Acclaimed Chilean poet Raul Zurita: All on the line in Sunday’s runoff

By Patricia Nieto Mariño

Santiago, Dec 14 (EFE).- With less than a week remaining until Chile’s runoff presidential election, an acclaimed poet who experienced first-hand the horrors of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s right-wing 1973-1990 military dictatorship told Efe that the future of the country is on the line in Sunday’s vote.

Raul Zurita, a 71-year-old unapologetic communist who won the Chilean National Prize for Literature in 2000 and is a staunch defender of the political platform of leftist candidate and former student leader Gabriel Boric, made that assessment in an interview with Efe.

He said a victory by Jose Antonio Kast, a populist conservative with hard-line stances on issues such as law and order, same-sex marriage, abortion and illegal immigration, would mark a return to “fascism, an inconceivable deja vu.”

Question: Were you expecting that result from the first round of presidential balloting, in which Kast was the most-voted candidate with nearly 28 percent support?

Answer: At the end of the day, yes. There has been a lot of tumult in the country, and this is a swing of the pendulum. In seven days, I hope we emerge a bit wiser.

Q: Why do you think the rise of the far right has been legitimized?

A: There are a lot of emotions that have fed this new fascism. We’ve seen unnecessary violence. Sometimes violence is necessary, but the malice … burning stations, was a climate conducive for fascism, which makes a comeback when there’s a sense of an absence of government. Attention wasn’t paid to that aspect, and it’s a very legitimate popular sentiment.

Q: If he were to win, Boric would lead an alliance made up of the Broad Front leftist coalition and the Communist Party. Many are talking about “Chilezuela.” Is there, in general, more fear of communism than fascism?

A: Of course. It’s terrible, but that’s how it is. When Venezuela is demonized, it’s rightly demonized. And the same is true of Nicaragua. It’s the weight the left bears. But we have to understand that this is the stuff of dreams. Dreams are submerged. They go underground and appear a bit down the road. I think Boric is going to win and that it’s going to be an important lesson, a new pact with society.

Q: You were arrested and tortured during the dictatorship. How do you feel when Kast argues in favor of detaining people in places that aren’t necessarily prisons?

A: That’s striking … The nonchalance with which he says it. That Pinochetist … like other people in Chile, they’re an implacable group. We have to fight fascism on all fronts, but never by doing to them what we wouldn’t want them to do to us. We’re not going to leave them blind like the victims of the (2019 anti-government) protests.

Q: You resorted to memory (in writing) your last novel. Do you think it’s important, in a historic moment such as this, to revisit the past?

A: Yes. I’m confident that people can call upon their memory, that of their parents and their grandparents, so that the far right doesn’t return to power. The return of fascism to Chile would be “deja vu.” I was 22 years old in 1973, when Pinochet’s (coup occurred) and for me to see it happen again seems frankly inconceivable.

Q: Few progressive projects in Latin America have become well-consolidated and successful, one example being Uruguay. Do you think Boric can turn the page on that demonization of the left that exists in Latin America?

A: “I think so. Boric is a great introducer of the philosophy of Jose Mujica (former president of Uruguay). He has all the soft skills … A benign leadership is needed, a more harmonious vision, a gender-based perspective that leaves behind the logic of masculine power, a finer sensibility. That’s why it’s my hope that Boric wins. EFE


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