I am the first passenger of LAN flight #145 from Miami to Santiago to go through immigration. My brother Andrés is waiting for me in his car just outside the terminal. Two carabineros berate him for illegal parking. I try to argue with them, but Andrés quietly tells me to shut up. “It will be all over by Wednesday,” he tells me, as he hands over his driver's license to the stern officers in green uniforms. They let him go with a warning, and we're off to the new highway that links the airport with Santiago's Barrio Alto. It is one of a number of public works inaugurated in the past few months in a frantic effort to bolster support for the government in the upcoming October 5 plebiscite.
At my brother's home I unpack, and we quickly sit down to look at the tapes of the franja publicitaria, the 15-minute TV programs for the “Yes” and “No” options aired since September 5. They have provided the opposition access to television for the first time in 15 years. Despite the absurd time slot allocated to it (10:45 to 11:15 p.m.), the franja has commanded huge audiences. Between 80 and 90% of all Chileans in urban areas have seen it; about a third watch it every day and another third occasionally. Andres believes the opposition is in good shape for the plebiscite, but he is worried about the negative impact of Volodia Toitelboim's statement.