Around 10 in the morning, sandwiches the size of a brick circulate at a good pace at the Bavaria de la Panamericana Sur, one of the flagship restaurants on the long Chilean highway. Almost six decades ago, the German Olga Rist and her husband of the same nationality, Miguel Kast Schindele – a veteran of World War II and a member of the Nazi party, according to an AP investigation -, like so many other Germans, landed in the Southern Cone. American looking for a new beginning. The couple opted to sell loin sandwich sandwiches at a kiosk located at the entrance to Paine, a rural city located an hour south of Santiago. This Tuesday, most of the diners in the eastern part of the municipality were hoping that José Antonio Kast, the youngest of the 10 children of the founders of Bavaria, would become the new president of Chile next Sunday.
The first round revealed that the electoral map is significantly divided between voters in large cities and those in rural areas. The candidate Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old deputy from the Frente Amplio, in alliance with the Communist Party, achieved solid support in the main urban centers of Chile. However, its proposals in the direction of a welfare state, and its Magellan discourse in favor of decentralization were insufficient to take over the regions: it barely prevailed in four of the 16 territories (one of them the Metropolitan Region of Santiago, where live seven of the 19 million inhabitants of the country). For his part, Kast, a 55-year-old ultra-conservative lawyer from the extreme right of the Republican Party, won ample support in much of the south, especially in Araucanía, a region plagued by violence that has been facing the Mexican government since the late 1990s. Mapuche people with the Chilean State. The good figures of Kast are repeated in the north with the flags of homeland and public order.
Boric has his fort in the Santiago region, but the towns located in the south of the capital are another bastion of Kast, along with the affluent area. He got good numbers in small towns with a strong peasant tradition such as San Pedro, Melipilla, Calera de Tango, Buin, Pirque and Paine, the land where his parents settled and where he raised his nine children.
Despite the fact that Paine is part of the district that he represented as a deputy between 2002 and 2014, he gave him a moderate victory of 31.8% compared to 26.5% for Boric. The distance between the two contenders was even closer in the leftist’s hometown, Punta Arenas, where he led the options with 31% compared to 27.8% for Kast. The municipality is a land of traditions and agriculture, a world that is friendly to the ultra-conservative proposals, and it is also the territory where there were more human rights victims during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship in relation to the population.
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“There are many things that are said about you and your family,” Boric warned in the last presidential debate on Monday. “I’m not going to use those rumors on social networks to try to touch your candidacy, for example, about the events in Paine,” added the leftist. According to the investigative work of the human rights lawyer Luciano Fouillioux, plaintiff of the “Paine cause”, “the Kast family knew from the beginning” the case of the execution of 34 peasants on a hill, and “kept silent for 40 years”. The Supreme Court plans to review that case in the coming weeks. “José Antonio was 7 years old. No one has held him responsible for shooting, watch out ”, clarifies the lawyer, who claims to have handed over the background of that file to Boric’s advisers. Kast has denied the direct involvement of his family in the cases of human rights violations in Paine.
Fouillioux explains that Paine, being a town where the agrarian reform of the Christian Democratic president Eduardo Frei Montalva (1964 and 1970) and the Socialist president Salvador Allende entered very strong, “there was a lot of expropriation and many unions that took land.” “The main repression that took place immediately after the coup was in Paine.” On the fence of the Paine Memorial, a place to remember the seventy executed politicians and the detainees who disappeared from the town during the dictatorship, hangs a canvas that reads: “When you think about the future, don’t let your memory fail you.”
Sergio Deza, 54, met Kast’s father, one of the brothers and the aspiring La Moneda himself, who took his children to the same school in Paine where his own went. The owner of a bakery and a pallet factory, like his entire circle, is going to vote for the right-wing candidate because he wants “order and economic stability,” he affirms in Oriente Bavaria, at the foot of the highway. He does not believe, however, that he will be elected. “They have found him with the disappeared detainees when José Antonio has nothing to do with it. He was seven years old in 1973, just like me. Farm workers talk about it. They have made them aware ”, he points out.
“Kast generates memories of the past. The single last name brings many memories here. Paine suffered a lot with everything that happened in ’73 [año del golpe militar]”Says 54-year-old temporary worker Andrea Galdames, who claims to have friends whose parents were victims of human rights violations. “He pretends nothing has happened,” he adds on a shady bench in the center of the city of 70,000 inhabitants. Despite criticism of the candidate’s attitude, he has considered voting for him in the second round, although he has not yet defined himself. She only wants security, and that her children and her grandson “do not live as they are living.” In the town where he resides, he comments, gunshots and fireworks are heard at night – symbols of drug gangs – and he confesses that he walks the streets in fear. The issue of security is the one that is repeated the most among the inhabitants of this municipality in the south of Santiago.
Most of those interviewed for this report claimed to have been a victim of crime in recent years. Examples such as Álvaro Reyes, a transporter who has been attacked twice on the road, are repeated. “One enters a population [chabola] and he doesn’t know if he’s going to get out, “said the Kast voter, who considers Boric’s team to be” all criminals. ” At the Martinez family funeral home, near the municipality, Molotov cocktails were dropped in the garden during the social outbreak of 2019. The 18 and 19-year-old brothers attended the first marches, but the robberies and looting of their own businesses Neighbors took away their desire and ended up sinking their adherence to the movement. They do not want to be photographed or give their names for fear of being burned [escrachen]. And less than a week before the elections, they still don’t know who to vote for.
One of Kast’s main flanks is his stance on what are known as value issues. His rejection of same-sex marriage or abortion are considered by political analysts as progressive issues that carry more weight when voting in the cities than in the countryside. Independent of the electoral map, Kast won the first round with 27.91% of the preferences against 25.83% of Boric. Throughout the election campaign, the candidates have modified their programs and moderated their speeches to conquer the ballot box of the 46% who voted for another option in the first round. Although Boric leads several polls for election day, there is a large mass of undecided (around 20%) who do not feel represented by these two poles and who, if they finally go to the polls.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.