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Dyer: Chilean elections do not fit the Americas Go Crazy narrative

British journalist Claude Cockburn once claimed that he won a competition among London Times sub-editors to write the most boring headline and get it published in the newspaper. His winning title: Small earthquake in Chile, not many injuries.

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British journalist Claude Cockburn once claimed that he won a competition among London Times sub-editors to write the most boring headline and get it published in the newspaper. His winning title: Small earthquake in Chile, not many injuries.

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This must annoy the Chileans, but elsewhere their country is synonymous with boredom. Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, when asked about Chile’s geopolitical importance, once joked: “Chile is a dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica.

Anyway, here’s an article on tomorrow’s presidential election in Chile, and I’ll try not to make it too boring (although it doesn’t help that the right-wing candidate is an act of tribute. to Donald Trump).

Many journalists present it as a new episode of the series The Americas Go Crazy. After Trump in the United States and Bolsonaro in Brazil, here is another far-right autocrat who bases his speech on nationalism, racism and disregard for laws and rules that restrict lesser men.

Indeed, some journalists, desperate by a narrative line that sticks, even present this election as a repetition of the great Chilean tragedy of 1973-90, when the left-wing Allende government was violently overthrown by the 17-year-old dictatorship of Augusto. Pinochet (3,000 executed or “missing”, 30,000 tortured, etc.). But it’s not like that at all.

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The big surprise in the first round of the presidential election last month was that far-right politician José Antonio Kast got the most votes. He promises to save Chile from Communists (although the Communist candidate only got one percent of the vote) and evil immigrants and job thieves.

Since 1.5 million immigrants, mostly Venezuelan and Haitian refugees, have entered the country (19 million inhabitants) in recent years, many Chileans have felt overwhelmed. Kast says he will dig a mighty ditch along the 7,801 kilometer Chilean border to stop them – the idea of ​​a mighty wall was already taken – and that promise is successful.

Kast portrays his opponent in tomorrow’s second round, Gabriel Boric, as a ‘communist’, but the 35-year-old former student leader is a sheep in wolf disguise. He suffers from the reflex romanticism of the Latin American left, calling his colleagues “comrades” and occasionally saluting with closed fists, but his political project is hardly revolutionary.

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There are the usual elements on feminism, the green economy, and the rights of the LGBT community and indigenous peoples, but the political heart of Boric’s agenda is the expansion of public health and pension systems, reducing the week. working from 44 to 40 hours and rebuilding the national rail system.

This is the kind of program Joe Biden would happily engage in. The question really is whether this is radical enough to persuade disillusioned veterans of the massive street protests of 2019 to come vote for Boric.

Chile is a prosperous country where half the population worries about making their money last until the next payday. It has the worst income inequality of any developed country, thanks in large part to the legacy of the Pinochet years.

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Other countries that have voted for populist autocrats know from bitter experience that this kind of situation gives the fast-talking snake oil sellers a lot of work, so Chilean Democrats are right to be concerned. But the last votes that really mattered in Chile showed a different picture.

Some 78 percent of Chilean voters approved a national convention to draft a new constitution to replace that of the Pinochet era in 2020. In the election of those responsible for drafting that constitution last May, the right-wing parties did not could not even elect a third of the members had to veto elements of the constitution that the right did not like.

The Chilean electorate is clearly volatile, but less than half bothered to vote in the first round last month. They were waiting for the second round, to choose between two presidential candidates, not seven.

In the last poll before the vote, Boric was still leading with 52 percent to Kast’s 48 percent. It’s close, but it’s probably enough.

Gwynne Dyer is a freelance journalist based in London, England.

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