Attentive to the national political situation remains José Antonio Viera-Gallo, emblematic figure of the former Concertación and undersecretary of Justice of President Salvador Allende.
“Boric’s program is social democratic, but the problem is its level of gradualness,” he points out to BioBioChile the former ambassador to Argentina between 2015 and 2018 on the candidate of the Frente Amplio.
Who was also a member of the Constitutional Court from 2010 to 2013, describes José Antonio Kast as “an authoritarian conservative”.
“I think there is a problem of origin and it is the lack of unity,” he mentions, meanwhile, about the current left wing, adding that the large number of candidates from that spectrum caused support to disperse.
Allende and Boric
-Do you see similarities between the processes of Gabriel Boric and Salvador Allende?
Fortunately, the current situation is much calmer and less risky. In the case of Salvador Allende, there was no second round, but it was Congress that elected the president, and two days before it did, a far-right command of Patria y Libertad, led by General Roberto Viaux and with support American, assassinated the commander-in-chief of the Army. In other words, the country was experiencing a tremendously tense climate, I would not even say of uncertainty but it was one of maximum confrontation. Today it is not like that, today the country is calm and the institutions are functioning calmly and we hope that it will continue to do so.
-In the event of Boric’s arrival to the presidency, what should he do to avoid resembling Allende?
I understand that all people and countries learn from their experiences, and in that case the transformations that the new stage that Chile is going to experience will have to be done gradually and through institutional means. And that implies dialogue in parliament, which is also tied and has a fairly plural composition. So, on the one hand, it means understanding, as in his time Salvador Allende himself wanted, that the changes be made institutionally, but secondly, opening a fluid dialogue with the forces that are in the opposition.
-Is this election more polarized than that of ’73, considering that neither Alessandri nor Allende were as dissimilar as Boric and Kast?
No, I think that the Popular Unity program, the political climate of the late 1960s and early 1970s, was much more radical than it is today. You have to think that it was the time of the Vietnam War, a time in which until a few years before there was the emblematic figure of Che Guevara, the enormous influence of the Cuban revolution in Chile, in short. I think what happened before was much more radical.
Boric’s program is social democratic, but the problem is its level of gradualism. He has said that some of his measures are going to be taken in a term that can last eight years, so what he will have to decide if he is elected is what priorities his own government will have, and which ones will to be promoted within a budgetary framework that is already defined by the Budget Law that has just been approved in Congress and with the fiscal restrictions that we all know.
Support from the former Concertación
-Do you agree with the blank check to Boric from the former Concertación?
I do not understand that it is a blank check. What I understand is that most of the former Concertación parties, we will see what happens with the Christian Democracy, decide to give it their vote. Another thing is, later, how he plans to configure his government, how he is going to define his teams and whether he thinks or not, and whether the parties want him or not, to broaden his political base of support. That will be a later stage. For that in Chile there are three months that go from the time the president is elected until he takes office.
-Should Giorgio Jackson come out as head of the command for Boric’s second place after Kast? What advice would you give Boric?
I’m too far off to say who should be the campaign manager. What I do think is good is that he has expanded his team to new people, and surely he will be able to continue doing so. The entry of Senator Montes seems good to me, as well as that of Izkia Siches, among other people who have joined the command. And I imagine that this could be expanded as conversations with the other parties also take place.
-Who of the former Concertación could join a possible Boric government? Who do you see from that perspective?
To anybody. I believe that each and every one of us who had a leading role in the Concertación are supporters of social changes, we are all supporters of facing the new challenges that Chilean society has.
-Do you think Giorgio Jackson could be a good Interior Minister and Camila Vallejo a good spokesperson? Considering that both will be without charges from next March.
If Boric is elected, I do not know how he intends to configure his ministerial team, but without a doubt that the two people you have appointed me have the conditions to occupy positions of importance.
-Will you vote in this second round?
Yeah right. I have always voted, and I have never voted blank.
Situation on the left
-How do you feel that the left has evolved compared to the times of the Concertación?
I think that the left in general is at a crossroads at this historical stage.
-In what sense?
In the sense that it is up to him to make his political proposals within a framework of globalization of capitalism. And that’s like a reality check. In addition, we must consider the emergence of new very significant actors that come especially from the Pacific area.
What the progressive world seeks is to make the principle of solidarity more effective, to strengthen common goods, and to guarantee equal opportunities. So, they are values and principles that are in contradiction, or at least in tension, with the way the system works. Hence the enormous difficulty.
