Speed Reads

Chile Votes

Chile elects conservative billionaire ex-President Sebastian Piñera

On Sunday, Chileans voted to give conservative former President Sebastian Piñera a new four-year term, replacing President Michelle Bachelet, who also preceded Piñera's first term (2010-2014). Piñera, a 68-year-old billionaire, beat challenger Alejandro Guillier, a center-left journalist, by a wider-than-expected 9 percentage points. Guillier congratulated Piñera and promised to lead a "constructive opposition" to Piñera's agenda of dismantling Bachelet's center-left reforms. "Chile needs dialogue and collaboration more than confrontation," Piñera said Sunday night.

After underperforming in the first round of voting in November, Piñera veered to the right politically, promising to derail a same-sex marriage bill Bachelet's government introduced in August and improve the living conditions of military officers jailed for crimes against humanity, as well as lower business taxes. His party did not win a majority in Congress, though, complicating his agenda.

In 2018, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and Paraguay will all elect new presidents. "Chile is helping kick off a year of important elections throughout the region, and many of the divides seen there will be repeated in their own way in the races to come," Shannon K. O'Neil, a Latin America expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells The New York Times. "Today's election pits not just the left versus right for the presidency, but also reflects a lighter version of the insider-outsider drama that is developing in Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil."