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Marco Rubio Met With Far-Right Chilean Candidate Tied to Military Dictatorship

Saturday 4 December 2021, by siawi3


Marco Rubio Met With Far-Right Chilean Candidate Tied to Military Dictatorship

José Antonio Kast’s father was in the Nazi army. Kast often speaks fondly of Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Ryan Grim, Maia Hibbett


Chilean presidential candidate José Antonio Kast, of the far-right Partido Republicano, greets supporters as he campaigns in Santiago, Chile, on Nov. 2, 2021. Photo: Esteban Felix/AP

Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday took a surprise meeting with a Chilean presidential candidate who often speaks favorably of the country’s time under military dictator Augusto Pinochet.

José Antonio Kast is locked in a runoff election against a left-wing challenger and is often referred to as Chile’s Jair Bolsonaro, the would-be dictator in Brazil who regularly speaks warmly of his own nation’s time under a military dictatorship. Rubio, who is Cuban American and a member of the Republican Party, has long had links to the Latin American right.

“If Pinochet were alive, he would have voted for me,” Kast has said.

Kast’s family has deep ties to the dictatorship. His father, Michael Kast, was a lieutenant in the Nazi army before fleeing to Chile and raising sons who shared his far-right politics. One son, Miguel Kast, was appointed by Pinochet to be minister of labor and then president of the central bank. He was one of the so-called Chicago Boys, a collection of young economists trained by Milton Friedman, set loose on Chile to launch a neoliberal experiment that saw social spending slashed and wealth funneled upward to the very rich. Christian Kast, according to journalist Javier Rebolledo’s book “A La Sombra De Los Cuervos,” was linked to peasant massacres under Pinochet, and José Antonio Kast campaigned against the the plebiscite that rewrote the Chilean Constitution and paved the way for Pinochet’s removal. “I’m not a pinochetista, but I value everything he did,” Kast has said, adding that the dictatorship “laid the foundations of modernity.”

Kast, though, is looking to roll back some of that modernity, and is running on a pledge to prohibit abortion, eliminate the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity, withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council, and expand prison construction.

On November 21, Kast and leftist Gabriel Boric finished in the top two in the first round of voting — 28 percent for Kast, and 26 percent for Boric — edging out the centrist candidates in the race and creating the need for a December 19 runoff. Polls have shown Boric moving into the lead, and Kast’s trip to Washington and his visit with Rubio is an effort to burnish his international bona fides. According to the Chilean outlets El Mostrador and La Nación, Kast and Rubio were joined over lunch by Issa Kort, Chile’s ambassador to the Organization of American States, along with at least 20 executives from U.S. companies with interests in Chile, including PepsiCo Marketing Manager María Paulina Uribe and UnitedHealth Group Vice President for International Relations Joel Velasco. (In 2018, UnitedHealth acquired South American health giant Banmédica.)

Chileans elected Salvador Allende in 1970, the first socialist to come to power in South America through the ballot box, and the United States worked relentlessly to undermine him, with President Richard Nixon famously ordering policymakers to “make the economy scream” in order to “prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him.” It became official CIA policy to support his overthrow by coup, and in September 1973, Pinochet assaulted the presidential palace and Allende took his own life rather than be captured. Pinochet tortured, executed, and disappeared thousands as he consolidated power and served as dictator until 1990.

In 2017, José Antonio Kast proposed immediate pardons for incarcerated former members of Pinochet’s military regime. Asked in October by journalist Paulina de Allende-Salazar why the proposal was absent from his current presidential platform, Kast maintained that his plan had not changed but noted that it would only apply to regime members who were now of advanced age — which, as Allende-Salazar pointed out, would apply to all of them. Kast then tempered his proposal by saying that in some cases, house arrest might be more appropriate. In 2013, he claimed that the Pinochet regime’s infamous 1987 Corpus Christi massacre, also known as Operación Albania, was not an act of state violence, but rather of personal vengeance. He later claimed to the press that he had confused the event with the Caso Degollados, or “case of the slit throats,” a police killing that occurred two years earlier.

Kast has objected to the characterization of his father as a Nazi, claiming that his service in the German army was involuntary. But according Kast’s mother, Olga, in her memoir “Misión de amor,” or “Mission of Love,” while Michael Kast was at first reluctant to rise through the Nazi ranks because “dying as a hero did not interest him,” after a sergeant explained that a higher position would offer him more decision-making power on the battlefield, he volunteered for a promotion. As the war was nearing its end, Rebolledo details, Michael Kast burned his army paperwork and obtained false records claiming that he was a member of the Red Cross. He took up his new identity in 1947, during the process of denazification, but the new German officials didn’t believe him. They pulled his official file from the Nazi regime, but a friendly prosecutor threw it in a fire and let Kast go, thanking him for his honesty.

Christian Kast, José Antonio’s older brother, was alleged to have been present at the site of “los crímenes de Paine,” a series of mass killings that began in September 1973, shortly after Pinochet’s forces toppled Allende’s government, and were still being prosecuted last year. In his official police statement, a survivor identified then-17-year-old Christian Kast among a group of the regime’s allies present while the military police were beating a group of civilian farmers. In 2008, a lawyer argued that because of his age at the time of the events, Kast should undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether he could be held accountable. The evaluation was never completed, and Christian Kast was never found guilty of involvement. The survivor told Rebolledo in 2015 that he could no longer remember clearly if Kast was there.

Christian Kast now runs the family business, a restaurant chain known as Cecinas Bavaria. According to Rebolledo, he and José Antonio were neighbors as of 2015.



Donald Duck Quacks Again as Chile Elects a New President

A half-century after it fed the Pinochet regime’s bonfire of heretical books, a celebrated “handbook of decolonization” has new relevance to a country on the brink of a momentous choice.

November 28, 2021

Ariel Dorfman
The Nation

Gabriel Boric speaks at his closing campaign rally in Casablanca , Photograph: Esteban Félix/AP

It is hard to believe that half a century has passed since Para Leer al Pato Donald (How to Read Donald Duck), a book I wrote with the Belgian sociologist, Armand Mattelart, was published in Chile in November 1971.

We never anticipated that our essay would become an international best seller, translated into dozens of languages. It had been born, quite modestly, as a way of participating in the unique Chilean experiment of building socialism, for the first time in history, through electoral and nonviolent methods, without eliminating our adversaries. This meant that the government of Salvador Allende, which had captured the presidency in September 1970, would have to win the battle for public opinion in a situation of considerable inequality, since most of the media was in the hands of the enemies of the revolution.

In this struggle to define Chile’s identity and leave behind the obstacles and prejudices of the past, the Allende government had acquired an important asset: the most important publishing house in the country. Renamed Quimantú (“sun of knowledge” in Mapuche), it gave our peaceful revolution the means to bring out millions of books at inexpensive prices, as well as an assortment of magazines, including children’s and adult comics that would have to compete for readers in a market saturated with foreign products. If we were to devise progressive alternatives, it was urgent to probe how those imported stories worked, and Armand and I therefore set out to analyze the most popular comics in Chile—and in the world: those generated by the immense corporation founded by Walt Disney.

We decided to choose the emblematic character of Donald Duck, hoping that revealing the secret messages hidden behind his innocent and supposedly apolitical façade would inventively expose the dominant ideology in Chile. Exploring how Disney conceived of work, sex, family, success, individualism, the relationship between poor and rich countries, might help everyday Chileans comprehend how insidiously capitalism and the American dream of life were presented as the only viable ways to achieve development and prosperity. And the book became, in effect, a “handbook of decolonization,” as John Berger would enthuse years later.

The tract—conceived in 10 feverish days—caused furor and fury when it appeared. A second massive printing was soon published the next year, and a third one was ready to go on sale when General Augusto Pinochet overthrew Allende in September 1973, and all those copies were cast into the bay of Valparaíso. First water, then fire. Forty years after the Nazis had incinerated so many “degenerate” volumes, it was Chile’s turn. Days after the coup, in a safe house where I was hiding, I saw, on television, no less, a group of soldiers throwing hundreds of subversive texts into a bonfire. Among them was Para Leer al Pato Donald.

These were not the last attempts to suppress that indictment of cultural imperialism. In 1975, US customs, at the behest of Disney, seized thousands of copies of the English translation, claiming copyright infringement (we had reproduced the drawings of the comics without authorization from their owner). We won the respective trial, but, afraid that Disney would sue them, diverse American publishers refused to bring out the book, which had to wait till 2020 to finally see the light in the land where Uncle Walt and his duck had been born.

How relevant to anyone today is this youthful book, hastily forged in the midst of a revolution whose own days were numbered?

While our pamphlet suffers from limitations typical of the era in which it was born, I believe it still has something to offer readers at a time when immense social movements are questioning the neoliberal model that has generated so much inequality and injustice. Today, with so many of Earth’s inhabitants seeking to radically re-imagine the foundations of society, what I rescue most from How To Read Donald Duck is its brazenness, its sense of humor, the liberating endless energy gifted to Armand and me by a people on the move searching for their own redemption—qualities that, by one of those strange coincidences that history provides and literature delights in, can today again be observed in Chile itself where, exactly 50 years after of our book appeared, the first round of the presidential elections has just been held.

Of the seven contenders who were in the race, the one who garnered the most votes ( 27.89 percent) is José Antonio Kast, an admirer of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro and especially of Pinochet—an ultra-conservative who personifies the traditional ideas about work, family, sex, competition and fear of change which we criticized in our book. I don’t know if Kast, who was seven years old during the 1973 coup, saw the burning of our helpless duck on television. It is probable that his father, a Nazi officer who sought refuge in Chile after the fall of the Third Reich, celebrated those inquisitorial pyres that reminded him of Hitler’s good times. What is certain is that José Antonio Kast, who believes in returning Chile to long-established values, would not be a fan of our book. His whole campaign is based on stirring up fear of the “disorder” that “socialism” would supposedly bring.

On the other hand Gabriel Boric, the second candidate in the runoff, with 25.83 percent of the vote, represents a Chile that seeks to free itself from the past and create a different future of justice for all, embodying the vast contingents of protestors who— brazenly indeed—took to the streets of Chile over the last two years with such ardor and audaciousness that they imposed the need to write a new, fully democratic Constitution. Like our book, these activists have been attempting to leer Chile con ojos insurrectos—to read Chile with insurrectionary eyes. Boric and his followers dare to think, feel and relish reality in a joyful and rebellious way that reminds me of the spirit that animated the Allendistas of half a century ago. And I note, with satisfaction, that Boric—born 15 years after our book was so violently—came to read it in his teens, when he was one of the student leaders who revolted against the inequities of the post-dictatorial period.

There is a chance, of course, that the cryptofascist Kast will manage to sow so much fear that he will become President. But Boric has a better chance, I think, to appeal to a wider coalition of dignity and courage, and lead the country to a rebirth on December 19th. If that is the case, I can only hope that How to Read Donald Duck—drowned and burned, seized and left for dead a thousand times—will itself be reborn as well in the streets of the prophetic cities of the Chile where it first saw the light five decades ago.

Ariel Dorfman is is the author of Death and the Maiden and, more recently, the novels Cautivos and The Compensation Bureau. He divides his time between Chile and Durham, North Carolina, where he is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Literature at Duke University.