Almost exactly twenty five years have passed since a delegation from Swedish labor movement touched down in Latin America. Our final destination was Chile as it prepared to go officially from the 26 year old Pinochet dictatorship to a new democratically elected president.
As we rolled out from Buenos Aires towards the airport we learnt that the Argentinian peso suffered devaluation. This time it was 35%. The date was Friday the 8th December 1989. It would take time for Latin America to get back on its feet. Our delegation represented organizations that were helping out with projects to help people organize themselves.
As soon as we had checked in at the Hotel Libertador, on the largest and most important avenue in central Santiago, we headed for visits at the residential areas of La Victoria and La Pintana. The people were enthusiastically waiting for us with their home made empanadas and other refreshments.
Much of the activities described for these meeting points or CENPROS “Casas Del Pueblo” were related to the need people had to meet, educate themselves and develop cultural activities. People described the many problems that affected the populations with the increase use of drugs.
To regain dignity is important when people reach bottom level. The stress caused by unemployment and persecutions drove many people to leave their country. In Sundsvall where I live, there was already a Chilean colony, that remade their lives here. Because I knew so many of these Chileans my visit to their country was of special significance to me.
The party we gave our support to was the PPD (Partido por la Democracia). It was a wide alliance of democratic parties that joined forces to put an end to the military dictatorship. Our visit was purposely organized to witness the election of a new president, that on the 24th march 1990 would put Chile back where it belonged, among the democratic countries of the world. And we were there as history turned the page.
Twenty five years is a long time and it corresponds almost precisely to the period of time that elapsed ,since I was privileged enough, to visit 4 latin american countries in 1989.
My memory played me a trick and I wrongly recalled going to Buenos Aires after São Paulo instead of the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. Never mind, I am now putting it right…
Elections had just been held and coming out as winner was conservative leader Luis Alberto Lacalle. He held the post as president for the coming five years. This was a period of democratic stabilisation after years of persecution an dictatorship. It was also the first opportunity for the left to present itself in open free elections. The outcome for the left organised as Frente Amplio got 21%of the votes.
Montevideo seemed to me as peaceful city contrasting with the high buildings of the other capitals in the region. A curiosity was discovering many people sucking at their mate tea filled pumpkins or calabazas.Apart from that, there was some talk of the Uruguayan carnival with its typical Candombe music style coming up soon after Christmas. Carnival engaged many young people in activities. Our democracy supporting projects were useful in Montevideo.
At the factory FUNSA Swedish labour movement support had helped start a child care centre with 45 kids and 16 employees. ABF in Gotland through Stig Söderling supported this important investment.
Our next visit took us to Paso Carrasco where young people presented a Murga (a carnival musical presentation) outside their Casa del Pueblo. This was a meeting places very much shaped as Swedish Folketshus that were so important for the Swedish labour movement. Jörgen Eklund, Gunnar Falk and Maine Westin were pleased with what they saw and would even be more pleased at our final destination-Chile.