Chile

Friday A/V Club: Advertisers Against Augusto Pinochet

Looking back at the "no" campaign

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The best part about getting up/Is freedom in your cup!

In 1988, Chile held a plebiscite on whether to extend the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The dictatorship lost. Pinochet reportedly didn't take that very well: According to Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall's book A Force More Powerful, he reacted by ordering his armed forces to impose martial law. But they refused to obey him, and he then agreed to step down.

The "no" campaign—that is, the campaign to vote against the dictatorship—was the subject of a feature film a few years ago, Pablo Larraín's No. I haven't seen that, so I can't speak to how good it is. (For an interesting critique of it, go here.) But I've seen some of the no team's TV ads, thanks to the fact that I was taking Spanish as an undergrad at the University of Michigan when the plebiscite took place. And they're probably not the sort of things that come to mind when you hear the phrase "protesting a right-wing Latin American dictatorship."

There were, to be sure, overtly political spots that highlighted the human rights abuses of the Pinochet regime. But the most iconic ads looked like this:

If you told your friends that was a Chilean coffee commercial, they'd probably believe you. Compare it to other short films of the late '80s and early '90s, and you might get the impression there was some sort of global House Style that everyone felt the need to follow, whether they were promoting Soviet nostalgia or an American steakhouse. But there's a more direct reason why the spot looks like that: Some consultants from the U.S. helped with the campaign.

Twenty-seven years later, that ad doesn't evoke We're about to oust a brutal dictator so much as it says This is a transmission from the year 1-9-8-8. But it did help oust the dictator, so I'm not gonna knock it. Even though I've got that goddamn jingle stuck in my head now.

(For past installments of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

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  1. Were all those people Columbia grads or something? Just asking…

  2. That video convinced me to back a border fence.

    1. +1 #MakeAmericaGreatAgain

      1. +1 it’s gonna be great

        1. +1 That’s ‘UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE

  3. Damn, Jesse. A Prince of Darkness shout out. I love it.

    1. I’m betting it’s only because somebody else mentioned that line in some comments the day.

      Wait, that was on the Paizo forums. Jesse! Are you a closet geek?!?!?

      1. I pull out a Prince of Darkness reference every nine years or so.

        1. Sounds like some kind of conspiracy…

        2. My fave Carpenter mo….wait, no, my SECOND fave, after “Big Trouble en Le Petit Chine”

          1. Prince is a good movie, but it could’ve been a great movie if they’d removed about half the supporting cast.

            1. Are you trying to say you didn’t like Alice Cooper stabbing Thom Bray with a bicycle?

            2. Yes. It should have been a smaller core of researchers. And it has some serious plot drag in the middle third.

              I like time travel (or time communication) plots where the act of contacting the past creates the problem they were contacting the past about it in the first place, but it is hard to be subtle about it like PoD.

              1. But it’s hard for meet the gruesome death quota when you have fewer people to work with.

                1. I liked that they had so many people from other Carpenter movies. And the Alice Cooper cameo – perfect.

  4. “Our new anti-referendum cleanser will flush those toxic dictators right out of your political system! Ask your doctor about PinochetBeGone today!”

  5. Why was their flag signaling for no gays?

  6. Well shit, if you can just get rid of brutal dictators with a referendum, they should have done it in China, Cuba, North Korea, etc…

  7. “he reacted by ordering his armed forces to impose martial law. But they refused to obey him, and he then agreed to step down.”

    No, that’s romanticized, garbled history. The constitution of 1980 (which got two-thirds of the votes in plebiscite) contained a formula for transition that involved another plebiscite for 1988 to extend, or no, military government for another eight years. If No, another election and return to civilian government under the same constitution. Losing the 1988 vote by 10 points (women voting slightly more yes, men much more no), Pinochet and the junta let the constitutional mechanism play out. There was no order to impose martial law, although perhaps temptations. If Pinochet would have ordered suspension of his own constitution without any civil breakdown as experienced in 1973, he would have been viewed as a criminal and treated as such. There was no heroic “refused to obey him” because there was no order. One can speculate about what went on over dinner when the junta met, but all such stories are meaningless bs. There was no order. Anyway, Pinochet stepped down as president as per the constitution, after the election of Aylwin in 1989, remaining military commander until his constitutionally required retirement in 1998. Inconveniently boring.

    By the way, the formal transition ceremony of army command was memorable, when Pinochet presented O’Higgins’s sword to President Frei Ruiz-Tagle who then presented it to General Izurieta.

    1. -1, doesn’t fit the narrative.

      No Pulitzer for you!

    2. There was no order to impose martial law, although perhaps temptations….One can speculate about what went on over dinner when the junta met, but all such stories are meaningless bs. There was no heroic “refused to obey him” because there was no order.

      You move awfully quickly from “there was no order” to we-don’t-know-what-happened and then back to “there was no order” again. An eyewitness says there was an order. It’s always possible that he’s lying, but the story hardly seems impossible to me.

      As for the larger context, it’s discussed here (under the header “Blocking Pinochet’s Autocoup”). The Reagan administration certainly believed that elements of the regime had moved beyond the “perhaps temptations” stage.

      1. Yes, I’m familiar with the story. There are more stories about all sorts of machinations, some probably true to some degree. Many people were nervous about the military not accepting the outcome. That US government officials were worried has been well known. But the bottom line is that there was no order to the military to do anything.

        Of course, it’s possible that an “apoplectic” Pinochet could have “ordered” the navy, air force and carabineros chiefs to do something, and that “they refused to obey him” due to its craziness. The Matthei story (the eyewitness) is that Pinochet had a document – an order – to sign at the meeting before the formal vote announcement – not that he ordered them. I suspect that Matthei’s apoplectic story also is at least exaggerated. Pinochet was not crazy. Air force chief Matthei talked to the press about the No win before the “apoplectic” junta meeting and official announcement, he favored transition, and he was tough, all of which Pinochet knew and so would anticipate Matthei not signing on to a constitutional suspension. And the Carabineros as an institution was conservative and “of the People,” and crazy to think it could be stampeded. A fourth, weaker reason is that from the 1980 plebiscite, through that of 1988, to his retirement, Pinochet appeared to do everything by the book, according to his constitution. Maybe I have the story wrong, but there appears to me to have been an ex-post, speculative dramatization of events.

        1. Is this a dispute over the definition of “ordering”? The story is that when the votes had come in but he had not yet announced the results, he first fired his cabinet, then asked the other members of the junta to have their forces support him?i.e., to impose martial law. When they refused, he said the Army would “do it alone” and told them to sign papers transferring their powers to him. And then they refused that too. I don’t think my two-sentence compression of that distorts it.

  8. Why do I see a popup ad for a (crooked) auction house? Guess I need to update my version of Adblocker because REASON clearly does not vet its advertisers.

  9. Losing the 1988 vote by 10 points (women voting slightly more yes, men much more no), Pinochet and the junta let the constitutional mechanism play out. There was no order to impose martial law, although perhaps temptations. If Pinochet would have ordered suspension of his own constitution without any civil breakdown as experienced in 1973, he would have been viewed as a criminal and treated as such. There was no heroic “refused to obey him” because there was no order. One can speculate about what went on over dinner when the junta met, but all such stories are meaningless bs. There was no order.

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