Polar opposites to face run-off in Chile’s presidential election

Written by By Staff Writer, CNN

Polar opposites Sebastian Pinera and Alejandro Guillier are headed to a run-off vote on Sunday, after neither candidate won the minimum 50% necessary for an outright victory.

The leaders of Chile’s two center-right parties, Pinera of the right-wing Nueva Mayoria party and Guillier of the center-left Partido Andean Democrático, are expected to battle it out in the June 11 runoff.

“We have arrived at the end of a process of change that, in reality, started eight years ago when we restored democracy to Chile after a century of dictatorship,” said Guillier, in victory.

“We have returned to democracy to fight for freedom and to make sure that the things we fought for for many years…all those things that have been established as values by our people, can be achieved.”

Pinera, speaking after a third-round win over progressive leftist Beatriz Sanchez in the final race for Chile’s presidency, reiterated his assurances that a second round would not block his party’s policy platform of privatizing state-owned utilities and supporting international free trade.

Both candidates endorsed US President Donald Trump in the last US presidential election and after Tuesday’s vote have vowed to continue standing by Trump.

“We will not change our foreign policies,” Pinera said. “We will not support other leaders…we will continue supporting all the US [government’s] policies.”

“So we will continue with the United States, with Mexico, with other countries,” Guillier said. “We believe that this is a shared project, but we also need to create our own project and we will do that.”

On Sunday, Trump congratulated both on their victories and applauded them for their “commitment to strengthening the security of the U.S.”

The U.S. is the top trading partner for Chile, with a trade surplus of almost $4 billion in 2018. The U.S. has also issued 60 military construction visas to Chile since 2009, according to a 2018 report from Chilean NGO INK5.

Experts say that both candidates have attempted to avoid straying too far from Trump. In January this year, Guillier backed away from a proposal to give legal protection to non-citizens fleeing the US for political reasons.

“That would take a legal mechanism away from the sovereign decision of Chileans, and that cannot happen,” he said at the time.

Pinera also made it clear his support for Trump’s policies toward China in 2018 after an exchange with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

“We need to defend our territory, our airspace and our standards, and the Chinese don’t have that right in the region,” he said in January.

Both candidates tapped political activists to bolster their message over the campaign. Guillier tapped Sergio Nicoll, an economist and former director at the National Theater of Chile, for his diplomatic skills.

Pinera, meanwhile, appointed top bank executive Mauricio Ibanez to serve as his secretary general. The move was seen as an attempt to soften his image as a traditional, establishment figure.

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