Buenos Aires blues


plaza de mayo

Following a short touch down in São Paulo the delegation went on to Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. The years of terror were over but not the memories attached to them. We contacted several people that were involved in projects financed by the Swedish International Labour Mouvement Centre (AIC). I recall a project run by women that provided legal aid for women that needed this help. We tried to perceive what the political situation really was like and it was clear that the Socialist ideas and commitment were weak after the Dirty War and the Peronist Mouvement, still strong among Trade Union leaders. The situation in that month of December 1989 stayed very much on my awereness as a time when the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo still had reason to demonstrate in order to find out what had happened to their disappeared relatives.

Accounts from the “Commission on the disappeared”,show that during the Dirty War (Guerra sucia)  some 11000 people were documented as killed on an all out war led by the army against anyone showing left sympathies.Many more undocumented casualties fell during this period of war, that lasted between 1976 and 1983. The three most important military presidents were Videla, Viola and Galtieri. This last one meeting the end of the military era after defeat at the war on the Falkland Islands.

I had a chance to meet some of the many hundreds of women that were known as The mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. They carried on with yearly demonstrations outside the presidential palace- Casa Rosada- until 2006. Most of those sons and daughters would never be recovered or their fate known.

Buenos (2)

On this picture beside myself, Maine Westin, Malin Olsson and José Goñi ( currently Chile ambassador in Washington).


South America- 1989 AD

Guarulhos metal

In the beginning of 1989 I engaged myself in recruiting new contributors to the International fund (Ifonden). This fund was administered by the AIC – International Labour Movement Centre. Later this Centre would be renamed after party leader Olof Palme who was gunned down in Stockholm in 1986.

I was so successful in recruiting new contributors to the fund that I was invited to accompany a delegation from the member organizations of the Centre, to visit projects in South America that were financed and supported by the fund. Fortunately for me this was a special time in South America as dictatorships were giving way to democratic governments. We would be there in the middle of it all, culminating as it were, with the presidential election that would replace Augusto Pinochet’s 16 years in power.

We departed on the 2nd December and our first stop would be São Paulo in Brazil. As most people know this huge city is heavily industrialized so it was natural that the trade Unions of Sweden helped their Brazilian counterparts and I remember visiting the Metal Union in Guarulhos.

There was a lot of excitement and sober optimism as the ex-metal worker Luiz Inácio (Lula) da Silva was a presidential candidate. The first round had been on the 15 th November and Lula would contest the second round on the 17 th December against conservative candidate Collor de Mello. De Mello did win but Lula would also become president of Brazil in 2003. Brazil was not ready then for a president that had always fought from the bottom of society starting to work at 12 as a shoeshiner, before getting employment in the São Paulo industry.

The AIC member organizations are connected with Swedish Labour movement. These include more than Trade Unions. On the South American trip Trade Unions were well represented. For the record here they are:  Tuve Bergman from the Commerce Workers Union (Handels), Stig Söderling from the Central Trade Union (LO), Ronny Olsson-Municipal Workers (Kommunal), Yngve Vikström-Construction Workers (Byggnads) and Birgitta Johansson from Transport Union.

The immense city of São Paulo, larger than many countries found me waking up on the very early hours of the morning to discover enormous traffic jams outside the hotel. That is also a memory I keep.

On the picture above we can see Edmilsson Nery and Chicão from Steel Workers Union in Guarulhos. On the background Gunnar Falk.

Luanda between wars


In 1992 the Swedish Social Democratic party was asked to hold, election workshops in Luanda the Angola capital.

After pressure from the international community it was finally established that multi- party and presidential elections would be held to put an end to a war that was just dragging on since independence from Portugal in 1975.

I was assigned to be part of a delegation that also included Julio Flores, the party treasurer Inger Mähler and elections expert Hans-Erik Holmqvist. My knowledge of the Portuguese language was useful, once again, when our party the Swedish Social democrats were asked to assist another member of the Socialist International family.

Our previous work in South Africa with The ANC had echoed in southern Africa and the MPLA were eager to learn what we could share as important issues in order to run a successful campaign. After all we had a long experience of running elections.

Our stay was very short. We arrived on 5th July and left on the 10th. During this time we managed to meet election general Daniel Chipenda at MPLA headquarters, we paid a visit to the Swedish embassy and held workshops on some basic principles of multi-party elections. Throughout the visit we were taken care of, by MPLA historic leader Mr. Lopo do Nascimento.

We stayed at the hotel Trópico in Luanda and it was easy to feel the tension in the city in a period where the war had just taken a break and hopes were high among the population to get a peaceful solution and an end to the conflict.

Election were held in September with a turnout of 92 %. Angolans had voted and they gave the MPLA 54% of the vote for the national assembly while UNITA got 34%. We were to learn that election results were not accepted and that war broke out again as a second civil war lasting until 2002 just after Unita leader Jonas Savimbi’s death.

This long conflict cost the country much suffering as it forced millions to a life as refugees, escaping the countryside and looking for shelter in the cities.