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