For the first time since Chile's transition to democracy in 1990, a leading presidential candidate — José Antonio Kast — has not only endorsed the legacy of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, but also put forward a policy program to revive it. Foreign governments played a sordid role in financing, facilitating, and legitimating Pinochet's rise and rule. We, parliamentarians and public figures from around the world, will not repeat their mistake.
José Antonio Kast has time and again defended the military dictatorship and the violent coup that brought it to power in 1973. "I thank them for giving us freedom," Kast has said. During the 2017 presidential campaign, he said, "In the military government, they did many things for the people's human rights," flatly denying the horrors perpetrated against thousands of Chileans. Kast makes no secret of his affinity for Pinochet. "If Pinochet were alive, he would have voted for me," Kast has said.
Not only does Kast defend pinochetismo; he also promises to restore its legacy in government. Kast's proposed plan of government would eliminate the Ministry of Women and prohibit abortion; introduce a Chilean ICE to detain migrants and deploy security forces to hunt down political dissenters; withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council and pardon the torturers of the military dictatorship; and introduce new presidential emergency powers to deploy security forces. This same program denies climate change, "redefines" the status of Indigenous peoples and terminate their internationally-recognized rights to prior consultation, and aggressively privatizes Chilean natural resources.
Elected officials from Kast's Republican Party have already provided some clues as to what his governance would mean: an extraordinary threat to women, migrants, and Indigenous nations. Newly elected deputy Johannes Kaiser recently wondered if women's right to vote "was a good idea." To quote him in full: "Women stop going to the park because they are afraid of immigrants who might rape them, but they keep voting for the same parties that are bringing those people in, and you really wonder if [women's] right to vote was a good idea," he said.
For decades, the Chilean people struggled to bury the legacy of pinochetismo in their country. Thousands lost their lives during the dictatorship, and millions more mobilized to overthrow Pinochet and restore dignity to the country. Three decades later, in the protest movement that began in October 2019, the people of Chile once again rose up in defense of popular sovereignty, winning the right to a Constitutional Convention — a process that José Antonio Kast has opposed, decried, and promised to undermine.
International solidarity failed the people of Pinochet's Chile. It must not fail Chileans today. We write now in defense of Chilean democracy, in defense of the overwhelming apruebo vote to write a new constitution, and in defense of the women, Indigenous nations, migrants, and democratic principles that Kast's victory could once again betray.
Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona, Spain
Rashida Tlaib, Member of the House of Representatives, United States of America
Yanis Varoufakis, Member of the Hellenic Parliament, Greece
Celso Amorim, former Minister of Foreign Relations, Brazil
Ernesto Samper, former President, Colombia
Aloizio Mercadante, former Minister of Education, Brazil
Jeremy Corbyn, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom
Noam Chomsky, Linguist and Activist, United States of America
Naomi Klein, Author, Canada
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Member of the European Parliament, France
Christian Rodriguez, Head of International Relations for La France Insoumise, France
Andrés Arauz, Economist and former Presidential Candidate, Ecuador
Gerardo Pisarello, Member of the 13th Congress of Deputies, Spain
John Hendy QC, Member of the House of Lords, United Kingdom
Graham Morris, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom
Zarah Sultana, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom
Idoia Villanueva, Member of European Parliament, Spain
Richard Burgon, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom
Sam Tarry, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom
Democratic Socialists of America, International Committee, United States of America
Niki Ashton, Member of Parliament, Canada
Leah Gazan, Member of Parliament, Canada
Matthew Green, Member of Parliament, Canada
Alexandre Boulerice - Rosemont-- La Petite-Patrie, Canada
Sevim Dagdalen, Member of Bundestag, Germany
Zaklin Nastic, Member of Bundestag, Germany
Andrej Hunko, Member of Bundestag, Germany
Ali Al-Dailami, Member of Bundestag, Germany
Leila Chaibi, Member of European Parliament, France
Slavoj Zizek, Author and Philosopher, Slovenia
Nicolas Jaar, Artist, United States of America
Avi Lewis, Author and Activist, Canada
Vijay Prashad, Author and Activist, India
Antón Gómez-Reino, Vice President of the Foreign Affairs Commission, Spain
Lucía Muñoz Dalda, Member of the 13th Congress of Deputies, Spain
Alicia Castro, former Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Argentina
Crystal Warner, National Executive Vice-President, Canada Employment and Immigration Union, Canada
Scott Ludlam, former Senator, Australia
Ammar Jan, Scholar and Activist, Pakistan
Dr. Yara Hawari, Scholar and Activist, Palestine
Ahdaf Soueif, Author and Activist, Egypt
Srećko Horvat, Philosopher and Author, Croatia
Photo: Susana Hidalgo, Twitter