José Antonio Kast, A Return To Pinochet?

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Presidential elections will be held in Chile on November 21. The leader of the extreme right, José Antonio Kast, leads the polls despite his controversial statements and positions.

Jose Antonio Kast

His government program called Atrévete Chile has as its flag issues of security, economic recovery, compliance with the law and curbing migration. Photo: TW-joseantoniokast

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramirez Ramos

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Leer en español: José Antonio Kast ¿una vuelta a Pinochet?

It is paradoxical that in Chile, a country that in recent years has experienced a strong social outbreak and in which what has been considered the first joint constitution with the representation of indigenous peoples is being drafted, a candidate from the extreme right is obtaining the first places of intention to vote, as indicated by the Cadem and Pulso Ciudadano polls.

This is José Antonio Kast, a 55-year-old lawyer belonging to the recently founded (2019) Republican Party of Chile, who has been a deputy 4 times. It is not the first time that this lawyer, of German origin, appears in the elections of the southern country. In 2017 he was already a candidate and obtained 522,946 votes, which corresponded to 7.93% of the vote, where the winner was the current right-wing President Sebastián Piñera.

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His government program called Atrévete Chile has as its flag issues of security, economic recovery, compliance with the law, and curbing migration. For example, he has pointed out that a ditch should be built on the border to stop illegal migration. In fact, Kast has repeatedly expressed his affinity with Bolsonaro, Trump, or the Vox party of Spain.

In addition, his brother Michael Kast Rist held several high-level positions during the government of the military regime of dictator Augusto Pinochet, under a government in which there were systematic human rights violations. However, Kast has not been afraid to point out his admiration for Pinochet. In fact, he has had to rectify that he does not accept the violation of human rights. However, their ideals are certainly based on conservative values.

The underlying question is, what is the reason for its strong positioning in the polls? On the one hand, the government of Sebastián Piñera has had very low approval ratings. He was recently associated with the Pandora Papers. This has caused even members of his party to withdraw their support for the ruling candidate, Sebastián Sichel, to give it to Kast, who among the Chilean parties, is the most similar because he is also on the right.

However, Sichel has tried to differentiate himself from Kast. On several occasions, he has pointed out that extremes would harm the country and that it is not convenient to return to the "old right" (alluding to Kast). However, before a possible second round of Kast, the votes of the ruling party would be necessary as well as its support to govern.

In fact, it is a very polarized election in which the other candidate who appears as the favorite is Gabriel Boric, who is running for the Broad Left Front and the Communist Party. According to the latest Cadem poll, the difference between the candidates would be 5 points, with 24% for Kast and 19% for Boric. Then there are the candidates Yasna Provoste, from the center-left, with 11%; Sebastián Sichel, from the official party, with 8% and Franco Parisi, from the right, with 7%.

On the other hand, Chile is facing strong inflation and a social and institutional crisis that, as in most countries, has been aggravated by the pandemic. Likewise, the excesses that were experienced during the protests have led the most conservative Chilean sector to demand tougher measures in public order.

The candidate who arrives at the Casa de la Moneda will have the challenge of implementing the new Magna Carta that must be endorsed in a popular plebiscite in 2022. In this regard, Elisa Loncón, professor, academic, and researcher of the Mapuche People, is the president of the Constituent Convention, who has stated in an interview with La Tercera newspaper, that the next president must respect the decisions made there, regardless of his political affiliation. "The work of the Convention should not be presidentialized [...] The government that comes, whatever it is, has to respect the new Constitution."