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Editorial: Chile's victorious left deserves our solidarity – and our vigilance

“IF CHILE was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave.” With these words Gabriel Boric, who has now been elected the country’s next president, began his election campaign.

The candidate of a united left alliance — Apruebo Dignidad — has scored an emphatic win, with a lead of more than 10 points over his rival Jose Antonio Kast.

The country had a choice between two very different futures. Kast is the younger brother of the Chicago School free market economist who ran the central bank under dictator General Pinochet, and an open apologist for the tyrant.

Boric, by contrast, is a candidate of the streets, a protest leader who became known through the mammoth demonstrations against neoliberalism that have shaken Chile in recent years, forcing the outgoing government of Sebastian Pinera to hold a referendum on a new constitution to replace that of the Pinochet era.

Indeed, his election win is not spoken of by Chile’s socialists and communists as a single incident, the way liberals see democracy — a box-ticking exercise held every few years. It is talked of as another step forward for the people’s revolt that began in the streets in 2019. 

Boric’s victory speech, the celebratory statements of left alliance partners such as the Communist Party, the chants of the hundreds of thousands on the streets of Santiago all referenced that ongoing process with the words: “We continue.”

There is another poignant meaning to those words in a country whose last elected socialist government was drowned in blood by Pinochet in 1973. 

The Chilean people chose a socialist path when they elected Salvador Allende 51 years ago. 

Their choice was denied them because, in the words of the US strategist and war criminal Henry Kissinger, Washington was not going to “stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be allowed to decide.” 

Those Chilean voters have just given him a stinging rebuke.

As Boric’s words indicate, Chile was the test run for a neoliberal project that has wreaked havoc across the world since. Pinochet’s brutal suppression of opposition gave the Chicago School economists led by Milton Friedman — previously on the fringes of respectable economics in the West — free rein to impose their doctrine of privatisation and deregulation on an entire country. 

Unemployment soared, wages fell, poverty increased, public services collapsed; but the rich grew richer and the experiment was deemed a success, providing the blueprint for Reaganomics in the United States and Thatcherism in Britain. May its explicit rejection by Chileans now encourage us to do the same.

And Boric’s election places another key responsibility on us. Pinochet’s takeover is probably the most famous US-backed coup in history, but it is far from the only one.

Washington has intervened repeatedly to undermine, destabilise and overthrow left governments in Latin America right up to the present day. It has sponsored repeated violent uprisings in Venezuela, from the 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez to its current recognition of the unelected charlatan Juan Guaido as president. 

Its hand was visible in the “lawfare” used to exile Rafael Correa from Ecuador and to stop Lula running in the last presidential elections in Brazil. It played a key role in the military coup that overthrew Evo Morales in Bolivia in 2019, and is involved in the current attempts to destabilise the triumphantly re-elected socialist governments of Luis Arce there and of Pedro Castillo in Peru.

Every left government in Latin America is threatened by US imperialism. The Chilean people were made to pay dearly for choosing socialism in the past. 

Their courage in reclaiming that legacy deserves our solidarity and our vigilance against the disinformation and dirty tricks that will doubtless be deployed by our governments, newspapers and broadcasters against Chile’s revolution.

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