After yesterday's nightmare of a day, let's start today with some good news. A few weeks ago we looked at the Chilean presidential election. A Nazi candidate-- José Antonio Kast-- had led the first round and looked to be sailing into the presidency until his character came under closer scrutiny when he was caught lying about his father, a German who he claimed was not a Nazi. Evidence was uncovered to the contrary and, given the context of the part German Nazis played in the Pinochet years (murdering the disappeared), Kast began losing support. Yesterday, soon after voting ended, Kast, who claimed he is just like Trump, Pinochet and Bolsonaro (rather than Hitler) conceded defeat soon after votes started coming in and it became clear he had lost.
The New York Times had instant coverage from Santiago by Pascal Bonnefoy and Ernesto Londoño and making a big point not just about Boric being a leftist but also about how young he is. At 35, he will be the youngest president Chile has ever had-- and likely the first one with tattoos. By late Sunday, it looked like Boric was expanding the 54.7% to 45.3% lead over his rival that caused Kast to concede. Kast used Republican Party consultants and was close with Marco Rubio, who is in love with every fascist everywhere.
Boric, they reported "He will assume office at the final stage of a yearslong initiative to draft a new Constitution, an effort that is likely to bring about profound legal and political changes on issues including gender equality, Indigenous rights and environmental protections. Capitalizing on widespread discontent with the centrist political factions that have traded power in recent decades, Mr. Boric attracted voters by pledging to reduce inequality and promising to raise taxes on the rich to fund a substantial expansion of the social safety net, more generous pensions and a greener economy." Kast, an actual Nazi, and the right-wing media portrayed Boric as a "radical communist" who would wreck Chile's economy.
The race was the most polarizing and acrimonious in recent history, presenting Chileans with starkly different visions on issues including the role of the state in the economy, the rights of historically marginalized groups and public safety.
And the stakes are higher than in other presidential contests: The incoming president stands to profoundly shape the effort to replace Chile’s Constitution, imposed in 1980 when the country was under military rule. Chileans voted overwhelmingly last year to draft a new one.
Boric, leader of the leftist coalition Frente Amplio, has been a staunch supporter of the push to update the charter, which was set in motion by a wave of protests in late 2019 over inequality, the cost of living and Chile’s free market economy.
In contrast, Kast campaigned vigorously against establishing a constitutional convention, whose members Chileans elected in May. The body is drafting a new charter that voters will approve or reject in a direct vote next September.
Members of the convention saw Kast’s rise as an existential threat to their work, fearing he could marshal the resources and the bully pulpit of the presidency to persuade voters to reject a revised Constitution.
“There’s so much at stake,” said Patricia Politzer, a member of the convention from Santiago. “The president has enormous power and he could use the full backing of the state to campaign against the new Constitution.”
Kast and Boric clashed forcefully during the final days of the race, each presenting the prospect of his loss as a catastrophe for the South American nation of 19 million people.
Boric referred to his rival as a fascist and assailed several of his plans, which including expanding the prison system and empowering the security forces to more forcefully crack down on Indigenous challenges to land rights in the south of the country.
Kast told voters a Boric presidency would destroy the foundations of Chile’s economy and would likely put the nation on a path toward becoming a failed state like Venezuela.
“This has been a campaign dominated by fear, to a degree we’ve never seen before,” said Claudia Heiss, a political science professor at the University of Chile. “That can do damage in the long run because it deteriorates the political climate.”
Boric and Kast each found traction with voters who had become fed up with the center-left and center-right political factions that have traded power in Chile in recent decades. The conservative incumbent, Sebastián Piñera, has seen his approval ratings plummet below 20 percent over the past two years.
Boric got his start in politics as a prominent organizer of the large student demonstrations in 2011 that persuaded the government to grant low-income students tuition-free education. He was first elected to congress in 2014.
A native of Punta Arenas, Chile’s southernmost province, Boric made taking bold steps to curb global warming a core promise of his campaign. This included a politically risky proposal to raise taxes on fuel.
Boric, who has tattoos and dislikes wearing ties, is a departure from the mold of traditional presidential candidates. He has also spoken publicly about being diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, a condition for which he was briefly hospitalized in 2018.
In the wake of the sometimes violent street protests and political turmoil set off by an increase in subway fares in October 2019, he vowed to turn a litany of grievances that had been building over generations into an overhaul of public policy. Mr. Boric said it was necessary to raise taxes on corporations and the ultrarich in order to expand the social safety net and create a more egalitarian society.
“Today, many older people are working themselves to death after backbreaking labor all their lives,” he said during the race’s final debate, promising to create a system of more generous pensions. “That is unfair.”
...The new president will struggle to carry out sweeping changes any time soon, said Claudio Fuentes, a political science professor at Diego Portales University in Santiago, noting the evenly divided incoming congress.
“The probability of making good” campaign promises “is low,” he said. “It’s a scenario in which it will be hard to push reforms through.”