Chileans vote for president on Sunday

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile’s outgoing president narrowly avoided impeachment this month. A month earlier, the army had been sent south to confront an increasingly violent uprising by indigenous militants. And since July, deputies in the capital has a new Constitution, prompted by mass protests in 2019 over inequality and the rising cost of life.

This tumultuous period, die the coronavirus pandemic has further shaken up, set the stage for the first round of an unusually polarized presidential election on Sunday. The centrist coalitions die have acted power in the past decades have been underdogs in An race directed by more radical candidates who Chileans offer strongly opposing views for the future.

Chile’s election is one of many in Latin America in which are sitting and ruling parties? on the defensive, partly because of the unrest and the economic pain die caused the pandemic. The main ones are: next year’s presidential contests in Brazil and Colombia, where the virus has killed hundreds of thousands of people and crippled large segments of their economies.

“Covid exposed inequalities, exacerbated the inequalities and made it’s easy to die to politicize inequalities in An way which we expect will be bad hard on incumbents,” said Jennifer Pribble, a political science professor at University of Richmond who is specialized in Latin America. “It has led to malaise and dissatisfaction die burgers have to ask on someone.”

The leading candidates die compete to replace President Sebastián Piñera who does not come in comment for re-election — are Gabriel Boric, a left-wing legislator? who promises to expand it massively safety net, and José Antonio Kast, a far-right former Congressman who represents a drastically slimmer state in giving security forces broader powers to curb violence and disorder.

The latest public opinion polls in Chili – die have been unreliable in recent elections — suggest that Mr Kast go to the lead in the final stretch. But the polls also show that mr. Boric would probably prevail in a drain in December if, as expected, no candidate wins in the first round.

Mr. Kast — who won 8 percent of the vote when he ran for president in 2017 – and Mr. Boric surprised political observers by rising to the top of the presidential contest as more moderate politicians gained little traction.

Both tapped in to the simmering discontent with the established parties die have dominated politics in Chile since the return of democracy in the 1990s.

Grisel Riquelme, a 39-year-old seamstress in Santiago, the capital, who runs An small family business, said she got so frustrated with politics that she can spoil her voice in protest.

“All candidates come with same message, that they go help people, that they go fix problems, that the economy will recover, that there will be jobs and die quality of life will improve,” she said. “But then they forget all the promises; the faces change but everything remains the same.”

Dissatisfaction with the status quo burst out unexpected in October 2019, when an increase in Santiago metro fares set off a wave of months of demonstrations. Vandalism, including arson of metro stations and others government buildings, provoked a harsh response from security forces, die firing rubber bullets in crowds of protesters, blinding hundreds.

After failing to calm the streets for weeks, Mr. Piñera, a billionaire who was far from the ideal leader to tackle an insurrection over inequality, agreed to support an initiative to convene a constitutional convention in end of December 2019.

That process began in Can with the election of delegates die represent broad segments of Chilean society die was historically marginalized. The body drafting the new The constitution recognizes gender equality and is led by Elisa Loncón, a scholar of the Mapuche Indigenous community.

Given how unstable and violent streets in Chile became in 2019, and how many Latin Americans have lost their faith in democracy, the deal to get a new Constitution was a big one achievement, argued Pia Mundaca, the deputy director of Espacio Público, a research group in Chile studying politics system.

“It is very powerful, given our history in Latin America with democracy and undemocratic moments, that a political crisis as deep as the one Chili faced in end of 2019 found a democratic and institutional exit,” she said.

The delegates of the constitutional convention debate over large-scale economic and social rights, die to turn things upside down like the pension system, reproductive rights and indigenous claims over their ancestral land.

mr. Boric, 35, a tattooed politician who shuns ties and would become Chile’s youngest ever leader, has been a vocal supporter of the new constitutional process, which he sees as a vehicle to drastically overhaul Chile market-friendly economy and politics system.

“If Chili Were the Cradle” of neoliberalism, it will also be his grave,” his campaign platform says.

mr boric, who comes from Punta Arenas, a city in the far south, has proposed a major overhaul of the social safety system, shortening the working week to 40 hours from 44 and forgiving student debt. The significant increase in public expenses die he envisioned would be compensated by: new taxes on the ultra-rich and a more effective system until fight corruption, being campaign platform says.

He Supports Legalizing Abortion – Which Is Banned in Chili with a handfull of exceptions – and same-sex marriage.

Mr Kast, 55, a lawyer who served in Congress, from 2002 to 2018, is adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage and legal abortion. He has suggested hard-line tactics to restore security in the country, marked by a proposal to build a ditch along the border with Bolivia, a gateway for undocumented immigrants.

He says the Chilean bureaucracy should be radically reduced, for consolidate 24 ministries in 12, but in favor of significant expansion of the prison system. His heavily armed approach would extend to armed uprising by Mapuche indigenous factions in the Aracunía region, where some attempt to restore ancestral land controlled by timber companies by occupying the land and burning trucks, homes and churches.

Mr Pinera, who last month called a state in of emergency in Aracunía, where he deployed the army, is completing to be second, non-consecutive term in office on a sour tone. Lawmakers were close this month to impeach him over a transaction in 2010 involving a mining company that partially in hands was off his family.

He leaves office with almost 79 percent of the electorate disapproving of to be performance, and with many take a dim view of the treatment of the political class of the challenges of the past a few years.

“Governing has never been easy, and we faced mostly hard times” he said in an address on Wednesday. “Unfortunately this time I have the feeling that in the world of politics we lacked greatness, unity, cooperation, dialogue and agreements to face the enormous and urgent challenges.”

Vivian Asun, 21, a law student in Santiago, said they trust little in had that Mr Piñera’s successor would . prove more effective. She wasn’t in stands for vote on Sunday because they are far from the city where she is registered. But it is just too, she said.

“I have no idea who I would vote for,” she said. “It’s not that I’m indifferent over who wins, but there is no candidate who can provide in the needs die we have facing as a nation.”

Pascale Bonnefoy reported from Santiago, and Ernesto London from Florianopolis, Brazil.

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