The rowdy extremist demonstrations of recent months may seem removed from a sleepy election campaign in Chile, but former radical who is considering a bid for the presidency.
Controversial but charismatic, Manuel Vázquez Mota, a once moderate Social Democrat now a far-right candidate for Chile’s 2018 presidential elections.
“Our best response is to be optimistic, despite the numerous difficulties we are facing,” Vázquez said.
“The things that we are protesting against are too large, too large, but they are impossible to reverse.”
Vázquez, 63, considered an extremist by the progressive left, but a favourite among the Catholic right and religious conservatives, has long traveled a dangerous path.
When I met Vázquez in 2014 in New York, the political commentator and actor was still connected to the armed anti-capitalist Liberation Theologians movement founded by poet Augusto Pinochet Bejarano, who was responsible for the bomb attacks in Santiago in 1961 that killed 20 people.
The leftist student movement of the 1980s “Columbus” also considered Vázquez a man of “enormous responsibility” for its violent action.
But this association is now open for Vázquez to marry as a Catholic. In 2014, his wife Elsa Chávez, a famous biographer and director, said she wanted to stop her husband, having denied all the accusations levelled at him, from ever marrying.
When I interviewed Vázquez in New York, he denied having any blood ties to Bejarano. He has a 12-year-old child by a divorced Swedish social worker, also a Socialist.
Frisca Bejarano’s grandmother was assassinated in the capital by armed students who claimed it was revenge for the death of their “father”, Francisco Francisco.
Such symbolism is likely to be a source of frustration for many Chileans, who are deeply divided between the more radical and centrist factions.
“I am not holding out any hope that I will win the vote,” Vázquez told me. “Because I’m on the far right, if there was anyone else on the far right they would be making speeches to the left and people to the right. We are on the far right.”
The reason the rowdy protests are in place, he said, is because the left won the 2010 election on populist promises.
“I don’t know what happened with the left after the general election,” Vázquez said. “I don’t know what happened to the leftist people. But for me the revolution, the cause and their survival is in danger.”
Vázquez went on to campaign for a free trade agreement between Chile and the European Union. He is also due to run for Senate in upcoming elections.
“The democracy of the Latin America is under a threat of being taken over by the Republicanist forces.”
A reply to his public testimony before the Special Ombudsman for Data, Vázquez was accused by the then justice minister of being a former member of the socialist Tupamaros leftwing militant organization, which had been on a terrorist trial that exposed State complicity in its activities.
Vázquez responded that he had merely been member of a communist party.
“To be that qualified, I would have to believe the Communist Party is a terrorist organization,” he told me.
A record for sending communist sympathizers to prison followed in 1970 when the Communist Party president and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, current president of Brazil, was imprisoned and tortured, became the first public speaker outside of the prisoners to call him out from a balcony.