Presidential in Chile: José Antonio Kast, or the resistible rise of a nostalgic for Pinochet

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Santiago de Chile, special correspondent.

He emerged from the shadows just a month ago, attracting all the microphones to him, haunting all the screens, prancing all at once at the top of all the polls. At the end of a campaign punctuated by provocations and lies, focused on order and security, able to excite all fears, a nostalgic for the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet arrived, Sunday, at the head of the first round of the presidential election in Chile. José Antonio Kast, 55, obtains 27.91% of the vote, ahead of the leftist candidate Gabriel Boric (25.83%), a former student leader who wore the colors of the Apruebo Dignidad coalition bringing together, among others, the Frente Amplio and the Chilean Communist Party. Surprisingly, third place goes, with 12.80% of the vote, to Franco Parisi, an ultra-liberal with an anti-political discourse, quick to vituperate the elites, who campaigned on social networks from the United States, without setting a foot in Chile because of his legal disputes for non-payment of alimony. This could offer Kast, in the second round, an unexpected reserve of votes.

Follow neck and neck the candidate of Christian Democracy supported by the Socialist Party, Yasna Provoste (11.61%) and, on the right, Sebastian Sichel (12.79%), who dragged like a ball unpopularity of outgoing President Sebastian Piñera, entangled in corruption and tax evasion scandals, and whose collapse has contributed decisively to the rise of the far-right candidate. Contrary to a smooth and polished campaign, for which he played the moderation card, the latter, on Sunday evening, immediately said to himself “Ready to discuss” with Kast, despite his “Differences”. “José Antonio Kast represents a totalitarian and fascist spirit. We cannot tolerate fascism ”, on the contrary warned Provoste.

“Certified copy of Bolsonaro”

On the left, progressive Marco Enriquez-Ominami and far-left candidate Eduardo Artés total 9%. On paper, the additions give the victory in the second round, on December 19, to the neofascist option … “Kast is a carbon copy of Bolsonaro, a personal friend who shares his admiration for Pinochet and his neoliberal legacy. He follows the same strategy, he holds the same hate speeches, analysis Fabiola Girão, professor of law at the University of Valparaiso. Member of the dominant caste, supported by evangelical churches, he stirred fear of communism throughout the campaign. He is determined to torpedo the constituent process which has given political legitimacy for the first time to social demands which have hitherto been suppressed. “

A kind of counter-revolutionary climate has set in.

Two years after the historic revolt of the Chilean people which radically challenged the economic model imposed in blood by the dictatorship to dismantle all social rights, deliver all common goods, all public services to the logic of profit, these results have indeed the bitter taste of the call to order. “It’s the hangover of the aftermath of carnival. The left did not know how to measure the effect on the minds of the images of clashes, of burnt down businesses which looped on television, on the evening of the second anniversary of the social revolt. A kind of counter-revolutionary climate has set in “, remarks Carlos Ominami, former Minister of the Economy in the Concertation government headed after the dictatorship by President Patricio Aylwin.

With a narrow margin for the second round, Gabriel Boric now hopes to convince the abstainers (53% of those registered) and to re-mobilize the camp of yes to a new Constitution, which had won 80% in 2020, when Kast had campaigned for maintaining the fundamental text left as a legacy by Pinochet. “We didn’t take to the streets to keep everything as it is! ” he launched Sunday evening in front of his supporters gathered on rue Santa-Isabel, defending “A transformative, serious and responsible project which guarantees the best quality of life for all”.

Fake news and riflemen

Target of a sickening fake news campaign orchestrated by the far right on social networks, the left-wing candidate certainly suffered, on the eve of the election, from the revelations of the very serious investigation site Ciper on abusive campaign spending of her ally Karina Oliva, candidate last May for the post of governor of the region of Santiago. Unanimously condemned by the coalition, which withdrew its support for the person concerned, a candidate for the Senate, these practices reinforced the already deep-rooted feeling, maintained by the far right, of generalized corruption of political parties of all stripes. Power played a role, with the staging of carabinieri harnessed as in war, breaking down the door of the Comunes party, to which Oliva belongs, to conduct a search which was nevertheless accepted with good grace by this political formation. Ciper’s revelations about the reckless spending of other candidates from the ranks of the right and the far right have been carefully ignored …

A feeling of abandonment

Another flaw, the left has especially led a campaign to mobilize the most militant sectors of a youth aspiring to new freedoms, without solid anchoring in the working classes whose social exclusion has worsened with the Covid pandemic. 19. In San Miguel, south of Santiago, the pobladores, gathered in the house of neighbors, shunned the ballot box. All of them had taken part with hope and enthusiasm in the 2019 demonstrations. They now feel dispossessed of the political process that this social movement has allowed to open, with the election of the Constitutional Convention.

Rosario, a fifty-something with sad and tired features, organizes in the neighboring town of La Granja ” ollas comunes’, soup kitchens that have multiplied during the months of confinement. “We don’t feel represented by the parties. They never keep their promises. Their candidates come forward to us for the elections, then they disappear, and we no longer see them until the next ballot ”, she sighs. At his side, Miguel, who came from the poor districts of Maipu, does not think anything else. He has harsh words for the protagonists of an electoral game from which he expects nothing. “During the October revolt, the inhabitants of lower-income neighborhoods voiced their anger as they had not done since the 1960s. We had rediscovered a strength, a potential for mobilization. There was a rage against social injustice and political exclusion of the people, he remembers.We have been abandoned for too long, made invisible: we have to be content with working, consuming, staying at home. The majority feeling, even among those of us who vote, is that we are not represented by anyone. There is desperation over the real possibilities for change, because we have no popular alternative. They all maintain a consensus us to stay in this system that prevents us from living and developing fully as human beings. “

At the other end of the capital, in La Dehesa, one of the only four municipalities in Chile to have rejected, in 2020, the option of the new Constitution, in the shade of opulent villas resembling Swiss chalets or English cottages dozing on the flanks of the Andes, the bourgeois, them, came in droves. Determined to defend their class interests at all costs.

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