Chile elections 2021: Kast promises “order and progress” if he wins in Chile | International

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The Chilean candidate of the extreme right, José Antonio Kast, participates in the second and last debate for the presidency held in Santiago on December 19.
The Chilean candidate of the extreme right, José Antonio Kast, participates in the second and last debate for the presidency held in Santiago on December 19.IVAN ALVARADO (Reuters)

José Antonio Kast (Santiago de Chile, 55 years old) will face the leftist Gabriel Boric on December 19 for the presidency of Chile. Leader of the most extreme right, he has distanced himself in the campaign for the second round from his most radical positions against minority rights, abortion or the defense of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. The traditional Chilean right has lined up behind its promises of “peace, order and progress” to stop an eventual progressive government. In a questionnaire that he responded to in writing to EL PAÍS – the candidate declined to do the interview in person – he considers his candidacy the product of the fatigue of Chileans “to violence and the inability of the authorities” to manage the consequences of the riots in 2019. This newspaper also requested an interview with Gabriel Boric, who excused himself due to campaign complications.

The shadow of the dictatorship that ruled Chile between 1973 and 1990 has weighed down on Kast’s image. The left reminds him that in 1988 he voted for the continuity of Pinochet in the referendum that had to decide on whether or not the dictator would remain in La Moneda. “Chileans are tired of the permanent attitude of the left to talk about the past,” defends Kast. His opinion is that we must turn the page, because “Pinochet died 15 years ago and the authoritarian government ended more than 30”.

Kast agrees with a classic argument of the Chilean right: the dictatorship “made economic reforms of openness and support to the private sector that have been the foundation of the progress” of the country. When asked about the human rights violations committed by the regime, he says that he condemns them with “force and clarity.” “But it is time to solve the challenges of the present and move strongly into the future,” he insists. In any case, he is relentless when he opines about figures from the past such as Salvador Allende, the socialist president deposed by Pinochet on September 11, 1973. “He was primarily responsible for the worst political, economic and social crisis of the last century in Chile. With 36% of the votes he wanted to impose, apart from the Constitution and the law, a Marxist regime ”, he adds.

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A lawyer, father of nine and a follower of the Schönstatt Catholic movement, Kast held radical positions on abortion, same-sex marriage and women’s rights throughout his political career. In the past he spoke of “gay dictatorship” to criticize an installation in La Moneda with the colors of the LGTB movement and rant against what he considers “gender ideology”. But, after his victory in the first electoral round, he has moderated his speech in his attempt to capture the center vote and gather support among the traditional right. “I am a democrat, which means unrestricted commitment and respect for institutions and popular sovereignty. The laws are followed, and as president I will be the first to do so, “he replied when asked if he would be willing to retrace the achievements made on issues such as abortion and gender equality from La Moneda.

To the right of the current president’s coalition, Sebastián Piñera, Kast was a deputy of the Independent Democratic Union (UDI), which he resigned to found the Republican Party two years ago. A good part of the candidate’s campaign for the ballot sought to distance him from the extreme right that he represented in the first round. “I am not willing to be classified as something that I am not,” he replies. “I am very far from extremes and this campaign has allowed many Chileans to realize that,” he says.

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His campaign team eliminated the most controversial points of his program, especially those related to discrimination against minorities. The pruning, however, survived a proposal for the president to have extraordinary powers in case of internal commotion – such as arresting people in places other than jails – and the construction of a ditch in the north of the country to stop immigration. On the first point, Kast says that any power of attorney must be “validated by Congress.” And regarding the ditch, he denied that it is similar to the wall that Donald Trump proposed to build on the border with Mexico. “It is a comprehensive policy, the ditch is one of several necessary measures to confront organized crime, drug trafficking, trafficking in persons and immigrants,” he replies.

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The political figure of Kast is associated with that of Donald Trump or the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, the most extreme of the South American presidents. But the candidate named Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan when asked to choose figures to reflect on. “They are champions of individual freedom, and who guided their countries towards greater well-being, progress, with a more efficient State and greater spaces and freedom for people,” says Kast. Asked about Bolsonaro in particular, he highlights “his commitment to fight corruption, crime and drug trafficking.” Kast is also a regional adherent of Vox, the formation of the Spanish far right. He said of her that “it has emerged as a new force to challenge the more extreme left that had positioned itself with the same failed recipes as always.”

The left is for Kast the great enemy to defeat. And his rival, Gabriel Boric, emulator of all the evils he represents. “The political project of my contender, the candidate of the Communist Party and the Broad Front, is based on ideas and proposals that have failed throughout the world. With Gabriel Boric, Chile has secured its path to poverty, to a gigantic and inefficient state. In addition, to a state of permanent violence and lack of control, because it has promoted projects to pardon vandals and criminals, “he says.

In fact, the October 2019 riots were not for Kast a “social outbreak” but rather a “serious outbreak of violence”. That is why he opposed the convocation of the Constituent Convention that today drafts a new Constitution that buries the one inherited from Pinochet. “I am against constitutional change under the blackmail of the violent men who threatened our institutions and brought many political sectors to their knees,” he says. On the work of the Convention, controlled by the left, he promises to support it if he becomes president. “If he can reach an agreement and draw up a Constitution that is good for Chile,” he maintains, “I will not only vote in favor, but I will sign it with pride.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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