Former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet. Photo: La Tercera

By SILVIO CANTO, JR.

Back in 1988, General Augusto Pinochet had run Chile for 15 years.

He had overthrown the Popular Unity government of President Salvador Allende in a controversial military coup in 1973 that gained international condemnation but was little understood by the outside world.

Allende’s three-year presidency led to an extended period of social unrest and political tension between the opposition-controlled congress and the president’s socialist agenda, all of which led to economic collapse.

Consequently, Pinochet took over a country in total chaos.

But his free market policies turned Chile around and created an economy that was the envy of the developing world.

Unfortunately, he never had the legitimacy of an election.

So he did something strange: He asked the Chilean people if he should continue and they had a “plebiscite,” a public referendum on the issue.

Pinochet lost and, as a result, he left power.

This is the story of his political demise as recounted in the Washington Post:  “General Augusto Pinochet’s bid for eight more years in power ended in defeat today, as a united opposition beat him soundly in a presidential plebiscite of Pinochet’s own design After a long night in which the opposition continued to announce returns showing a 60-percent vote against Pinochet and the government gave out practically no totals at all, a government spokesman announced early this morning that with three-fourths of the vote officially counted, Pinochet was losing with 53 percent of voters rejecting him. There would be no further vote totals until midday, he said.”

The Washington Post article went on to say: “Later, Interior Minister Sergio Fernandez, who had run Pinochet’s campaign, announced that the regime would recognize the results of the vote, which he characterized as still provisional. Because of the democratic process that had transpired, ‘the great winner is the country,’ Fernandez said. Pinochet himself made no statement.”

In other words, Chile said no and Pinochet accepted the verdict.

Let me add that I felt that it was time for Pinochet to go, as much as I admired his economic accomplishments.

As a Chilean friend told me back in 1988, “Pinochet did a good job but it was time to get our democracy back.”

Down in Cuba, the situation is ripe for such a plebiscite.

Cubans have never voted in a free and multiparty elections.

Yes, they vote in Cuba, but it’s a sham because the Communist Party is the only one in the contest.

U.S. President Joe Biden should call for such a plebiscite with international observers.

He should also say that the United States will recognize the winner as the legitimate government and end the embargo immediately.

Will the Castro regime accept the challenge?

Of course not, but let’s keep up the pressure.

SILVIO CANTO, JR. is a Cuban-born U.S. citizen who teaches English at a north Texas college. He is the author of the book “Cubanos in Wisconsin” and has a daily online radio program and blog dealing with U.S. and Latin American politics, as well as sports and historic events, and is a regular contributor to American Thinker.

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