The number of foreign-born citizens living in Chile has more than tripled, to 1.5 million, between 2014 and the end of 2019, many fleeing violence and poverty in Haiti and Venezuela – continue to arrive in the country.
José Antonio Kast, a supporter of the dictator Augusto Pinochet, is presently leading the presidential election opinion polls. “The far right have managed to weaponise migration in the run-up to the election,” says Romina Ramos, a sociologist at Arturo Prat University in Iquique. “They are playing on fears of a threat to security and Chilean identity – and Kast has been able to present the arrivals as an invasion which must be fought off.”
“Fundamentally, Kast defends free markets and traditional values, and favours the image of a monocultural Chile of European descent,” says Gilberto Aranda, an academic at the University of Chile who studies rightwing movements. “His advance in the polls is a reaction to the simplistic narrative that everything that has happened over the last 30 years has been negative.”
His programme focuses on conservative family values, moves against corruption and the strengthening of public security. He makes a point of criticising political correctness, inclusive language, identity politics and the perceived “abandonment” of Chilean traditions.