Reports by a Brazilian newspaper exposed the nexus between President Jair Bolsonaro and Chilean presidential frontrunner José Antonio Kast. Sven von Storch, the husband of prominent German far-right lawmaker Beatrix von Storch, is advising Kast on international issues. The von Storchs are ultra-orthodox Catholics that see liberal democracy as a threat to the Western way of life.
With revelations about links between José Antonio Kast, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, and Germany’s von Storch family, Chile’s elections are poised to get much more international attention. Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported on Sunday that Bolsonaro received Sven von Storch and his wife, Beatrix, in the presidential palace in July. Sven helped Bolsonaro on foreign affairs issues – and is now an international adviser to Kast.
The revelations gain more relevance considering that Beatrix von Storch is a leading figure of and federal lawmaker for Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz, found indications that the AfD is aiming to subvert the state’s constitutionally-established democratic order. Earlier this year, the agency put the party on a watchlist that allows open source surveillance, a drastic decision and employed only in exceptional circumstances.
While unexpected, the symbiosis makes sense. The von Storchs belong to a previously obscure part of German society that opposes any values associated with liberal democracy. The couple are orthodox Catholics and perceive what they call ‘the West’ in a life-and-death struggle against Islam and feminism, among others.
Beatrix and Sven von Storch
During the 2019 refugee crisis, Beatrix suggested on social media that soldiers at the border should shoot at immigrants, explicitly including children. When called out, she backpedaled, saying her computer mouse “slipped.” Born a von Oldenburg, she is not only part of German aristocracy, but has also family ties to the Nazis. Her grandfather, Johann Ludwig von Krosigk, was Finance Minister under Hitler. In Germany, such a past is neither uncommon nor necessarily an impediment to a public sector career.
Major political figures whose families have close ties to the Nazis, however, are reckoning with their biographies and have shown bona fide commitment to democracy. Von Storch is among the few that haven’t done so. Her husband, Sven, was born in Chile’s Osorno and immigrated to Germany in the 1990s, where he started organizing right-wing reactionary networks. He is instrumental for the AfD’s rise as publisher of the Die Freie Welt blog, which pushes conspiracies related to vaccines, immigration, or any other controversy of the day.
Kast has certainly won a powerful ally, well-versed in reactionary public relations, with strong links into Germany’s parliament and the right-wing subversive movement. Likewise, this movement has established strong connections to yet another key Latin American politician, who, if elected, would be the second head of state, after Bolsonaro, more concerned with minority politics and culture war than the national interest.
Anybody thinking that the likes of Kast are isolationists concerned only with their immediate country, should start waking up to the power of global networks. Kast’s recently newfound commitment to women’s rights and democracy appears in a new light amid the revelations.
Christian is Managing Editor at Chile Today, where he curates the foreign policy blog Teatinos One/Eighty. Christian is also Lead Editor of E-International Relations, co-editor of an open access textbook on International Relations Theory and Director at the Chilean Association of International Specialists (ACHEI).