'Fear of communism,' why Chile's rich vote right
Santiago (AFP) – In Santiago's upper-class neighborhood of Lo Barnechea with its Ferraris, mansions and luxury retailers, 51.68 percent of people voted for far-right, neoliberal candidate Jose Antonio Kast in Chile's first presidential election round in November.
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It is one of two neighborhoods out of dozens in greater Santiago where Kast, an apologist for Chile's brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet, amassed more than half the votes out of the seven candidates then in the race.
His rival in Sunday's runoff, leftist lawmaker Gabriel Boric, won the most neighborhoods, mainly in middle-class areas, but did not break the 50-percent ceiling in any of them.
Kast's defenders are vociferous in Lo Barnechea. The neighborhood is notable for also having gone against the stream last year to vote "No" in a referendum on whether Chile should approve a new constitution to replace the one enacted under Pinochet.
"One of the most serious issues is that it (the left) endorses violence," said entrepreneur Sergio Adauy, 52, referring to anti-inequality protests and clashes with the police in 2019 that caused dozens of deaths.
The resulting "uncertainty and fear" risks causing an outflow of capital, he said.
According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the top one percent of the population of Chile holds a quarter of the wealth.
More money, more fear
Kast is against marriage for same-sex couples and is anti-abortion. He is also a defender of Pinochet and the neoliberal economic system he left behind.
The candidate wants to cut taxes and social spending, contrary to Boric -- who wants to increase them and represents a leftist alliance that includes Chile's Communist Party.
For 53-year-old teacher Maria-Luisa Galleguillos, another resident of Lo Barnechea -- an area with golf and equestrian clubs some 20 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of central Santiago -- Kast will "give us security."
"I have children who recently started working. I want that they can live in their country, that they don't need to go to other countries to work," she told AFP at an up-market mall.
She said Kast's image has suffered due to "misunderstandings" spread by a "leftist" media, and explained she was grateful to Pinochet for making Chile a relatively rich country in Latin America.
"If it wasn't for Pinochet... we would have been like Venezuela today," Galleguillos said.
There is "much, much, much fear of communism here," said Francisca Olivares, 48, a lawyer who told AFP she was "an exception" in Lo Barnechea for not supporting Kast.
In the neighborhood there is "more money, therefore there is more fear of losing it," she said.
"We are an extremely divided country in terms of class. And that generates a lot of fear of the other, a lot of hatred of the other."
In the neighborhood of Nunoa in Santiago's voting district 10, where Boric had his highest first-round turnout with 39.4 percent, voters say they are driven by civil rights and social equality.
Chile's social uprising was sparked in late 2018 by a rise in the price of metro tickets, but soon transformed into a revolt against the country's status as one of the most unequal countries in the world.
Nunoa resident Karla, 25, who did not wish to give her full name, said she supports Boric because of "what he stands for in terms of rights, social equality."
The student said she is particularly concerned about Chile's private pensions system, which costs workers an arm and a leg, yet leaves them with little to retire on.
But for Adauy, the entrepreneur, more accessible healthcare, education and fairer pensions, amount to handouts and are harmful to the economy.
He referred to the hardship Chileans suffered -- partly due to US economic blockades -- under the rule of Salvador Allende, Latin America's first elected Marxist president who was ousted by Pinochet in a coup d'etat.
"I think it is better to have a debit card than a ration card, which is what we had under the government of Allende," he said.
© 2021 AFP