Fernando Jorge Matthei Aubel, a well-known retired general of the Chilean Air Force (FACh), father of the current Providencia mayor, Evelyn Matthei, and former member of Augusto Pinochet’s Military Junta, died this Sunday, aged 92, at the FACh Hospital in Santiago.
He was born in Osorno, Los Lagos region, on 11 June, 1925, and he entered the Aviation School in 1945, where he became the first combat pilot to graduate.
As soon as the news broke, FACh issued a statement in which they said “(Our thoughts) are with the family and friends in their pain, wishing they may find solace after this unrepairable loss”.
He became a member of the Military Junta on 24 July, 1978, replacing Gustavo Leigh. His candidacy was imposed by general Pinochet himself against the opinion of other members of the Junta.
Besides, he is remembered as the first official to admit Pinochet’s loss in the 1988 plebiscite, even though the general secretariat of Government, Alberto Cardemil, opted to wait before giving any results.
As, at first, the only results known were those from the polling stations that favoured the “Yes” option -to keep Pinochet in power- some said that that might have generated riots, what many feared was expected to declare state of emergency and interfere with the results.
After that, there was a meeting at La Moneda Palace, where Matthei accepted that the “No” option might have won, what later was ratified by official information.
On 11 September, 1973, Matthei was in the United Kingdom, where he worked as an air attaché.
However, on 24 July, 1978, and after Leigh left the Junta, most of the Air Force generals left the institution as well.
Hence, and regarding seniority, many were offered the position, but none accepted it, though Matthei did. He was 12th in rank.
Back then, bilateral relations with Argentina were tense, with a pre-belic atmosphere that evolved, in 1982, into the Falklands Conflict, and Mattthei collaborated with the British Armed Forces against Argentina.
Matthei did so because he thought that an eventual Argentine triumph over Britain would have made Chile the next target.
Matthei was close to Alberto Bachelet, president Michelle Bachelet’s father, who was also an Air Force general bewteen 1940 and 1973.
General Bachelet died in 1974 following a stroke at Santiago’s Public Jail, after being questioned by his FACh pairs.