Written by By Tom Singh, CNN
Violeta Chamorro, mayor of the northern Chilean city of Puerto Montt, is an unlikely presidential candidate, many say.
There are just 3,000 people living in Puerto Montt, a former military town, in one of the poorest regions of a Latin American country that is becoming ever poorer.
Yet Chamorro’s platform has attracted voters, many of them left-wing and middle-class, in the hope that she will become Chile’s first female president and a stern critic of Trump.
She has vowed to protect social services, free movement of people and capital, respect international treaties and safeguard civil liberties, but has also hit out at corruption and promises that if elected she would freeze large capital projects.
Her platform was designed to target right-wing voting, but several of her critics say her stances are unique for a right-wing figure.
For example, she has called for a radical shake-up of the economy by encouraging small and medium businesses and cutting red tape.
Opponents say her campaign has at times sounded too similar to left-wing “chavismo” — the populist social-democratic movement of former Chilean President Michele Bachelet.
Chamorro says that, contrary to what other candidates are saying, she’s not a “presidential candidate” and has vowed to push ahead with her campaign, regardless of how other candidates play it out.
“A president should be the people’s partner and should have the support of the people, not the other way around. It doesn’t matter if I’m getting a bit of air time or not. This is more important to me,” she told local media.
Social media and crowdfunding
Despite the country’s polarized political climate, Chamorro found a way to bypass the formal, well-organized parties and instead look to the biggest source of financing for political campaigns: social media.
“So social media has become the center of our campaign, because we have a popular base that we are gaining from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that is deeply connected to the people that they can call up in the dead of night, or call up at three a.m. and ask them to be there,” she told CNN over the phone.
“So for us social media is everything. It’s the result of social networking and social media, and we’re using it. Every single moment and word.”
Within hours of announcing her presidential bid, she appeared on talk shows and interviewed celebrities and journalists. She became an overnight celebrity in Chile and the campaign gained traction on Twitter and Facebook.
She even had her own personal Youtube channel with more than 500,000 subscribers, and used that platform to raise funds.
An especially controversial video in which she joked about the death of a gay teen and the way he was killed provoked an outcry that led to criticism.
She has pushed back, saying it was a light-hearted clip that wasn’t meant to offend.
“Comments are a part of an expression. I’m not trying to go against it but I think that if we concentrate too much on it then we won’t be able to operate and think as our leaders should do,” she told CNN.
In 2016, a 60-year-old man was murdered after he was forced to have sex with another man in Santiago’s De Olivieri park, a popular neighborhood park in the Chilean capital. The man was left badly hurt, leaving him unable to function and unable to walk.
Chamorro, a mother of two who was a judge at the time, said her experience in dealing with human rights cases had inspired her to fight for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
“Being a judge and having to face them was very enlightening. (I know) that the world is very big and we have to be very conscious because we have to think about what (are) the values and principles of Chile, and above all we have to think about respect for all, regardless of what their sexual orientation is,” she told CNN.
Tense relationship with right-wingers
While she continues to make headway with voters, it is highly unlikely she will win the presidency in October.
Voting in Chile is not a simple matter. People vote according to their residency and what politicians say is unlikely to have much impact.
Ahead of the October 2nd elections, the right-wing Candidate Sebastian Pinera is ahead of Chamorro and many of the other candidates.
Even if she does win, her path to the presidency will be a rocky one. If all the other candidates exit the race, or Pinera pulls out of the race because of a lack of support or a scandal, she will have to wait for an opportunity.