Gabriel Boric: Who Is Chile’s New President And What’s He About?

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Gabriel Boric: Who Is Chile’s New President And What’s He About?

 

Boric pictured speaking at an election rally // image via Insider

Gabriel Boric, a leftist former student leader, has won Chile’s presidential election and will be sworn in as the country’s youngest president ever.

The nation’s constitution establishes that a president must be at least 35-years-old, which is Boric’s exact age, making him only the second millennial ever to lead a Latin American country, after El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele.

Boric stormed to a resounding victory on December 19 in the vote against his conservative far-right opponent, José Antonio Kast.

Kast had been criticised in recent months by Chilean activists who were fearful of his conservative agenda, if he was to take office.

The 55-year-old long serving politician opposes grassroots movements and same-sex marriage.

Boric, who claimed 55.8% to take a 12 percentage point lead and ultimately defeat Kast’s run for president, had been dubbed as the ‘opposite extreme’ to Kast’s politics.

 

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A post shared by Gabriel Boric Font (@gabrielboric)

Around 4.5 million Chileans voted for Gabriel Boric, his policies and values, ahead of 3.6 million votes for his opponent.

The soon-to-be President, who will be sworn in on March 11, promised during his victory to curb Chile’s neoliberal economic model.

“Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism, and it shall also be its grave!” he shouted from a stage the night of his primary win, his forearm tattoo peaking out from beneath a rolled-up sleeve.

 

Gabriel Boric’s Political History

Gabriel Boric Font has been a political activist since an early age as a student.

In both 1999 and 2000, a teenaged Boric participated in the re-establishment of the Federation of Secondary School Students of Punta Arenas and he became a natural leader.

Boric moved to Santiago to study at University of Chile’s Law School in 2004 where he joined the political collective Autonomous Left (Izquierda Autónoma), initially known as Estudiantes Autónomos (Autonomous Students).

The Autonomous Left was rooted in socialism and its mission was the creation and strengthening of the political autonomy of the subaltern (or working) classes against the dominant classes.

 

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A post shared by Gabriel Boric Font (@gabrielboric)

Just 25-years-old at the time, Boric became the head of a major student union and he shook Chile’s establishment by leading huge student rallies that brought reforms to Chile’s privatized education system.

During his student union presidency in 2009, he led a protest for 44 days against the dean Roberto Nahum, and also represented students as a university senator.

In 2011 he was a candidate for the leadership of the University of Chile Student Federation (FECH) and was elected president with 30.52% of the votes.

During his time as president of the FECH, Boric led the second part of the student protests that began in 2011, becoming one of the main spokespersons of the Federation of Chilean Students.

In 2012, he was named on the list of 100 young leaders of Chile in the newspaper El Mercurio.

Boric actually never completed university as in 2013 he ran as an independent candidate to represent District 60 (currently District 28) and was elected with 15,418 votes (26.18%), the highest number received by any candidate in the region.

Boric was sworn in as member of the Chamber of Deputies on 11 March 2014.

 

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A post shared by Gabriel Boric Font (@gabrielboric)

During his first term, Boric sat on the Commissions for Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples; Extreme Zones and the Chilean Antarctic; and Labour and Social Security.

And in 2017 he was re-elected as member of the Chamber of Deputies with an increased majority, again the highest number of votes for any candidate in the region.

He has been serving in this role ever since.

 

The President-Elect’s promises

Boric actually lost the presidential first round to José Antonio Kast on November 21 by a very narrow margin.

Since then the president-elect moderated his programme in the hope of appealing to the centrist voters, in a move which has evidently paid off.

A Boric administration will likely hike taxes on major industries, ramp up public spending to overhaul services, and scrap the private pension system that has been a hallmark of the neoliberal model.

His campaign promises also included fighting climate change by blocking a proposed mining project in the world’s largest copper producing nation.

The nation’s soon-to-be President has also pledged to decentralise Chile, implement a welfare state, increase public spending and include women, non-binary Chileans and Indigenous peoples like never before.

“The times ahead will not be easy,” Boric said on Sunday. “Only with social cohesion, re-finding ourselves and sharing common ground will we be able to advance towards truly sustainable development – which reaches every Chilean.”

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