Monday, November 22, 2021

Chile Votes

We don’t write about it every week, maybe not every month, but one of the issues COTTonLINE keeps an eye on is the state of our hemisphere. Today comes a good-news Associated Press report from Chile, which nation has mostly been a source of bad-news stories in recent years.

Two onetime outsiders hailing from opposite extremes of the political spectrum received the most votes Sunday in Chile’s presidential election but failed to garner enough support for an outright win, setting up a polarizing runoff in the region’s most advanced economy.

José Antonio Kast, a lawmaker who has a history of defending Chile’s military dictatorship, finished first with 28% of the vote compared to 26% for former student protest leader Gabriel Boric.

Kast, in a victory speech, doubled down on his far right rhetoric, framing the Dec. 19 runoff as a choice between “communism and liberty.” He blasted Boric as a puppet of Chile’s Communist Party — a member of the broad coalition supporting his candidacy — who would pardon “terrorists,” be soft on crime and promote instability in a country that has recently been wracked by protests laying bare deep social divisions.

AP didn’t consider this electoral outcome good news, that evaluation is mine. Interestingly, Chile faces some of the same problems we in the U.S. face.

Kast, 55, from the newly formed Republican Party, emerged from the far right fringe after having won less than 8% of the vote in 2017 as an independent. But he’s been steadily rising in the polls this time with a divisive discourse emphasizing conservative family values as well as attacking migrants — many from Haiti and Venezuela — he blames for crime.

Notice the AP’s bias, “far right fringe” and “divisive discourse” are loaded terms. Chile has intermittently demonstrated the ability to favor free markets and reject the far left, which Boric represents. When Chile has done so, its economy has boomed. 

As a result of which it has, as even AP admits, “the region’s most advanced economy.” We can hope this is one of those times. Also note many of the Haitians at our southern border are repeat-offender economic refugees coming here from Chile.