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Presidential Elections in Chile Mark A Trend For The Rest of Latin America

Presidential elections in Chile were held on Sunday, Dec. 17. The two leading candidates are Alejandro Guillier-representing the center-left coalition New Majority- and former President Sebastián Piñera of the right-wing Chile Vamos party (Chile Let’s Go).

Incumbent President, Michelle Bachelet, is leaving office after serving two terms. Candidate Guillier, a journalist and a sociologist, seeks to continue policies enacted under Bachelet’s regime, such as taxes on large corporations, higher education financing for low-income students, and the reinforcement of union rights.

Guilliers proposed policies that contrast starkly with those of former President Piñera. A businessman and one of the wealthiest individuals in Chile, he has campaigned to reverse some of Bachelet’s more left-leaning policies by “reducing state bureaucracy, offering incentives to investors, reducing taxes on corporate earnings and spending more on infrastructure projects.”

Chilean politics have been marked by a constant shift of the pendulum, between left and right leaning forces. President Bachelet has been vehement in changing the Pinochet-era constitution, the President herself a victim of the systematic violation of human rights that occurred under the right-wing dictatorship of Pinochet.

Roxana Pey, who has worked for Guillier’s campaign, commended Bachelet on the progress she has made, “Bachelet unlocked the constraints put in place during the dictatorship and the years of transition. Her reforms have made Chile more democratic and fair, and have inaugurated a new political period in our country, in which people have more rights and participation in decision-making.” Pey went on to add, “Guillier will continue this legacy.”

In addition to inevitably bringing up Chile’s past, the elections are important in so far as they mark a trend for future Latin American presidential elections. Shannon K. O'Neil, from the Council on Foreign Relations specializing in Latin America, spoke to the influence of this election: “Chile is helping kick off a year of important elections throughout the region, and many of the divides seen there will be repeated in their own way in the races to come.”

Ms. O’ Neil references the upcoming presidential elections in Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil, in which “a lighter version of the insider-outsider drama is developing,” in addition to the ever present battle between the left and the right.

Update: Sebastián Piñera has won the elections to become the new President of Chile.