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Chile Prepares to Choose a New Direction

In a presidential vote this weekend, voters can choose between a product of the country’s protest movement or a Pinochet apologist.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Chilean presidential candidates pose.
Chilean presidential candidates Gabriel Boric, José Antonio Kast, Yasna Provoste, Sebastián Sichel, Eduardo Artés, and Marco Enríquez-Ominami pose before an Annatel TV debate in Santiago, Chile, on Nov. 15. Esteban Felix/Pool/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Chile prepares for its presidential election, the Biden-Xi summit concludes, and the European Union targets Belarus for more sanctions.

Chile Chooses a New Future

Latin America’s tug of war between the right and left sides of the political spectrum is likely to renew this weekend as voters in Chile go to the polls in the first round of a presidential election.

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Chile prepares for its presidential election, the Biden-Xi summit concludes, and the European Union targets Belarus for more sanctions.

Chile Chooses a New Future

Latin America’s tug of war between the right and left sides of the political spectrum is likely to renew this weekend as voters in Chile go to the polls in the first round of a presidential election.

Although voters will be called on to decide a new leader, the fate of its outgoing president, Sebastián Piñera, will be decided by the Senate today after Chile’s lower house voted to impeach him last week. Piñera is accused of helping his family strike a sweetheart deal on a local mining project in a case revived by the Pandora Papers’ publication. Piñera denies wrongdoing, and it’s unlikely the Senate will vote to convict.

The most likely frontrunners come from opposite sides of Chile’s political divide and represent the desire for outsiders in a system still reeling from widespread protests in 2019.

Gabriel Boric, at age 35, is the youngest candidate running. His rise has been swift, initially coming to prominence as part of student protests in 2011 before becoming a two-term member of the Chamber of Deputies. He won the backing of the country’s left-wing coalition in a July primary, winning 60 percent of votes. When celebrating his victory in July, Boric declared: “If Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave.”

If Boric is focused on the future, his likely contender, José Antonio Kast, still seems enamored with the past. A supporter of late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, his right-wing populist approach has been compared to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s. After receiving a surprise 8 percent of votes in the first round of the 2017 presidential contest, Kast’s candidacy is now considered a more serious proposition and has led in the most recent polls as he siphons support from Sebastián Sichel of Piñera’s conservative Chile Vamos coalition.

Claudia Heiss, the head of political science at the University of Chile, cautions that despite the two frontrunners’ polarized views, only one candidate sits outside the mainstream.

“I think the image that we have one extreme left and one extreme right candidate is wrong,” Heiss said. “I do think that Kast is an extreme right-wing candidate, but Boric has not presented an extreme left-wing program—he has said his is a social democratic program in the line of what the Concertación was supposed to be doing,” Heiss added, referencing the center-left coalition that dissolved in 2013.

If the voter sentiment expressed earlier this year is any indication, Boric could buck polls and be well-placed for frontrunner status ahead of a December runoff. In May, when Chileans elected a body to rewrite its constitution, almost two-thirds of the members chosen came from independent or left-leaning groups.

What We’re Following Today

The Biden-Xi summit. U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, indicated broad satisfaction with an hourslong virtual summit on Monday evening, with the White House saying in a briefing with reporters that Biden had brought up Chinas “unfair trade and economic policies.” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by contrast, said U.S. support for Taiwan was “playing with fire.” Although no specific initiatives were announced, the two leaders agreed to maintain close communication.

EU talks tough on Belarus. European Union foreign ministers have agreed to impose further sanctions on Belarus as thousands of refugees and migrants, mostly from the Middle East, camp on the country’s border with Poland. EU leaders accuse Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko’s government of facilitating the passage of migrants as a kind of “hybrid attack” on the bloc.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell suggested the sanctions would be expanded to include “people, airlines, travel agencies, and everyone involved in this illegal push of migrants against our borders.” Borrell said the specifics would be announced in the coming days. It’s not clear whether the sanctions will impede the efforts of the Iraqi government, which will begin repatriation flights for citizens stuck on the Poland-Belarus border starting this Thursday.

In a sign that a resolution may be coming soon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a phone call with Lukashenko on Monday to discuss the issue. It’s the first time a Western leader has spoken with Lukashenko publicly since the Belarusian leader was accused of rigging the country’s August 2020 presidential election.

Keep an Eye On

U.S.-Russia tensions. On Monday, U.S. Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby said U.S. officials are concerned as they continue to see an unusual buildup of Russian forces and equipment near the border with Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will meet with his Ukrainian counterpart, the newly appointed Oleksiy Reznikov.

U.S. officials also admonished Russia on a separate issue after a Russian missile successfully took out a test satellite. U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price called the test “irresponsible” and, in the context of Russia’s claims to oppose the weaponization of space, “hypocritical.”

The Philippine presidential race. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will run for the country’s Senate in May 2022 elections, his top aide said on Monday, ending speculation that he would mount a bid for the vice presidency. The decision, if honored, effectively paves the way for two political dynasties to take control of the Philippines after Sara Duterte-Carpio, Duterte’s daughter and a popular mayor, joined forces with Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator. In a surprise turn, considering Duterte-Carpio’s lead in the polls, Marcos will lead the ticket, with Duterte-Carpio as the vice presidential candidate.

Violence in Ecuador. The head of Ecuador’s prison system and its armed forces chief have both resigned following another prison gang fight over the weekend that killed 68 inmates. In September, 119 prisoners were killed in the same jail. The fresh violence puts pressure on Ecuadoran President Guillermo Lasso as he institutes a 60-day state of emergency to tackle lawlessness within the prison system.

Odds and Ends

With Americans getting anxious over their Christmas shopping amid a global supply chain crunch, toymakers are taking to the skies to ensure timely delivery—and sales—ahead of the holiday season.

Ty Warner, owner of the Beanie Babies brand of stuffed animal toys, has reportedly chartered more than 150 flights from factories in China in recent weeks, at $1.5 million a flight, to provide for eager shoppers. “I’m here to tell our customers that, despite what they might have read or heard, Christmas is not canceled,” Warner said in a press release.

Warner is not the only business leader skipping shipping this season as global demand for air freight increased 9.1 percent in September compared to 2019.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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