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CHILE has the opportunity to become “the burial ground of neoliberalism” as primaries take place this weekend to select the left candidate in November’s presidential elections.
Daniel Jadue, an architect who is of Palestinian origin, has promised deep changes in the country if he is elected president in what could be an epoch-defining poll.
Mr Jadue, mayor of the the Recoleta district, has emerged as the shock frontrunner, with recent polls showing that he would win in all possible scenarios, including run-offs against his two closest rivals.
His message, that “neoliberal policies are incompatible with democracy,” and his opposition to “unbridled capitalism” have struck a chord with the Chilean people, who have suffered years of austerity under the right-wing President Sebastien Pinera.
Simmering discontent has boiled over in a number of major demonstrations, including an October 2019 protest in the capital Santiago by record 1.2 million people that was sparked by a rise in Metro fares.
Thousands were injured and hundreds detained in a violent clampdown as Mr Pinera deployed the military on the streets for the first time since the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.
In what was seen as a victory for the protest movement, Chileans voted in October 2020 to replace the current constitution.
Elections in May saw communists and leftists win a majority on the 155-member assembly that will draft the new charter.
An open letter signed by radical US academic Noam Chomsky and former Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters said that Chile, as “the birthplace of neoliberalism, has a chance to be the burial ground of neoliberalism.”
It cited the “horrendous coup” against elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973 and the “cruel policies” of the so-called Chicago Boys, a group of US-trained economists that inflicted neoliberal policies on the people of Chile.
“A military dictatorship enforced the dictatorship of money upon a people who had begun to chart — under the Popular Unity government — a humane way forward.
“Chile has not yet been able to fully overcome that legacy of neoliberalism,” the letter stated.
It called for unity and for the people of Chile to elect Mr Jadue so that he can “finish the job.”
The letter concluded: “When Chile dreams of a future, the rest of us will have hope.”