The Biden Administration, members of Congress in both parties, and American businesses invested in Latin America will on Sunday have their eyes riveted on the presidential election Chile — the world’s top copper producer and a hallmark of market economics for decades.
Chileans on Sunday will have as clear as choice for president as they have had since the country resumed free elections in 1993: Gabriel Boric, 35, a deputy (congressman) and onetime leader of the radical student movement Autonomous Left at the University of Chile, and former Deputy Jose Antonio Kast, 55, head of the new Republican Action (conservative) Party, a devout Roman Catholic and father of nine.
What worries Washington and the U.S. business community is that a victory by Boric—who heads a coalition that includes the Communist Party — will make Chile the latest in a string of Latin American nations to veer to the far-left.
“2021 has been a super-election year in Latin America, with Chile being the tenth to hold elections in twelve months,” Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center For A Secure Free Society, told Newsmax, “Two were sham elections —Venezuela and Nicaragua. And [leftist] authoritarians took some of the more important ones like the Peruvian presidential election with Pedro Castillo and the Honduran presidential election with Xiomara Castro.”
But, Humire quickly added, “a more market-friendly, pro-democracy president, Guillermo Lasso, emerged in Ecuador and the midterm local elections in Argentina turned out favorably for those against the autocratic ruling coalition of Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner.”
Boric’s agenda seems to have come from the playbooks of Peru’s Castillo and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro: higher taxes, greater public spending, a shorter work week, and ending the market-based pension system that is the most lasting legacy of Chile’s last military strongman Augusto Pinochet (who had help devising it from University of Chicago economists).
Kast, who narrowly topped the initial 7-candidate race in November, goes into the run-off Sunday as a stalwart “law and order” man, a champion of free market economics, and of a measure not far removed from Donald Trump’s “border wall:” a ditch along Northern Chile designed to keep out illegal immigrants from Venezuela and Haiti.
The so-called “Kast Ditch”, according to the Financial Times, “has proved popular in border regions.”
Looming large behind who wins on Sunday is the Constitutional Convention now under way in the capital city of Santiago. By July, the 155-member convention, dominated by Boric-style leftists, must hammer out a new constitution to replace that which was sculpted under Pinochet. Conservatives such as Kast fear it will begin a new era of a stronger state and greater public spending — in short, a “social democracy” in the mold of Scandinavia.
Within 60 days of the convention approving a document, the Chilean voters will give their “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” in a nationwide plebiscite.
Although several polls have given Boric a slight lead, the just-completed AtlasIntel Poll showed Kast and Boric in a virtual tie nationwide — Kast at 48.5 percent and Boric at 48.4 percent.
“I think things are pretty even in terms of [leftist] authoritarian vs. democracy in Latin American elections this year,” said Joseph Humire, “The Chile general election this Sunday will make the difference.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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