Sunday, December 13, 2009

Election flurry in Chile: Not that anybody cares...

Well, after a sleepless night on an airplane, I arrived in Chile this morning and went straight to my hotel -- which happens to be the campaign headquarters for one of the main front-runners in the Chilean presidential elections. Wow!

But it´s not that anyone in America even knows that there are elections down here -- and not as if anyone cares. But for the Chileans -- who were not allowed to have elections at all for 27 years after the bloody coup of September 11, 1973 -- they take their elections very seriously indeed.
Let´s hope that someday Americans will take their elections seriously too.

"Pinera is running as a central candidate," said one of his campaign managers. "He stood up to Pinochet." That´s a definite plus on his side. "There is probably also going to be one more candidate who will get a majority of votes in this election. And then there will be a run-off." Interesting. I´m hoping that Marcos whats-his-name will win. His father used to be a left-wing guerilla. For me, that´s a plus.

Pinera owns Lan airlines and an island and an estancia and a credit card company and is full of big bucks -- like so many recent U.S. candidates who have bought their way into office. But there seems to be a buzz here in Pinera´s favor and there are big billboards of him all over Santiago. We´ll see.

"Pinera wasn´t against Pinochet per se," said one other source I talked to. "He was just out of the country during the September 11 coup.¨ Oh. And one member of the press stated that Pinera would sweep the elections and there wouldn´t have to be a run-off. But another member of the press was rooting for Marcos. "If Marcos can get to the run-off, he will win because the other center-left coalition will start backing him instead of their own candidates."

In any case, I´m here at Pinera´s campaign headquarters and tonight is the big night! The press room is filling up. Let´s wait and see.

Chilean elections should be very important to Americans -- if for no other reason than that Chile is where we get all our fresh off-season strawberries. But also because of the strong people-oriented political wind that is now sweeping South America after so many years of rule by dictatorship and torture. And if Pinera wins, where will he stand? With the nascent democratic movement or with the old-guard Latin American friends of the CIA?

For a more in-depth analysis of the election by the Guardian of London, click here: