SANTIAGO (AP) — “I’m not extreme,” the far-right José Antonio Kast vehemently affirms these days.
Facing the second presidential round on Sunday in which he will face his left-wing rival Gabriel Boric -in his second attempt to reach power in Chile- Kast seeks to convince that he is a candidate more than anything with “common sense” and eliminated several of his most controversial proposals while softening others with a view to capturing the centrist vote.RELATED
He backed down, for example, in his initiative to repeal the abortion law on three grounds and to merge the Ministry of Women with another, after the strong rejection that aroused in a country in which women represent 51% of the electoral roll and a powerful feminist movement achieved that the Constitutional Convention that writes a new Magna Carta had an equal number of men and women.
“I don’t feel like I’m on the far right,” says the conservative candidate and lawyer, who won the first round of elections on November 21 with 27.9% of the vote, followed by Boric with two points less. In Chile it is forbidden to broadcast electoral polls 15 days before the election and polls prior to the ban showed Boric as the favorite by more or less five points, in a country where abstention is around 50%.
Kast, a 55-year-old Catholic, married with nine children, has repeatedly tried to deny that his father, a German soldier who fought during World War II, was a Nazi. “He was compulsorily enrolled at 17, 18 years old”, he could not “say no”, he assures.
However, a document recently obtained by The Associated Press indicates that his father, Michael Kast, joined Hitler’s Nazi party at the age of 18 on September 1, 1942. There is no evidence that Kast participated in Nazi atrocities such as the campaign to exterminate the Jews of Europe. And while military service was compulsory, membership in the Nazi party was voluntary.
The candidate’s parents arrived in Chile in the 1950s and settled with a chicken farm on the outskirts of Santiago, later creating a prosperous cecina factory.
Kast’s program, which strongly highlights the issues of security, order, peace and family, does not contain explicit gender policies or those related to the LGBTIQ+ community, and in the last broadcast of a television slot -on Thursday- he surprised with the presentation of a couple of homosexual hairdressers who told how difficult it was to prosper with their business. During the closing of his campaign and among a multitude of colorful flags, some representing sexual diversity were seen for the first time.
“Regarding sexual diversity, I am a respectful person. I have always respected the dignity of people, therefore, no type of discrimination is acceptable,” he said. “Another thing is that I do not sh are the law of civil marriage and adoption by homosexual couples.”
Regarding abortion, he says: “I defend life out of conviction.”
Josefina, his eldest daughter, said in one of the broadcasts of the strip that, “the image of an oppressive man is not such, of a macho man it is not such. He is the first to get up to pick up the dishes, to worry about what others are missing”. He added that the qualifiers of misogynist, sexist, oppressor, “could not be further from the person I know.”
During the first round he had said that “the programs are not unchangeable, they are not written in stone” and that “if there is a sentence that was poorly written we can change it, but let’s see the whole”.
An open supporter of the military regime (1973-1990), Kast says that Augusto Pinochet — who died on December 10, 2006 — was not a dictator because he applied the constitutional schedule that included the plebiscite that led to the elections that allowed the return of democracy. . Regarding soldiers convicted of human rights violations during the dictatorship, most of them elderly, he declared that “what cannot be here is revenge and there is no justice when a person who is interdicted because he does not have his mental faculties, continues to be held dam”.
He argues that in an eventual government of his, “humanitarian pardons may exist and are established by law.”
He has also maintained one of his controversial ideas, that of digging a ditch on the border to prevent the arrival of immigrants. “The trench is for border control,” he explains, and says that undocumented immigrants are going to be invited to leave or “at some point we are going to provide them with transportation” so that they can return to their country of origin.
Kast was elected four consecutive times as a deputy from the conservative Independent Democratic Union (UDI) party, which he left in 2016 to run for president a year later as an independent, obtaining 8% of the vote. In 2019, he founded the conservative Republican Party, which together with the Christian Conservative Party formed the Christian Social Front, which he represents in this year’s elections.
At the beginning of 2020, he declared himself an opponent of the government of the center-right President Sebastián Piñera because he signed a transversal political agreement that allowed calling a plebiscite that led to the installation in 2021 of a Constitutional Convention that drafts the fundamental charter to replace the one imposed by the dictatorship. , which will happen if it is approved in a plebiscite in 2022.
His discomfort grew in June when the president revived a project on same-sex marriage, which was approved and promulgated in early December. The candidate has reiterated that he will respect the laws approved by Congress.
Kast is addicted to mineral water and social networks. He listens and smiles as he is often asked questions. “I’m optimistic and I like what I do,” he says. Publicly, he never gets upset, because “there are no difficult questions, you have to answer transparently… I vibrate with politics, with public affairs,” he says.
During a recent television program, in which his wife, María Pía Adriasola, and eight of their nine children were present, the couple told their love story and their daughter Josefina told the anecdote that because her mother was a light sleeper, it was his father who got up at dawn to change diapers, which he did with all his descendants.
His family surprised him by singing a song to him while Adriasola played a guitar.