by Carlos Reyes-Manzo IN LAST week's plebiscite the opposition in Chile won an historic victory when they defeated the totalitarian government of Pinochet.
The official result was 55 per cent for the No vote against 43 per cent for Pinochet. The vote followed 15 years of repression; imprisonments, disapperances, killings and a continuous campaign of disinformation and fear.
The leaders of the opposition have been dealing with the situation very carefully in order not to antagonise the military. Throughout the campaign they asked their supporters not to give in to any kind of provocation, and on the day of the plebiscite they asked them to return home after voting and to wait until the official victory celebrations. They have been promoting a spirit of reconciliation.
After two days of jubilant celebrations by opposition supporters, Pinochet sent his army back onto the streets to repress the victory celebrations with tear gas and watercannon, killing two people and wounding hundreds. And his terror squads attacked people who were celebrating with slashings, beatings and gunshot.
The special force of carabineros who have been guarding the presidential palace have been particularly brutal with the foreign press, assaulting at least 30 journalists, some of whom were beaten unconscious.
Eleven have been detained in hospital with broken arms and fingers, and one seriously injured with a fractured spine.
After coming under strong international pressure Pinochet made public the results saying: "I accept and respect the verdict of the majority", but his Minister of Interior, Sergio Fernandez, has hinted that Pinochet might stand as presidential candidate in the multi-party elections to be held in 1990.
According to Pinochet's 1980 constitution, he will remain president with extraordinary powers until March 1990, when he will become a life member of the Senate.
He will continue to be commander in chief of the army for a further four years and will sit on the National Security Council which has the power of veto over any issues relating to national security.
When Pinochet drew up the constitution he ensured that even if he suffered major setbacks such as last week's plebiscite he would still be keeping a strong grip on power. He is by no means a defeated dictator.