Chile ends the most polarized electoral campaign in its history | International

The Chilean presidential campaign has come to an end. On Thursday night, the country began the period of prohibition of electoral demonstrations until Sunday, when the first round of the most polarized presidential election in its history takes place. The closing events followed the particularities of the current political moment. There were massive rallies, small acts in village squares and even the unseen placement, in the early morning, of hundreds of weathervanes at the epicenter of the October 2019 revolts.

The two candidates leading the polls are at the opposite end of the political spectrum: José Antonio Kast, on the far right, and Gabriel Boric, on the far left. None of them will reach 50% of the valid votes – they compete against five other candidates – and for that reason they will have to compete in the second round on December 19th. This Thursday, they said goodbye to their followers. The first with an act in Santiago, bringing together 3,500 people in an upper-class neighborhood. The second decided to leave the capital. He chose a small village 80 kilometers away, called Casablanca, where he held a rally without any clashes. It was heard by only 400 people.

“What happens to Chile?” asked candidate Kast, who, unlike other radical right leaders such as Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Argentine Javier Milei, does not adopt an aggressive tone. “Why do we abandon our populations to the drug trafficking dictatorship? Why do we let delinquency run wild? Why do we allow populism to penetrate politics?” the GOP leader continued. “Today Chileans do not have freedom, because the only ones who walk the streets unpunished are criminals, vandals, terrorists,” said Kast, who repeated the word 11 times freedom and 7 the word justice.

Kast’s supporters were summoned to a park in the municipality of Las Condes, in the richest area of ​​Santiago. Organizers said 3,500 people had flocked there from different parts of the capital. In addition to large families linked to conservative Catholic currents or the upper classes, a complex and diversified world was also seen: people of various age groups, couples with children, complete families, inhabitants of lowly areas, immigrants, women of favorable middle age to abortion (which Kast rejects), young people and even some nostalgic Pinochetista who alone shouted in favor of the dictator – “Long live Chile, Pinochet”, as we heard in the late eighties – but which was not replicated by the rest of the public.

Nor were there just historic voters on the right. This is the case of Antonio (identified only by his first name), resident of a middle-class area of ​​the capital, Macul, where he maintained a small grocery store until the social uprisings of October 2019. it will return to destroy? We have hope with Kast and his project. Progress, work, undertake”, says this 58-year-old man, who now survives on government aid and a few odd jobs.

Among the rightist audience there were also immigrants, although Kast emphasized in his speech the need to control immigration. Linda Cáceres, 37, from Colombia, has lived in Chile for 12 years. Accompanied by her 51-year-old sister, she interrupts her dance to explain why she will vote for Kast on Sunday: “He is not opposed to foreigners, but to foreigners who come to do evil, with bad practices,” says the born real estate broker in Barranquilla.

The Chilean ultra-right candidate, José Antonio Kast, ends his electoral campaign in Las Condes, Santiago, this Thursday.
The Chilean ultra-right candidate, José Antonio Kast, ends his electoral campaign in Las Condes, Santiago, this Thursday. IVAN ALVARADO (Reuters)

In his speech, the candidate for La Moneda highlighted the differences in relation to his main opponent, Boric. “This Sunday Chile confronts two models of country. One, ours, which defends freedom and justice. Another, that of the Communist Party that Gabriel Boric leads, which is our safe passage to chaos, hunger and violence,” he said, before calling his wife and some of their nine children to the platform.

80 kilometers from the square of Kast, Boric ended his own campaign. He aroused little enthusiasm in Casablanca, an area of ​​vineyards along the road to Valparaíso. The candidate who aspires to be president of Chile through a heterogeneous left-wing alliance, in which the Communist Party participates, spoke to around 400 people in the main square of the town. On a mobile platform, he mentioned his past as a student leader and proclaimed himself heir to the demands of young people who, in October 2019, expressed their discontent with marches and protests, some of them very violent. “That this strategy that everything has to remain the same does not get infected, because if not, disaster will come,” said Boric, referring to the specter of chaos stirred up by his main rival.

In the public there were groups with banners from the Socialist and Communist parties, student leaders and some residents who went to the square. A giant puppet gave a little color to an act more thought out for the cameras than for the masses. Boric focused his speech on promises of structural changes in Chile, unlike his rival Kast. He said he would end the private pension system “to make it fairer” and promised free quality education, the main demand of the youngest, who now have to go into debt for the rest of their lives to pay for university. “My 40-year-old son says he hopes to finish paying his credit before his son turns 18, because that way he can get into debt again,” says Patricia Rodríguez, a retired religion teacher who declares herself a Communist.

The other candidates with any chance of making it to the second round also ended their campaign. Yasna Provoste, of Christian Democrats and the only female candidate, represents the values ​​of the center-left Concertation that led the democratic transition after Pinochet’s departure in 1990. Provoste organized a rally in Concepción, 500 kilometers south of Santiago. he promised to rebuild Chile “after his worst Government,” in reference to President Sebastián Piñera.

The most atypical closure was undoubtedly that of center-right candidate Sebastián Sichel, Piñera’s former Social Development minister. At dawn, his campaign teams planted hundreds of yellow pinwheels in Baquedano Square, the epicenter of the 2019 revolts and still today the scene of violent clashes. Sichel didn’t even notify the press, all he had to do was post the photos of the installation on his social networks. “When I’m president, this square will once again be full of colors and will shine for all Chileans,” he said at the venue, where he arrived at 7 am. Three hours later, the pinwheels were removed.

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