Connect to share and comment

A fresh face for Chilean politics

A young presidential candidate is shaking up Chile's political scene.

A year after the coup, Miguel Enriquez was killed by the secret police, and Enriquez-Ominami's mother was exiled in France, where she eventually married Carlos Ominami, a former MIR member, economist and now senator who plans to resign from the Socialist Party in support of his stepson. In 2000, Marco adopted his stepfather’s last name. He likes to say that Enriquez stands for the man who gave him life and Ominami for the man who saved it. He is married to a journalist, though she is better known as a television variety show figure.

But Enriquez-Omimani, although admiring his biological father, doesn’t seem to feel the historical burden on his shoulders. “For a lot of people in Chile, Miguel is totally unfamiliar, and most young people have no idea who he was. It’s a problem with the historical memory of this country, something that hasn’t been worked on,” he said.

His politics are distinct from his father's. He hates violence, Enriquez-Ominami says, because he was a victim of it. He didn’t abandon the Socialist Party in order to foment revolutionary change, but because he wasn’t allowed to compete in his party’s primaries.

He's accused the Socialist Party of stifling discussions of controversial issues and muffling criticism. It is time, he said when announcing his candidacy in January, to put an end to “the collusion and privatization of politics and its most perverse effect: the concentration of symbolic, political and economic power in a small number of people.”

Like members of the left — the left candidate, Jorge Arrate, barely surpasses 1 percent in the polls — Enriquez-Ominami wants a new constitution, a state-owned pension fund system and a reform of the electoral and party system.

And what’s at the core of his program? “Education, education, education,” he says.

He is now trying to get 36,000 people to sign up (and pay) at a notary in support of his candidacy, as Chile's law requires independent candidates to do. The requirement is a major obstacle to independents running for office.

Meanwhile, with no party backing, Enriquez-Ominami's campaign team is pulling together a list of candidates for the congressional elections, which take place at the same time as the presidential vote. Enriquez-Ominami is warming up to former members of the ruling Concertacion Democratica coalition, and the Green and Humanist parties, the latter of which is officially allied with the Communist Party in support of Arrate. But not, it seems, for long.

“We have a left that is not showing the strength and unity that it should have. We proclaimed Arrate, but it would be good for the country to have one sole candidate from the left. Our candidate undoubtedly has had difficulties in achieving support, and the left should start looking for someone younger, fresher and renovated,” said Humanist Party President Tomas Hirsch.

More GlobalPost dispatches on Chile:

Volcano threatens Chilean village

Remnants of dictatorship

Santiago struggles to deal with smog woes