Sunday, February 24, 2013

Report: Pinochet Wanted to Defy “No” Vote

Among the finalists for top foreign film at tonight's Oscars is “No,” which is based on the successful campaign that beat Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet in a 1988 plebiscite.  The campaign’s efforts may have nearly been in vain according to recently declassified documents.

Several papers uncovered by the U.S. National Security Archive (NSA) showed that Pinochet was very reluctant to relinquish power in the hours before and after his electoral defeat. 

"I'm not leaving, no matter what," he reportedly told several of his closest advisers one day before the crucial vote was held.  He also supposedly claimed that he planned to do "whatever was necessary to stay in power," which he obtained via a controversial coup d’état fifteen years before. 

The NSA also revealed that although the U.S. government strongly supported the 1973 coup and the Pinochet regime, several agencies and diplomats gave there backing to the anti-Pinochet electoral campaign.  As U.S. intelligence reports indicated before the plebiscite that Pinochet would consider using violence to stay in the presidency, officials tried to privately exert pressure on the Chilean government.      

A U.S. Defense Department paper noted that Pinochet was “nearly apoplectic” as he headed towards a 56%-44% defeat.  At a meeting hours after the polls closed the dictator sought the support of military commanders and “spoke of using the extraordinary powers to have the armed forces seize the capital.”  They refused to go along with Pinochet’s power grab, however, and in the end he would admit defeat.

“No” focused mainly on the efforts of a fictional Chilean ad executive, played by Gael Garcia Bernal to create a marketing campaign for the anti-Pinochet forces.  In real life, the NSA uncovered how U.S. media consultants helped the campaign by “conducting training sessions for strategists and registration volunteers.”  One of these consultants joined the creative team of Chilean media specialists who designed the upbeat TV commercials that would “create buzz, and a movement that people could join and feel safe about.”  (A two-minute ad for the “No” campaign can be seen at the top of this post).

“No” director Pablo Larrain believes his movie has “few possibilities of winning” an Oscar and compared the odds of “No” beating favorite “Amour” to “playing against Brazil in the World Cup.”  It remains to be seen if Larrain’s pessimism will be true or if “No” can score a major upset tonight.

Pinochet he was facing numerous charges for human rights abuses and corruption when he died in 2006.  Yet several officials who served under him have not escaped justice.

Chile, meanwhile, has been ruled by a democratically elected civilian government since 1990.
Video Source– YouTube via user kntayal

Online Sources – National Security Archive, La Tercera, The Latin Americanist

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