Report: Chile's Pinochet wanted anti-vote violence
Newly published U.S. documents indicate that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet sought to use military force to annul the referendum portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film "NO" that ended his brutal regime. The plan was rejected by his fellow generals, the papers say.
The formerly top-secret documents posted by the independent U.S. National Security Archive on Friday also show U.S. officials warning Chilean leaders against violence if Pinochet tried to use force to stay in power.
Pinochet "planned to do whatever was necessary to stay in power" just a day before the Oct. 5, 1988, referendum, according to a Defense Intelligence Agency document based on information from a Chilean air force officer.
"Pinochet reportedly told advisors: `I'm not leaving, no matter what,'" the document said.
The documents also show that U.S. officials and agencies backed the anti-Pinochet campaign, even though the U.S. government had worked to undermine the socialist administration of President Salvador Allende that Pinochet overthrew in a 1973 coup and initially supported the new regime.
The papers portray Pinochet as furious after the vote results.
In a last attempt to retain power, the strongman who once compared himself to the greatest Roman emperors asked the members of the military junta to meet in his office in the presidential palace at 1:00 AM," says a report by the Defense Department titled: "Chile: plebiscite goes forward as Pinochet apparently loses."
A CIA source at the meeting describes Pinochet as being "nearly apoplectic" about the results.
"Pinochet was prepared on the night of 5 Oct to overthrow the results of the plebiscite," an informant said in a report by the State Department titled: "Chilean junta meeting the night of plebiscite."
Pinochet had a document prepared for other generals to sign and "spoke of using the extraordinary powers to have the armed forces seize the capital," says one of the reports by the Defense Department.
But even his closest allies said no. The air force commander, Gen. Fernando Matthei, "told Pinochet he would under no circumstances agree to such a thing ... Pinochet then turned to the others and made the same request and was turned down."
Losing all backing to overthrow the plebiscite, Pinochet accepted his defeat.
The lead-up to that decision is depicted in "NO," which is up for an Academy Award as best-foreign language film on Sunday. The Chilean film is based on the publicity campaign that helped oust Pinochet and return Chile to democracy.
The general ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990. He died under house arrest, without ever being tried, despite charges of illegal enrichment and human rights violations.
"We negotiated with him because we were never able to judge him and Pinochet died a free man and a millionaire," said Pablo Larrain, director of "NO," in an interview last month with The Associated Press.
The film's July premiere in Santiago unsettled many audiences because Chile remains deeply divided over Pinochet's regime.
He shut down Congress, outlawed political parties and forced thousands of dissidents into exile, while his police tortured and killed thousands more.
But loyalists saw him as a fatherly figure who oversaw Chile's growth into economic prosperity and kept it from becoming a failed socialist state.
"Given the entrenched and violent nature of Pinochet's dictatorship, the No Campaign's victory is all the more dramatic," said Peter Kornbluh, author of "The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability."
Forty years after the coup, Kornbluh said, "It is not only important to remember how he took power, but was forced to relinquish it."
On the web: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB413/
Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao