By Maria M. Mur
Santiago, Dec 13 (EFE).- The final debate between the two antagonistic candidates competing for the Chilean presidency on Sunday, the far-right lawyer José Antonio Kast and the left-wing former student leader Gabriel Boric, was tepid with winks once again directed to the electorate of the center.
As with last Friday’s debate, the two candidates for La Moneda (seat of government) made an effort to show their more moderate sides, aware that neither of them reached 30 percent of the votes in the first round of Nov. 21 and that the elections are won by the center.
Kast, who finished first with 27.8 percent of the vote, defended the values of the traditional right (homeland, family and order) and insisted that the neoliberalism established during the military dictatorship (1973-1990) and deepened during the transition is the only model that creates wealth.
“We were a model for the world and we have to recover that (…) I do not want to be a president who raises his fist – I want to be a president who talks and welcomes,” he said.
Boric reiterated that for there to be better health services and free education it is necessary to increase the role of the state and raise taxes, although he tried to disperse worries that his alliance with the Communist Party arouses in certain business sectors.
“We want to move towards a welfare state. The title they give it does not worry me. If it is social democrat, in good time,” said Boric, who was second with 25.8 percent of the vote and now leads the majority of the polls.
Experts warn that the elections are the most uncertain in 30 years, that the result will be decided vote by vote, that there is a large pool of undecideds and that abstentions will be high.
It has always been said that whoever gets the most votes in the first round wins La Moneda, which has happened since 1999, but this time it’s different because the gap between the two candidates in November was very small.
Claudia Heiss, head of political science at the University of Chile, told Efe that “Boric was better and strengthened the leadership that he had shown in the previous debate,” while Kast “dedicated himself to criticizing, attacking and ridiculing him.”
Recently approved same-sex marriage and sexual diversity were some of the issues that raised the temperature of the debate.
One of the most tense moments was when Boric blasted Kast for referring a few years ago to the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights as a “gay dictatorship” and calling trans actress Daniela Vega, star of the Oscar-winning film “A Fantastic Woman,” “a man.”
The ultra-conservative candidate apologized and assured that he “would not describe her again in those terms.”
“She perceives that she is a woman and, therefore, we respect her right, and today there is a law that must be followed,” Kast said.
Boric said that “unlike the other candidate, we are tolerant people, who believe in diversity, inclusion and expression.”
“Diversities are going to be welcomed and protected; dissidents continue to be killed and discriminated against. When a candidate speaks of a gay dictatorship, imagine what his government will be like.”
Tension returned at the end of the debate when Kast brought up an accusation against Boric of having once allegedly verbally harassed a former party colleague.
The alleged victim expressed support for Boric on Sunday and denounced the right’s “unscrupulous and violent use” of her case as ammunition against the left.
“I have never harassed anyone. If I had sexist attitudes that have caused her discomfort or feeling disparaged, of course, apologies are due,” Boric repeated. EFE