet would continue directing, as de facto President, the destinies of Chile. If the “NO” vote won, the Military Junta should call free, informed and internationally supervised presidential elections within a year. They are the protagonists of this historical moment and the anonymous people of this country, who make us discover the situation that existed at that time.
In this polarized climate between black and white, between YES or NO, some residents tell us what the people felt. Their hopes and their fears, while facing the harsh conditions of life mired in poverty.
They make us feel this climate of uncertainty at the gates of a plebiscitary decision, whose results and consequences were unpredictable. But they also tell us about what they hope will happen, once the victory of the no is known, in which joy, bewilderment and mistrust are mixed, but also a deep hope and optimism about the future of them and of the country, in the midst of the presidential campaign in that Don Patricio Aylwin Azócar would be elected, who would be the First President of the Republic after the dictatorship, and it would be up to him to lead the difficult stage of the beginning of the democratic transition.
Difficult, fragile and dangerous stage, where the dictator was still Commander-in-Chief of the Army and, as such, threatened this nascent democratic stage, with a blatant warning: “I do not threaten, but if they touch a single one of my men, ends the rule of law!”
For me, perhaps the most indescribable moment of happiness was entering the Canal and there was no armed guard. Because for seventeen years, we would go in and the guards were armed, and you would stand in line at the casino for lunch and see that they had guns in their pockets. But we had already gotten used to living like this. It was part of the landscape.
For me it was better that he had followed the other eight years. Some things needed to be stabilized. So, I said, private universities had been created, but that final regularization was still missing when you put the projects in motion. Like the Isapres themselves. So, there was a series of projects that were coming up, which still had to be regularized a little more. And that was my decision as to why I wanted to continue with the military government.
Why did you vote YES? Because we had had 17 years of great tranquility after having spent three years in hell. And I didn’t want that again, when it was the option that the country offered me, right? The option was precisely to return to politicking, to return again to political parties, to political ideologies: to return to the ideology of the extreme left, Marxism […]. We were afraid that the situation that we constantly saw in Cuba could repeat itself.
I think there was an effort -perhaps too trusting but that’s the way things were- in an absolutely transparent way to give it legitimacy. If the risk had been known, that is, if the risk had been better measured, perhaps the temptation would have been less transparency, but more security in victory.
This program was called Bethlehem. It is a program that I believe that to this day people do not know about. It was kept very confidential so that it would not be eliminated. The government never understood what we were doing. […].Bethlehem was born from a trip made by Joseph and Mary (Mary about to have her son) to the place where they had to register. Coincidentally, the emperor at the time was called Augustus, just like the dictator here. So our big posters copied exactly what is said in Luke 2, 1-4: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
I was invited to do the voiceover for two or three things, very precise spots. And the message was very clear, right? “No hate. No fear. No violence. Vote NO.” And that day I recorded and came home and commented to my wife: “Do you know what happened to me today? I took the boot off of my head, the military boot off my head.” I lost my fear. So, for me the triumph is personal, intimate. So when the NO triumph came, of course I was happy, but I had felt the triumph before.