While Venezuela’s latest municipal elections ended with a predictable fizzle of indifference, Chile —the land of Condorito, unintelligible diction, earthquakes and a stable economy—just had the second round of its presidential elections, where billionaire and right-wing candidate Sebastián Piñera won with 54,57 % of votes, over former journalist and leftist Alejandro Guillier.

While many Venezuelans cheer for Chileans having dodged that bullet (Guiller’s government plan even mentioned a dreaded “Constituyente“), others might be asking themselves ¿y esa vaina que tiene que ver con nosotros? 

Chile and Venezuela have a long history of migration: Besides Venezuelan founding father Andrés Bello making Chile his second home (and becoming far more celebrated there than in his birthplace), Venezuela became a sanctuary for several thousand Chileans who fled the Pinochet regime between the 70s and 80s. Many of those immigrants became Venezuelans citizens, bearing and raising children who are now returning to their parents’ birthplace fleeing this crisis-torn land. The number of Venezuelans applying for residency status and work visas these last few years has grown from from 1,542 applications in 2013, to 32,089 in 2017).

For Rodrigo, a Venezuelan mechanical engineer, Caracas Chronicles contributor and resident of Chile for three years now, these Presidential elections didn’t mean much. “I read about the candidates and their plans, but that was it. I figured Piñera would make it to the second round, since he’s so popular, and I did have a slight preference for him, because of Guillier’s ties to Camila Vallejo, defender of Maduro’s regime. I didn’t want no lefties in charge.”

Rodrigo’s perspective is similar to María Isabel’s, a 62 year-old Chilean who lived in Venezuela most of her life. Almost two years ago, she went back to her home country and she’s now taking care of an elderly couple.

The number of Venezuelans applying for residency status in Chile has grown from from 1,542 in 2013, to 32,089 in 2017.

“At 62, there weren’t many job opportunities in Venezuela, a country I moved to when I was 20. I moved back to Chile, but I consider myself a Venezuelan.”

She was surprised by the huge contrast in representation from all sides of the political spectrum present in the Chilean race, something that would be odd in a Venezuelan election. “Right, left and center had candidates, and they offered everything they could. There was populism and demagoguery, in alliance against Piñera, who leaned on social concerns and the middle class.”

“That being said” she adds, “people here are political adversaries, not enemies. I expect Piñera can meet his promises so many more immigrants can come. I hear that foreigners with problems, like criminal pasts, will have a harder time getting in, which are filters that already exist, in one way or another”.

In a country where legal immigration is welcome—according to this October’s Empresas y Migrantes Survey, 68% of Chileans referred to foreigners as “hardworking, responsible people”—Venezuelans make up 31% of resident foreigners, having dethroned Peruvians as the biggest expat community there. And out of this 31%, a whopping majority have college degrees and significant working experience, making them unique among other Latino migrant communities.

She was surprised by the huge contrast in representation from all sides of the political spectrum present in the Chilean race, something that would be odd in a Venezuelan election.

Take Ivana, for example, a 20 year-old girl who migrated from Venezuela less than a year ago, now working in retail and starting a master’s degree program in literature next March. “Piñera ran on a sort of fear campaign, with ‘Chilezuela’” she says. “This is a nation whose political climate is still recovering from the dictatorship years. The left perceives inequality as an open wound, with the social security system giving very little money while health and education are very expensive. Piñera, however, seems to understand some of those issues (although maybe he was desperate for support).”

While Chileans are pondering whether Piñera’s victory will boost the economy and undo all the crap La Gordis did, or make them return to the times of El General, it’s safe to say that for those Venezuelans who fled the scourge of 21th century socialism, there’s at least one reason to celebrate on this happy holiday.

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  1. Would it be more helpful to label Mr. Piñera as “successful businessman”, small gov’t advocate, & right wing candidate, rather than billionaire and right wing candidate?
    After all, the leftist gets the benefit of having a “profession” such as journalist, as if that’s somehow helpful to a country, and left wing candidate, as if that’s helpful (to Chile, or to Venezuela) as well…?

    • This is Caracas Chronicles, they don’t lean more to the left for fear of being called “communists”

      They’re just a tad on the right from that place

      • The old cliche goes that American leftists are actually considered right-wing by Europeans.

