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News > Latin America

Chileans Celebrate 30th Anniversary of 'No Vote' to End Pinochet Dictatorship

  • The symbol of the NO campaign

    The symbol of the NO campaign | Photo: Twitter / @Vickymuray

Published 5 October 2018

On October 5, 1988, a majority of Chileans conquered their fears, and voted to put an end to the military dictatorship led by Augusto Pinochet.

Oct. 5th marks the 30th anniversary of the victory of the 'NO VOTE' in Chile, in a referendum that paved the way for the transition to a democratic government after 17 years of repressive military rule. Throughout Chile, various movements and organizations are celebrating the day, which marked a return to democracy.

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In 1988, Chile held a national referendum in which 54 percent of the population voted "No" to the continuation of the military government of dictator Augusto Pinochet, a government responsible for kidnappings, forced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, and other state-sponsored crimes or crime against humanity.

The victory of the NO campaign paved the way for the possibility of holding presidential elections within a year. The campaign for NO was a daring one, considering that for 17 years Chile’s political opposition had been targeted by the state’s security forces at home and abroad. Despite fears, opposition parties formed a coalition known as Concertacion (the Pact) and launched the campaign with the slogan “Chile, joy is coming.”

The victory did not vanquish Pinochet from power. For eight more years years he remained the head of Chile’s armed forces and later became a lifelong senator.

NO supporters will gather in Santiago de Chile Friday at 5 p.m. under the banner “the Chile we still owe ourselves.” The event seeks to raise awareness on social issues that still undermine the conditions for a “dignified life” among young people who were too young to vote in the 1988 referendum. “No to the status quo that has not allowed joy to come,” one supporter says in a video created for the anniversary.

They will not be the only ones holding public events.

Pro-Pinochet groups that promoted the continuation of the military dictatorship will also meet in gatherings. “We want to summon, for the first time, all Chileans who adhered and voted ‘YES’ to a public act in appreciation of the military government headed by Augusto Pinochet,” reads the invitation circulated by the event’s organizers, including lawyer Raul Meza, who represents prisoners convicted of crimes against humanity.  

Meza, together with other YES supporters, condemned President Sebastian Piñera for participating in an official event to celebrate the transition to democracy at the La Moneda, the country's presidential palace.

“The great majority of right-wing voters and militants that elected him voted YES; consequently we think it is an inappropriate and vexing political event. … We call on this government’s public servants and legislators who voted YES to be honest before the citizenry, and not go to the commemoration of the NO in La Moneda,” Meza said. The government has clarified the event is not to commemorate the victory of the NO, but to commemorate the referendum. 

Chile’s political opposition and left-wing and progressive parties will not participate in the official event at La Moneda.

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