Thousands of Chileans gather once again to say ‘No’ to fascism

In the referendum of 1988, 56% of Chileans had voted ‘against the continuation of the dictator Augusto Pinochet’s rule, forcing him to step down two years later

October 08, 2018 by Peoples Dispatch
No Vote Chile

On October 5, thousands of Chileans gathered at Paseo Bulnes in Santiago to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the victory of ‘No’ vote in the 1988 referendum. The historic event 30 years ago saw 56% of Chileans voting against the continuation of dictator Augusto Pinochet’s rule in Chile. His authoritarian regime came to an end with the referendum and he was forced to step down in 1990. According to reports by La Tercera, around 15,000 people gathered in Santiago, including cultural leaders and politicians, to mark the anniversary. The celebration also featured performances by musical groups such as Villa Cariño, Sol y Lluvia, Juana Fe, Mamma Soul, The Prisoners, Inti Illimani and Quilapayún etc.

As a part of the celebrations, the Communist Party of Chile came out with a series of short videos titled “Pencils do not move alone: Tales of a popular triumph”. (In the 1988 referendum, pencils were used to mark the ballots and there is a popular saying in Chile that the people defeated Pinochet with just the paper and the pencil.) The seven chapters of the miniseries feature among others Guillermo Teillier (president of the Communist Party) and Lautaro Carmona (secretary general of the Communist Party) in which they narrate their personal experiences during the years of resistance to Pinochet’s dictatorship, as well as the events that culminated in the referendum of 1988.

The military under the leadership of Augusto Pinochet seized power in Chile after the infamous coup d’etat of September 11, 1973, toppling the Popular Unity government of the Socialist president Dr. Salvador Allende. The horrific crimes related to the coup and the junta that followed it remain fresh in the minds of Chileans. Following the coup, Allende, who had refused to surrender, shot himself in the presidential palace. Around 3,000 people, many of them supporters of the government such as renowned singer Victor Jara and Litre Quiroga, were tortured and killed, and thousands were forced to flee the country. Many in Chile believe that the death of the renowned poet Pablo Neruda was also orchestrated by the junta. 

It was only in 1998 that Pinochet was arrested in London on an international arrest warrant. But later, he was released on medical grounds and he returned home. A Chilean court put him under house arrest in 2004 and he died in 2006, with nearly 300 cases pending against him for human rights violations, tax evasions and embezzlements.