        Well, Venezuelan “right wingers” are so far to the left, Bernie would blush.

    • The editors here realize that there may be some problems in Venezuela, but ultimately it is still better to have a government that attempts to address people’s problems rather than ignore them. A right wing candidate, being that they are for business, will always be more open to corruption. This is especially true for billionaires like Piñera or Trump.

      • A right wing candidate, being that they are for business, will always be more open to corruption.
        So a country that leans more right wing, being that it is more for business, will always be more open to corruption?

        Corruption Perceptions Index
        The lower the number, the less corrupt. The higher the number, the more corrupt. Chile 24th
        Venezuela 166 of 176

        Rather entertaining to have a defender of one of the most corrupt regimes in the world lecture us on corruption.

  2. Oh Marc, you miss the point. The label given to non leftists is designed to inspire an instant negative association. By the way, anyone seen a post from MRubio. I haven’t seen one in a long time.

  3. Take Ivana, for example, a 20 year-old girl who migrated from Venezuela less than a year ago…“Piñera ran on a sort of fear campaign, with ‘Chilezuela’” she says. “This is a nation whose political climate is still recovering from the dictatorship years….”

    And why would Chileans fear a Chavezuelan future? Perhaps because Camila Vallejo, Communist and also “Maduro supporter,” was a member of Guillen’s coalition. A further reason is that older Chileans had direct experience with the government of a left-wing demagogue, Salvador Allende, and many do not have fond memories of his governance. Some younger Chileans may have been influenced by what their elders had to say. From the pen of José Piñera, the brother of the President-elect:Never Again: How Allende Destroyed Democracy in Chile. Chile’s three-decade recovery has been from both the Allende years and the Pinochet years.

    • I don’t see that as a problem. More and more, it is the leftists and socialististas who are dragging their countries back into the stone age.

      This is the second term for him as well. Remind me how many people were dragged off into death camps during the last go around?

  4. Still missing the point, the terror champagne that the right parties used since US took the power with the militaries plus the CIA in Chile when Allende nationalised the Cooper and Piñera still using by putting Venezuela as a sample that may happen to Chile, far from Chilean reality, this intimidated the large older population in Chile an lot of them overlook the history of Piñera and his shady past on business. He was in charge of the Bank in Talca, a city in south of Santiago that he put out business when he was in charge by using the customer money to created fake companies that bancarup the Bank and put thousands of people without of their life savings and when he got cut took off to avoid go in jail and protected by his uncle a priest in the north of Chile and the taking out the country to US then came back when everything was fixed for him by the wealthy dirty society that is in Chile since colonialism.
    More over Piñera… When Chile was faiting the limits with Perú in Holand, Haya, Piñera or Piraña as is call now, he was buying shares and stock on Peruvian fisheries and e is noe one of the top share holders..This is why and people of his on coalition put him on the spot on national TV (Osandon) and toll him why he was declared outlaw and why he run away when he was in charge of the Bank of Talca… he never answer but Osandon said he is going to watch him like hawk that he does what was promised on the champagne, specially with the free education that the riight coalition adopted in the second vote that the Left parties had it all along and Piñera had low support in the first vote.

  5. Right wing…left wing…left wing ..right wing…….both use fear……but everyone eats in democracys….without fear…..look at the fear leftists use to feed their followers….and the IQ..
    Merry Christmas

  6. Still missing the point, the terror champagne that the right parties used since US took the power with the militaries plus the CIA in Chile when Allende nationalised the Cooper

    On the contrary, YOU are “still missing the point.” The coup had substantial civilian support in Chile, as shown by the resolution the Chamber of Deputies passed on August 22,1973. (Never Again: How Allende Destroyed Democracy in Chile. link /Historic Documents/The Chamber of Deputies Resolution (22.8.73)). President Allende correctly stated that the resolution promoted a coup (“es promover al golpe de Estado”). (link/ Historic Documents/La respuesta del Presidente Allende al Acuerdo (24.8.73). The resolution passed by an 81-47 vote, a strong 63% majority.