The figure of Kast
-Were you surprised by the first place achieved by José Antonio Kast in the first round?
Looking at what is happening in the world, if we consider Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and we consider what is happening in France, where there are two candidates similar in part to Kast, or the same can be said of Italy, of so many countries , the emergence of a more radical right and in certain aspects more authoritarian, is almost a reaction to the changes that are happening in Chile and in the world. Especially in our scenario with uncontrolled immigration in the north, a situation of extreme and violent conflict in La Araucanía, and unleashed crime in all cities. So, the demand for order is very strong and that is why, in all the countries of the world, there will always be someone from the right or the extreme right who says “I’m going to put order.” But they are very difficult demands to satisfy.
-Do you attribute Kast’s rise in the polls to that, as well as his first place in the first round?
He knew how to capture a discontent towards the government of Sebastián Piñera but from a position of greater emphasis on extreme right-wing attitudes and approaches. The same happened in Brazil.
-In that sense, what self-criticism would the Frente Amplio, and the left in general, have to make for not having materialized the first place that Boric held in most polls?
I believe that there is a problem of origin and it is the lack of unity. If we think for a minute, progressivism went with several candidates. We were going with Yasna Provoste, who was my candidate, was Gabriel Boric and also Marco Enríquez-Ominami. So obviously that disperses support.
– From certain sectors they have accused Kast of fascist. What do you think?
It’s like when on the right they say that Boric is a communist. Well no. I think they are epithets, forms of disqualification. I rather think that Kast is an authoritarian conservative. Now that that brings back reminiscences of what fascism was at the time … it may be. But I don’t think he can be classified as a technically “fascist” or “neo-fascist” person. This term must be used precisely. What I do believe is that he is a tremendously authoritarian person and that he has values that are of intolerance, and therefore, he is a risk for democracy. Sure, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a fascist.
-In view of an eventual triumph for José Antonio Kast, how do you see the stage in our country?
I think it will be more tense politically, there may be more conflict for him as president with the Constitutional Convention, and since he does not propose major reforms, it is likely that he will not have so many problems in the plan, because I do not think he wants to do major transformations. But yes, he is going to have enormous challenges to comply with what he has said, for example regarding how he is going to face illegal immigration, how he is going to face the problem in La Araucanía, etc. It is going to have many difficulties, the country is going to become more polarized.
-You mentioned the Constitutional Convention. How do you feel the work of this government has been in relation to this body?
In general I would not make a major criticism. Chafing may have occurred, but they are running chafing. In general, the government has been respectful of the autonomy of the convention.
-It has been said that the government that comes will be transitional precisely because of the convention. In that sense, what are your expectations regarding the new government, regardless of which candidate is elected?
I think it is very different if the future president is Boric or Kast.
If it is Boric, there will be a harmony between the government and the changes that will be enshrined in the draft constitution that will emanate, we hope, from the convention. If it is Kast, there will be a contradiction, because Kast himself has said that in that case he does not rule out calling for a vote “rejection” before that new Constitution. So, while one government would be functional to the political transition, the other government could abort that transition.
Trips for candidacies
-Do you think that the cases of Karina Oliva and Johannes Kaiser could affect the candidacies of Boric and Kast, respectively?
I could not answer. What I can say is that the Kaiser deputy seems completely dysfunctional to Kast’s candidacy. One of the leaders of the Republican Party said: “If we had known that that was what he thought, we would not have taken him as a candidate.” But how did they not know? It seems very strange to me. They added a person who had completely extremist views. Now, he withdrew from the party but in the Chamber he will have deputies voting with him.
Regarding Karina Oliva, it is unfortunate that there are still legal loopholes to circumvent the regulation of the financing of politics. I believe that it is a wake-up call for the Servel to make a more exhaustive examination of the accountabilities.
-Which of the two candidates do you think will be more comfortable going to get the votes of the center, or the votes of those who voted for Franco Parisi?
In the first place, all electoral technicians agree that the second round is a new election, different from the first. The scenario completely changes, so now, all of us who make up the electoral body, we have to choose between two possibilities. In that sense, what the candidates have to do to win is to position themselves in a new scenario that is different.
Obviously it is positive for either of the two that parties that did not support them in the first round, support them in the second round. But it is not enough, because the parties today do not have that discipline that they had in the past. The vote is much more volatile. They have to go out and seek the vote in that so-called “center electorate” but above all in that 54% who did not vote and who did not feel called by either of them or by the rest of the candidates who were left on the road and who They watch this contest from the front sidewalk.
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