Sunday, January 21, 2007

... more from interview with Chilean Finance Minister, Andres Velasco

You were away from Chile for many years in the 1970s and the 1980s. But you returned to work on the campaign for the 1988 plebiscite that ended the Pinochet dictatorship.

AV: It was an important time to be here. If there’s one day in my life where I thought the things one did could make a difference, the one day in my life which I will never forget, it was that day, especially the evening, when the dictatorship conceded that they had lost the plebiscite, and would have to hold elections and leave power. Leading up to it, I was working on my dissertation at Columbia in New York, but I had spent all of 1987, and much of 1988 in Chile. I came back again about a month before the plebiscite to work on the campaign. I helped with some of the ads, mostly conducting background research. On the day of the vote, I was assigned to be in charge of the team of poll-watchers for downtown Santiago. In that capacity I turned up at 7 AM, just as the polls opened, at Instituto Nationale, the best and most respected public school smack in the middle of downtown. We knew that’s where Pinochet would be voting. He swept in with a group of guards. We stood outside, our credentials as members of the opposition team in hand, and we were apprehensive. I’d been wondering what the army officers guarding the polling site would do when this team in our twenties appeared to say, “We've come here to check on the vote.”

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