    Some Allende supporters have faced the reality that attempting radical change without majority support in a democracy was problematic, and the lack of a majority for radical change was the main cause of the coup. Crying CIA is an attempt to avoid that reality. It took Ariel Dorfman two decades to admit that. From his memoir.Heading South, Looking North: A Bilingual Journey:
    We could blame the CIA, the United States, the oligarchy, the military, all we wanted, but they would never have prevailed if we had been able to get the majority of Chileans behind our reforms.

    The 63% vote of the Chamber of Deputies is rather good evidence what the majority of the Chilean people thought of the “reforms” of the Allende coalition.

    BTW, the legislature voted unanimously to nationalize copper, so nationalization of copper wasn’t an issue in the August 22 resolution. Allende’s multitudinous nationalizations which he justified by referring to a decree law issued by a military government WAS an issue. (The two week Socialist Republic. Colonel Marmaduke Grove’s DFL 520 decree law.) (Collier and Sater, A History of Chile 1808-2002, page 342). The “democratically elected” Allende justifying his acts by referring to a decree law that a military coup government issued. More than ironic. But as

  7. The problem with leftists over 30 is that they have seen the evidence build up against their case but they stick to their guns, so for them it’s not about a rational assesment of what style of governance is preferrable, but about ideas that are beyond evidence (obviously so, in their self righteous minds) and people who are against them because they are evil.

  8. I believe the Latin American centre-right has been through a good learning process during the past decade as opposition in most Latin American countries. “Shock doctrines” to stabilize the economy have been replaced with “gradualism”, which takes the short term well-being of the poorer sectors of society more into consideration, hopefully making the reforms more permanent in the long term. Welfare programs have been embraced as part and parcel of economic governance – with the stress placed on reforming these programs, making them sustainable, introducing transparency to end clientelist/populist networks of patronage, and getting people back to work – rather than outright abolishing the programs. More emphasis has been placed on simplifying laws and regulations, and on fighting corruption, albeit with a more mixed success on this front.

    What Latin America needs first and foremost are stronger institutions and education, and to get there it needs leaders that can combine: A) Commitment to improving those institutions B) Economic know-how to implement reforms and create sustainable market-based economic growth and investment C) Political know-how to outmanoeuvre populists and their rethoric.

    The boogeymen of a “right-wing billionaire businessmen” running a country should not be feared, as long as this person is commited to democratic values, transparency and Republican institutions. More often than not, it is the businessmen that combine the three characteristics outlined above, because they need the economic knowhow for their businesses to succeed in the first place, and the political knowhow to survive in the often opaque corridors of Latin American bureaucracy.

    It is no coincidence that the two Latin American wealthiest countries are currently governed by businessmen commited to economic reform. Argentina with Macri and now Chile again with Piñeira. Hopefully these leaders if successful can show the way for the rest of Latin America to implement reforms that are sustainable and really clean out corruption so that the botched fiasco of the 1990s – when reforms were rushed and implemented in a more corrupt and painful fashion – can be averted.

    If the reforms succeed, delivering socially-inclusive market-based economic growth, then the Latin American left will too embrace the free market model, as happened in Europe and in the Latin America of the 1990s, and the more Chavista statist models of development will be definitively relegated to the dustbin of history.

    • I should add – In the case of Venezuela, I am thinking of a man like Lorenzo Mendoza, an outsider to the system that cannot be associated with the past governments, and with the political clout and economic knowhow to get the country out of its present quagmire – which fits this profile to a tee. His candidacy would bring a breath of fresh air to the political system. However, to even dare place his candidacy, let alone succeed, he will need the support of the Venezuelan people in ousting the current narcoregime, and the window of opportunity is sadly closing as the repressive apparatus around Venezuela intensifies. If pressure on Maduro is not intensified soon then the circle will close and his ousting will become almost impossible. Venezuela seems to have chosen the North Korean model of authoritarian state, placing the military in charge of key positions of government to ensure their loyalty, and this trap will spring shut very soon, I expect that as hyperinflation takes its toll so will Venezuelans’ little freedoms that are left – access to the internet, what little free press remains, and the sham of multiparty elections which the ANC wants very clearly to replace with a one party state, disguised rethorically as “communal direct democracy” as in North Korea or Ghaddaffi’s Libya.


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