Presidential choice between criminality and justice, By Owei Lakemfa

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Chilean President-elect Gabriel Boric
Chilean President-elect Gabriel Boric. Picture credit: REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

The Sunday, December 19 presidential election re-run between the beneficiaries of those crimes, and their victims, turned the elections into a stiff battle between barbarity and civilisation, cruelty and its victims, savagery and the people on whom it was visited. It emphasised the age-long dichotomy between fascism and democracy.

Some of the most unspeakable crimes against a people were visited on the Chilean citizenry in 1973, with the nightmare continuing for about two decades.

The Sunday, December 19 presidential election re-run between the beneficiaries of those crimes, and their victims, turned the elections into a stiff battle between barbarity and civilisation, cruelty and its victims, savagery and the people on whom it was visited. It emphasised the age-long dichotomy between fascism and democracy.

The face-off in this year’s Chilean elections actually began in 1973 when the fascist forces in Chile and their American bosses concluded that with the popularity of radical President Salvador Allende, they had no hope of winning elections.

So, a coup by the Chilean Armed Forces, led by General Augusto Pinochet, was staged on September 11, 1973.

But given the popularity of the government, the coup had to be one in which no prisoners would be taken.

When it took place, President Allende, surrounded by vast enemy forces, refused to surrender and the plotters sent in the Air Force to level the Presidential Palace. Since resistance continued, the army resorted to shooting anybody found in the streets.

Thousands of Chileans were detained in any available space, including the barracks, prisons, playgrounds and detention facilities.

Then, the National Stadium was opened and detainees were cramped into it. In one of its most infamous actions, when the popular poet and musician, Victor Jara, who was detained in the stadium, began to sing to cheer up people, the army ordered him to stop. When he refused, they started breaking his fingers. But he continued until all his fingers were broken. Finally, the army killed him.

Thousands of Chilean were killed in the coup, with over 40,000  detained. In the following years, many were detained and many in detention simply disappeared. This is the legacy of Pinochet.

As such, the attempts to beatify Pinochet and get a party established in his honour elected, was far worse than an attempt to present Adolf Hitler as a saint and get the Nazi Party in Germany elected.

Indeed, apart from being a supporter of the late General Pinochet, José Antonio Kast (JAK), the presidential candidate of the fascists, who had led in the first round, had a Nazi heritage.

His father, Michael Kast, was a German youth who on September 1, 1942, five months before his 18 birthday, which would have made him eligible, had joined the Nazi National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP), with membership number 9271831.

JAK, an admirer of the incumbent fascist president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who had assumed he was headed for a clear victory, travelled to the United States a week before the rerun, to brief investors and Senator Marco Rubi on the policies of his in-coming ‘administration’.

He also joined the German fascist army, although he could not be held liable for this, as there was a general call up of all German youths.

The senior Kast migrated to Santiago, Chile in 1950, and the following year, his wife and two eldest children joined him. Eventually, the family established a restaurant chain.

It is not certain under what political ideology Michael Kast, who died in 2014, brought up his children, but they turned out to be fascists.

JAK’s brother, Miguel Kast, was the Chilean governor of the Central Bank under Pinochet.

JAK, himself the son of German migrants, campaigned in the elections to stop Haitian and Venezuelan migrants, who he accused of being the criminals in Chile. He emphasised a fascist control of the state and conservative social values.

His campaign spokesperson was Macarena Santelices, a great-niece of General Pinochet. The Pinochet coup against democracy was organised by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and bankrolled by the International Telephone and Telegraphic (ITT) Corporation.

JAK, an admirer of the incumbent fascist president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who had assumed he was headed for a clear victory, travelled to the United States a week before the rerun, to brief investors and Senator Marco Rubi on the policies of his in-coming ‘administration’.

It is in Nollywood films that good always overcomes evil; in reality, it is often a savage fight between the two, with no way of predicting the winner.

In human history, and in more contemporary times, evil people have often won, and they almost did in the Chilean elections with the coalition which ironically called itself the Christian Social Front.

This coalition included the Republican Party and the Christian Conservative Party. This front regards the Chilean fascist, General Pinochet, as its patron saint and wants to continue his Hitlerite legacy.

This coalition had built up like a category five storm and was ready to sweep the polls, when the victims of Pinochet and their heirs harkened to the battle cry which resonated in the voice of a 35-year-old mass protest leader, Gabriel Boric.

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With the victory of progressive forces in the Bolivian, Honduran, and now, Chilean elections, the forces of fascism are in retreat in Latin America; once more, a demonstration that a people united can change their circumstances.

They then built the widest coalition of victims ever seen in the country.

The movement simply called itself ‘Social Convergence’ as it was truly a convergence of all who want to bury the Pinochet legacy and re-orientate large sections of the populace, which under Pinochet were fed diets of savagery and had been conditioned to accept brutality and criminality in governance as normal.

This progressive coalition included The Commons, Democratic Revolutionary and Common Force parties.

In the November presidential election, JAK, the candidate of the Pinochet party, won with 1,961,779 votes or 27.91 per cent.

Boric came second with 1,815,024 votes or 25.82 per cent. With votes split in various ways and without a clear winner, a rerun had to hold. JAK assumed that with the rerun, he would rally other parties and secure a landslide.

He told his supporters: “Chile deserves peace and freedom – and that’s what we’re going to give you…We are going to choose between freedom and communism – between democracy and communism”.

On the other hand, Boric expressed confidence that “hope will triumph over fear.”

In the rerun, the silent Chilean population, especially in the rural areas, woke up to the reality of another fascist government looming in the horizon; they turned out in record numbers, pushing the voter turnout of 47 per cent in the first round, to 56 per cent.

This secured Boric 55.9 per cent of the votes and the Chilean presidency, which he is scheduled to assume in March 2022. In his victory speech in a country where one per cent of the population owns 25 per cent of the wealth, Boric declared: “We are a generation that emerged in public life demanding that our rights be respected as rights and not treated like consumer goods or a business.

“We know there continues to be justice for the rich, and justice for the poor, but we no longer will permit that the poor keep paying the price of Chile’s inequality.”

With the victory of progressive forces in the Bolivian, Honduran, and now, Chilean elections, the forces of fascism are in retreat in Latin America; once more, a demonstration that a people united can change their circumstances.

Owei Lakemfa, a former secretary general of African workers, is a human rights activist, journalist and author. 

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