Chile election divides voters between protest and order By Reuters



© Reuters. Workers carry electoral materials inside a polling station forward of the upcoming presidential election in Santiago, Chile, November 19, 2021. Chileans go to the polls within the first spherical of presidential elections on November 21, 2021. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado


By Gram Slattery

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – For many Chileans, Plaza Baquedano, a broad rotary in central Santiago that for many years served as a middle of social protest, has turn into a strong image of hope.

For two years, metropolis residents have often gathered right here to protest pensions which can be too low, public transit charges which can be too excessive and, extra usually, an old-guard political class that simply doesn’t get it.

The statue of a nineteenth-century normal that sat on the plaza’s middle has been eliminated, and its plinth is now lined in left-wing political literature.

Most credit score the protests – identified collectively because the “estallido social” or “social outbreak” – for bringing about an ongoing rewrite of the nation’s Pinochet-era structure The “estallido” has additionally helped propel the candidacy of 35-year-old leftist Gabriel Boric, a relative newcomer who has turn into a severe contender on this Sunday’s presidential election

But not everyone seems to be so enthralled.

Among the detractors is Ramon Zambrano, a doorman at a close-by condo constructing.

“You can protest, but peacefully. They’re making a mess, burning cars, burning the metro. What are they doing?” he asks, whereas stating the injury accomplished to the now graffiti-covered constructing the place he works.

In a way, the scenario round Plaza Baquedano represents the central paradox of the election right here. While Chile’s Left gained vital traction by way of dozens of large marches that started in 2019, two years of sometimes-violent protests have made many voters cautious.

That – mixed with a widespread notion amongst Chileans that crime is on the rise – has created a chance for the Right to achieve floor by hammering house a law-and-order message.

While Boric, who rose to fame heading pupil protests in 2011, had been main for many of 2021, José Antonio Kast, an ultra-right-wing former congressman who attracts comparisons to Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, has risen within the polls dramatically in latest weeks.

Most latest polls present Kast drawing the biggest vote share on Sunday. A Nov. 6 survey by consultancy Activa Research has Kast narrowly successful a probable runoff in December.


For Kenneth Bunker, director of political consultancy Tresquintos, a very violent spherical of protests in late October helped enhance the Right.

A sequence of latest confrontations within the southern Araucania and Bio Bio provinces – the place police and separatist indigenous teams have lengthy feuded – has additionally performed into Kast’s arms.

“I think there is a very important part of the country that’s tired, they don’t want any more of this,” stated Gonzalo Cordero, a political marketing consultant and columnist for the nationwide La Tercera newspaper.

Boric’s supporters level out that nearly 80% of Chileans, many fed up with the nation’s ultra-free-market financial mannequin, voted final 12 months to rewrite the nation’s structure A conservative like Kast would do little to quell discontent, they argue.

“I think that if Kast is elected, there will be an ‘estallido 2.0’,” stated Pedro Muñoz, an elected member of the physique re-writing Chile’s structure.

Still, the Kast marketing campaign is leaning in to the law-and-order message, as are his supporters.

At his marketing campaign’s closing occasion on Thursday night time, he pledged repeatedly to crack down on crime. The strongest applause got here when he spoke in favor of cops, lots of whom have been accused by the general public and prosecutors of utilizing violence towards protestors.

Several supporters insisted with out proof in interviews that the “estallido” was the product of international provocateurs, such because the Venezuelan or Cuban governments.

Banners in favor of Trump had been widespread, as had been anti-crime banners resembling “Orden con Kast,” or “Order with Kast.”

Boric, for his half, is leaning in, too. While for Kast’s supporters the protests are a symptom of decline and dysfunction, for Boric, they’re an indication the earlier order was not price saving.

“We’re going to do our politics from the streets,” Boric stated at his personal marketing campaign occasion on Thursday night time.

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