• D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG
rotating globe
  • D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
Semafor Logo
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG


Dec 16, 2023, 1:47pm EST
politicsNorth America

Republican House member poses arm-in-arm with Pinochet-defending Chilean politician

Maria Elvira Salazar
TweetEmailWhatsapp

Sign up for Semafor Principals: What the White House is reading. Read it now.

Title icon

The Scoop

During a recent trip to Buenos Aires for the inauguration of Argentina’s new president, Rep. María Elvira Salazar, R-Fla. appeared in a photo with a popular Chilean politician known as a defender of Augusto Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship.

In the photo, a smiling Salazar stands alongside José Antonio Kast, the leader of Chile’s hard-right Republican Party. Kast, a socially conservative Catholic who has often been compared to Brazil’s former leader Jair Bolsonaro, won the first round of his country’s 2021 presidential election before losing a runoff.

The pair are also accompanied by three other men in the picture. To her right is Eduardo Verástegui, a conservative activist mounting a longshot bid for the Mexican presidency in which he has vowed to end abortion access. He also co-produced “Sound of Freedom,” the box-office hit on child trafficking championed by conservatives.

AD

“With friends of liberty and democracy during the inauguration of President Javier Milei,” Salazar wrote on social media platform X. “God bless Argentina!”

Salazar, a former TV journalist, told an Argentine newspaper that she had accepted “with much pleasure” an invite to attend Milei’s Dec. 10 inauguration. Semafor previously reported the Florida Republican traveled with two other House GOP lawmakers for the ceremony.

Salazar’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

AD

The photo comes after Salazar lauded Argentina for having “one race” in a video endorsement of Milei last month, NBC News reported, an apparent reference to the fact that most of the country descends from white European immigrants.

She said Argentina was a country that “had everything. It has soy, it has meat, it has minerals, it has land, it has water, and it has only one culture, only one religion and only one race, completely homogenous.”

On Thursday, Milei’s government authorized a sweeping security crackdown in anticipation of street demonstrations against his “shock therapy” austerity measures meant to stabilize the Argentine economy.

AD
Title icon

Know More

Kast’s Republican party has been described as “the main force” in Chilean politics since winning the most votes in elections earlier this year to select the country’s latest Constitutional Council. That performance gave right-wing parties a solid majority on the body charged with rewriting the country’s charter. The final draft document, which Chileans will vote on whether to adopt Sunday, is widely seen as more conservative than the country’s current constitution left over from the Pinochet era.

A former Chilean congressman, Kast has praised Pinochet, who seized power in 1973 in a US-backed coup d’etat. The ensuing 17 years of military rule saw thousands of Chileans killed, imprisoned or tortured.

“You don’t have to be creative to think that if he were alive, he’d vote for me,” Kast said in 2017, adding he’d have been willing to get tea with Pinochet at the Chilean presidential palace.

“I’m not a Pinochetista, but I value everything he did,” he said another time. In 2021, he met with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, The Intercept reported. Kast crafted his most recent failed presidential bid around rolling back abortion rights and building a ditch on Chile’s border with Bolivia to curb illegal immigration.

Kast’s campaign made international headlines in 2021 when evidence emerged that his father, who served as a lieutenant in Germany’s army during World War II before later fleeing to Argentina, had been a voluntary member of the Nazi Party. Kast had previously denied his father supported Hitler, insisting he’d unwillingly been forced to serve.

Salazar, a Cuban-American lawmaker, chairs the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, within the House Foreign Affairs panel. She was an architect of a House resolution “denouncing the horrors of socialism” that passed the lower chamber earlier this year.

Democrats view her South Florida district, which covers parts of Miami including the city’s Little Havana neighborhood, as a top target to flip in the 2024 election with control of the House at stake. Salazar barely won her seat in 2020, though she comfortably beat her Democratic opponent by nearly 15 percentage points in last year’s midterms.

Semafor Logo
AD