Monday, January 18, 2010

Chile Elects Conservative President

With everything going with the Massachusetts Senate election it is easy to overlook other electoral developments abroad.

Yesterday, Chile elected Sebastian Pinera as its new President. Pinera is the first free market conservative to be elected President since the end of the Pinochet regime. He defeated former President Eduardo Frei who ruled Chile from 1994 to 2000 with 52% of the vote. This was Pinera's second bid for Chile's presidency. He lost to Michelle Bachelet in 2006.

To be fair, Bachelet has been nowhere near as radical as those who hold power in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. But the presence of a conservative head of state in Chile could change the balance of power in Latin America. As such it is only a matter of time before Hugo Chavez publicly challenges Pinera, a Harvard educated economist, who became a billionaire through his ownership LAN Airlines as well as a television station and a soccer club. If Pinera can hold his own with Chavez then he and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe could prove to be an effective counterbalance against the socialist tide in Latin America.

Pinera will take office on March 11th.

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