A right-wing Chilean politician told a TV audience that she was worried that the country would become "like Venezuela" if the political left were to win the presidential election in Chile on December 17. Her declaration was immediately met with online ridicule, and social media was full of a new meme showing what this future country – 'Chilezuela' – would be like...
The first round of the Chilean presidential election took place on November 19. Sebastián Piñera, a candidate for a centre-right coalition, won with 36.34 percent of the vote. This millionaire president was already president from 2010 to 2014. He beat the socialist candidate Alejandro Guillier, the leader of a centre-left coalition who received 22.7 percent of the vote.
The right-wing politician Érika Olivera was interviewed on TV news programme "Ahora Noticias" two days after the vote. She said that if Guillier were to win the second round of the election, she said it would create "fear" and added, "I don't want to have a country like Venezuela... I don't want my children to experience the kind of life that we are seeing in the media, that millions of Venezuelans are currently living."
When the reporter asked her if Alejandro Guillier was a symbol of the "Bolivarian revolution" – a reference to the movement begun by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela – she said, "That's what I see for the future of our country if we carry on like this."
Opposite her, the left-wing politician Maite Orsini immediately responded, saying she was "irresponsible" to make such a comparison and adding that Chile's situation is "very different" to that of Venezuela.
Venezuela is currently in the grip of a serious economic, political and humanitarian crisis, with the country's GDP shrinking by 30 percent in the last three years, inflation that should reach 1000 percent by the end of the year, and serious food shortages. In contrast, Chile's economy is seen as one of the most stable in Latin America.
Online, a new hashtag sprung up: #Chilezuela, to imagine what a Chile stuck in the same crisis as Venezuela would look like.
"Yes gentlemen, in Chile it's just like in Venezuela. Here's a photo that illustrates the serious economic crisis we're living through. PS: Yes, this is sarcastic."
"If I vote for Guillier, will my Christmas be like this? What a shame."
...and actual worries
But there are some users online – also using the hashtag #Chilezuela – who are really worried about what might happen to their country if the left were to win the election.
"Welcome to Chilezuela 2018…" says the caption. "Let's hope that that doesn't happen," the user comments lower down. On the left, a photo mash-up shows Alejandro Guillier with Hugo Chávez's beret, the Venezuelan flag and the portrait of Simón Bolívar in the background.
"Here, queuing to buy food."
Although Sebastián Piñera is the current favourite to win the election, the second round could end up being closer than expected. Alejandro Guillier has a lot of votes in his pocket, because another candidate from another left coalition, Beatriz Sanchez, came in third in the first round with 20.27 percent of votes.