Chileans have picked up their pens, off to the ballot box, they are slowly writing an obituary for neoliberalism. The Quilapayún rejoices. Traumatized after Pinochet's shameless quest for power, Chileans can let out a sigh of relief today.
Gabriel Boric's victory is the reason for their sigh of relief. In the birthplace of neoliberalism, we shall soon find the relics of it.
Boric as of today is the youngest president of Chile. And the second youngest state leader in the world. He vows to bury neoliberalism. Boric was one of the leaders negotiating the agreement that prepared the way for a referendum on changing the Constitution during Chile's civil unrest in 2019. The 35-year-old former law student, leading a leftist coalition of the broad Frente Amplio and the Communist Party, is now the copper-rich country's next leader. After winning the official primaries with 60% of the popular vote, he was chosen as the presidential candidate of the Apruebo Dignidad coalition (which included the Broad Front, the Communist Party, and other smaller movements) in 2021. Boric won the second round of the presidential election on December 19, 2021, defeating José Antonio Kast with 55.9% of the vote.
Who is Kast?
Kast, a devout Roman Catholic and father of nine, rose from the far right after receiving less than 8% of the vote in 2017. As a supporter of Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, he rose slowly in the polls this time with a divisive message emphasising conservative family values and exploiting Chileans' fears that a surge in migration — primarily from Haiti and Venezuela — is fueling crime.
As a legislator, he has a history of going after Chile's LGBTQ community and advocating for stricter abortion laws. He also accused outgoing President Sebastian Pinera, a fellow conservative, of betraying the economic legacy of the country's former military leader, Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Miguel Kast, Kast's brother, was one of Pinochet's most trusted advisers.
But, Kast's tryst with the tyranny of far right runs deep. A little too deep perhaps. Kast and his brothers are not the only far right members in the family. In fact, their father Michael Kast was a Nazi. Originally born in Germany, Mr Kast settled in Chile after the second world War. He not just fought against the soviet union, but was also most likely a member of Hitler Youth. At the age of 18, he joined the Nazis. Mr. Kast has been involved in terrible controversies, including forced disappearance of factory workers. Needless to say, Antonio Kast keeps defending his daddy, after all, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. One of his sons was the poster boy of the Chicago Boys.
He is not alone in his fight. He has been endorsed by celebrities such as Pedro Pascal ( Javier Peña from Narcos) and Viggo Mortensen. With so many celebrities endorsing him, it is likely that he will be labeled as just another entitled millennial by the far right. While I disagree with the entitled millennial bit, as everybody deserves to live with dignity, which happens to be the premise of Socialism, I would still say that it would be wrong to put labels on anybody like that. Chileans are indeed entitled, for the have see the darkest of days- Murders, loved ones being snatched away from the police, unbridled sexual violence, manufactured shortages of goods under Pinochet's regimes. Chile also brims with inequality. As per OECD's Economic survey of Chile, persistently high inequality was already a key challenge for Chile where, despite progress in reducing poverty, 53% of households are classed as economically vulnerable, meaning they have no financial cushion to protect against a sudden drop in income, compared to an OECD average of 39%. The current taxation system does little to alleviate the miseries. Pinochet's regime indeed brings about a sense of uneasiness in the minds of Chileans. As his widow passed away this week, it is time to bid adieu to the Chicago Boys as well