How Just Saying “NO” Changed Chile

by Melanie Gilarsky 03/27/2013 14:04 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The MPAA, together with the Inter-American Dialogue, National Democratic Institute, Participant Media and Sony Pictures Classics hosted a screening of “NO”, the 2013 Oscar® Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film on Tuesday evening. “NO” is a historical feature that tells the story of Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal), a fictional young advertising executive, who was given the charge of creating the opposition campaign for the 1988 plebiscite.  As a result of the “NO” campaign, the Chilean people took back their nation by voting out military dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. 

Leading strategists from the “NO” campaign took part in a panel discussion to provide viewers with an insider perspectives on the landmark Chilean referendum of 1988 and how the lessons of the “NO” campaign continue to remain valuable to others working for freedom and democracy around the world. The panelists were:  Genaro Arriagada (Former National Director of the “NO” campaign, Former Ambassador from Chile to the U.S., Former Minister of the Presidency of Chile), Ken Wollack (President, National Democratic Institute), Sergio Bitar (President of the Foundation for Democracy (Chile), Former Chilean Senator, Cabinet Member and President of the Party for Democracy (PPD)), and Frank Greer (Partner, GMMB).

Wollack, Bitar, Arriagada, and Greer took the audience back to Chile in the late 1980s and discussed the emotions, challenges, and decision process that culminated in the groundbreaking “NO” vote. Wollack said, “We look back at that democratic struggle 25 years ago as though its success was inevitable, although in fact at the time it was improbable.” Sergio Bitar added that “the main obstacle was fear and you cannot vanquish fear with fear or with despair, you have to be optimistic.” Arriagada discussed how he and the Chilean opposition came to creating the “No” campaign. “If we want [ed] to have a country for everyone it was necessary to have a program, a product of society that would be in place for everyone.”

Greer spoke from the American perspective, and how our “duty [was] to make up for the mistakes of foreign policy of the past. We were there because we believed.”


From Left to Right: Ken Wollack, Honorable Sergio Bitar, Honorable Genaro Arriagada, Frank Greer

Photo Credit: Joy Asico

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