Chilean president Ricardo Lagos said this Monday that opposition leaders were well aware that former dictator Generl Augusto Pinochet was determined to ignore the results of the 1988 referendum with a new self imposed coup.
"As political leaders we were aware of some of these things and we informed other officials at the time", admitted Mr. Lagos following last Sundays' revelation by a former Air Force general and member of the then ruling Junta during the Pinochet regime.
General Fernando Matthei in an advance of his memoirs published in the Santiago press indicated that on Sunday October 5, 1988 Pinochet wanted to ignore the referendum adverse results and convened fellow officers to extend his time in office. "I'm not leaving" warned Pinochet during a top brass meeting in Government House early morning after having deliberately delayed the outcome of the voting for hours.
However General Matthei, together with the Commander of the Navy and the head of the Carabineros (militarized police), members of the Junta that acted at the time as a Legislative body, firmly opposed Pinochet's intention. When faced with such determined opposition General Pinochet scrapped the detailed plan he had worked on to ensure his continuation in power.
Actually, General Matthei suspicious of the delay in the release of the referendum results had openly admitted them to the press before meeting with Pinochet.
Mr. Lagos in 1988 was one of the main opponents and together with the rest of the democratic groupings worked out an alliance that in 1990 took office. The first elected president was Patricio Aylwin from the Christian Democrats.
In his memoirs former Commander of the Air Force General Matthei writes that Mr. Pinochet was convinced of winning the 1988 referendum, (that extended his term until 1998), but as a precaution had ordered the Intelligence services to prepare an alternative plan in case the opposition was victorious.
In the book to be officially launched next August 25, General Matthei insists that the former dictator was prepared to send troops to the streets to ensure his permanence in power. However the Commanders of the other services refused to accompany Mr. Pinochet.
The 1988 referendum is seen in Chilean history as the starting point for the return to elected civilian rule after fifteen years of ruthless military dictatorship.