Brazil’s electoral campaign sneaks into Chile: Boric summons the ambassador in Santiago for Bolsonaro’s attacks

Chilean President Gabriel Boric delivers a speech on August 23, 2022 in Santiago.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric delivers a speech on August 23, 2022 in Santiago.IVAN ALVARADO (REUTERS)

The campaign for the presidency of Brazil has slipped into Chile. The government of Gabriel Boric did not like the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro accusing his Chilean counterpart of “causing fires in the subway” during the 2019 street riots. The Foreign Ministry in Santiago summoned the Brazilian ambassador and gave him a note of protest to what he considered “some very serious and absolutely false statements.” “We regret that in an electoral context bilateral relations are taken advantage of and polarized through disinformation and false news,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonia Urrejola.

President Bolsonaro’s accusation of President Boric was made during the first electoral debate of the campaign, held in São Paulo on Sunday night. Exactly, during the two minutes of final considerations that each candidate had. The far-right president said that Boric “practiced acts of causing fires in the subway there in Chile” in a speech that was primarily directed against his main adversary, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

And it is that the Brazilian president decided to dedicate his final words to criticizing Lula for his past or present alliances or affinities with other Latin American leaders. After highlighting his close relationship with Venezuelans Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, Bolsonaro reminded Argentine Alberto Fernández of the dire economic situation in his country and that he visited Lula while he was in prison. He also said that the Colombian Gustavo Petro is going to release drugs and prisoners and that the Nicaraguan Daniel Ortega “persecutes Christians, detains priests and expels nuns.” Bolsonaro, who has been wielding an anticommunist discourse for years and hates anything that smacks of the left, has not attended the inauguration of any of his progressive counterparts.

Diplomatic relations between Chile and Brazil have been at a minimum since the leftist Boric arrived at La Moneda last March 11. Bolsonaro was one of the few Latin American presidents who did not participate in the investiture, held in the city of Valparaíso, where the Congress headquarters are located. And Brasilia has not yet granted the approval so that the ambassador appointed by Boric in Brazil, Sebastián Depolo, can take over from him. The spokeswoman for La Moneda, Camila Vallejo, admitted that the dialogue between the governments is not the best, but she recalled that both countries “are brothers.” “The political use of bilateral relations based more on lies, falsehoods, misrepresentations effectively damage relations,” Vallejo complained.

The social riots of October 2019 began with simultaneous attacks on the Santiago metro lines, carried out by high school students who opposed the increase in the ticket. The revolt quickly took to the streets, in a wave of violence that even threatened the continuity of Sebastián Piñera’s government. Boric was then a deputy and former student leader who supported the protests, but who did not participate in any incident. Later, he put his signature on the political agreement that allowed the start of the process to draft a new Constitution to replace the current one, approved during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Bolsonaro’s attacks come in the final stage of the constituent process, when there are six days left before Chileans approve or reject in a binding and mandatory referendum the text presented on July 4 by an Assembly with a progressive majority.

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