Chile: Hardline Conservative Wins Round 1 of Presidential Race After Years of Leftist Terrorism

SANTIAGO, CHILE - NOVEMBER 18: Chilean presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast of the Rep
Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images

Conservative candidate José Antonio Kast narrowly defeated communist-supported candidate Gabriel Boric on Sunday in the first round of presidential elections in Chile, setting the stage for a run-off vote in December lacking any centrist option.

Chileans also took power away from the Congressional leftist coalitions, stripping the left of a plurality in the Senate and leaving its numbers significantly diminished in the lower chamber.

Chile runs on a multi-party system, so the first round of presidential elections typically features a large number of candidates.

In Congress, parties must make alliances with like-minded parties to promote their legislation as the competition among parties makes any one party having a majority rare.

Chilean presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast  addresses supporters ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP via Getty)

The South American country has faced nearly three years of ongoing far-left rioting, looting, and terrorism, beginning in late 2019 allegedly as a response to current President Sebastián Piñera’s government considering fare hikes for the Santiago metro system. Piñera, a “center-right” billionaire, ceded to nearly every far-left demand made since the terrorism began, including supporting a move to trash the nation’s constitution and replace it with a document more favorable to socialism.

While “protesters” initially claimed they simply sought to stop metro fare hikes in the capital, claiming they disproportionately hurt the working class and students, they repeatedly firebombed and burned down churches and other cultural institutions that had nothing to do with the metro system. The nation’s constitution does not address public transit.

Kast founded his Republican Party in 2019 as an alternative to Piñera’s brand of pro-China, corporate politics. He is now running as part of the Christian Social Front, a coalition of several conservative and center-right parties. Boric is a member of the far-left Broad Front party and is running as part of the Approve Dignity coalition, which includes the Communist Party of Chile.

With 100 percent of the votes in, Kast received the most votes of any candidate with 27.9 percent. Boric, coming in second, received 25.8 percent of the vote. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote or more, Chile’s electoral system necessitates a run-off between the top two candidates.

In Congress, the leftist coalition in the Senate lost its majority. While retaining it in the Chamber of Deputies, it lost a significant number of members to the Republican Party and other conservative groups. Piñera’s independent coalition also lost representation.

The loss in the Senate is particularly painful to the left because, as Chile’s Tele13 noted, “they will no longer be able to, with their own votes, impeach a president.”

The leftists impeached Piñera, after years of concessions to rioters, in October over alleged corruption.

Following his victory on Sunday night, Kast defined the election as “a choice between freedom and communism.”

“We have interpreted that a majority of Chileans want a calm and safe country,” Kast said in his victory speech. “It is time for us to recover Chile … this December we are not just choosing a president, we are choosing between freedom and communism, between democracy and communism.”

Kast described voter confidence in him as a sign of “hope” in the nation and a step towards “peace, order, progress, and freedom.” He specifically addressed the situation in La Araucanía, a region plagued by indigenous Mapuche terrorism, as a priority for his prospective administration.

The conservative candidate’s emphasis on peace and security was a hallmark of his campaign, which grew in popularity during the tumult of leftist riots in the past two years. Chilean outlet Ámbito noted that, on Saturday, he argued with a foreign reporter over the repeated use of the term “ultra-right” to describe his political ideology.

“Don’t label me ‘ultra-right-wing’ because I am not,” Kast reportedly said, “I hope that you categorize me as a common-sense candidate.”

Kast was one of the loudest voices in Chilean politics against riots erupting in Santiago in 2019 and continuing for at least a year, in a political scene where many described them as understandable political assemblies. Other conservative voices, though few at the time, noted that eyewitnesses had seen organized criminals handing out food and drugs to would-be looters and rioters in exchange for their participation in the violence.

“If I see how the Chilean left has acted throughout history on the street, how they organize and react, it has nothing to do with what we are seeing now. Guys, for example, handing out food before the protests, alcohol, we assume drugs,” René Barba, a councilman in a Santiago suburb, told Breitbart News in 2019. “There are people [at rioting sites] there waiting for them with food and before that, they give them drinks, so they’re throwing parties in those places.”

Among the many shocking images of the past two years were hollowed-out churches, some burned to the ground, presumably to protest public transit fares. In October 2020, a leftist terrorist group burned one of Santiago’s most historic churches and vandalized it with satanic graffiti, including an inverted cross and the number “666.” The graffiti did not explain the link between satanic iconography and the Santiago public transit system.

“Chileans, it is time to wake up. The left wants to see your country burn and start everything from zero. Defend your fatherland,” Kast wrote on social media at the time.

Rather than result in a cessation of terrorism, a referendum in October 2020 in which Chileans voted to trash their constitution triggered yet another wave of leftist mob violence, including attacks on police stations to prevent authorities from being able to address the violence.

In addition to making an assertive response to organized violence a centerpiece of his campaign, Kast has been prolific on social media. In October, Kast appeared on the Chinese outlet Tiktok dressed as Obi Wan-Kenobi for Halloween.

@joseantoniokastWe have the high grounds! Que tengas buena semana✌ ##parati ##chile ##tiktokchile ##halloween ##starwars ##kast♬ sonido original – Jose Antonio Kast

Boric, a leader of student protests prior to his ascent to the national legislature, is campaigning as the only thing standing in between Chile and authoritarianism. He abstained from directly attacking the frontrunner on Sunday, however.

“I am not here to occupy this tribune to speak ill of the other candidates. We came to make hope, dialogue, and unity our crusade,” Boric said.

“In this challenge, which we accept with humility, everyone has a place. We have to work for the unity of democrats,” Boric continued. “We know that it is narrow, that it is difficult, but we will win. It is precisely in difficult times when the mettle of leaderships is tested.”

Boric faced a significant challenge last week in his attempt to brand his radical leftist coalition the choice for people who believe in democracy after the Communist Party of Chile, which is part of his alliance, issued a statement applauding Nicaragua’s Sandinista dictator Daniel Ortega for hosting what Organization of American States (OAS) head Luis Almagro called “the worst election possible.” Ortega arrested seven presidential candidates before the election to essentially run unopposed, then used state violence to suppress resistance to his regime on the day of the election. Dissidents also reported widespread allegations of fraud and voter intimidation.

Spain’s El País noted that Boric’s allies endorsing a fraudulent, authoritarian “election” shortly before Boric’s own election had forced Boric to “attempt to split with a party with which he has an alliance to form a government, but leaves him in an uncomfortable position facing the final stretch of elections on Sunday.”

Boric issued a statement urging the Communist Party to “retract its posture regarding Nicaragua.”

Speaking to the Spanish newspaper, international human rights attorney Paz Zárate noted that the Communist Party’s support for Ortega was “not surprising” but that its attitude was not limited to that organization.

“The PC [Communist Party] in Chile has supported atrocities in China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, just to name a few recent examples. But the problem is not just the PC,” Zárate said. “This is endemic of that sector.”

A profile by Time magazine noted that, if elected, Boric “would hike taxes on major industries, ramp up public spending to overhaul services, and scrap the private pension system that has underpinned Chile’s capital markets.”

Chile’s run-off presidential election is scheduled to take place on December 19.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


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