Comenzó hoy su presidential term in Chile
The moderation of his discourse and the reformulation of his link with the former Consultation marked the last stage of the new Chilean president.
By Agencia Regional de Noticias / Confidential
HAVANA TIMES — The backpack Gabriel Boric will carry on his back starting March 11 isn’t light. The eyes (and the hopes) of a significant part of the Latin American left will be particularly attentive to what will happen in Chile over the next four years.
The panorama of the regional left has changed after successive defeats which consolidate a feeling of “change of era”, marked by the triumph of Mauricio Macri in Argentina in November 2015, the victories of Sebastián Pinera in Chile and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil in 2018, the coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia and the defeat of the Frente Amplio in Uruguay in 2019 at the hands of Luis Lacalle Pou.
After the hindsight of this five-year period, the situation seems to be changing again. The left returned to government in Argentina with Alberto Fernandez and in Bolivia with Luis Arce, and Pedro Castillo in Peru and Andrés López Obrador in Mexico also won the elections. Moreover, Boric prevailed in the second round of December 2021 and this year we expect possible triumphs from Gustavo Petro in Colombia and Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva in Brazil.
However, the cycle of Boric which will be inaugurated this Friday presents particularities within the regional progressive camp, in terms of generational change, gender parity and even for the symbolism which links it to an unfinished process undertaken by the socialist Salvador Allende in the 70s.
Moreover, his leadership is inseparable from a process of social mobilization that began with the student protests of 2011 and culminated with the “social explosion” of 2019 and the subsequent plebiscite in 2020, which endorsed the process of ongoing constitutional reform. Like Allende, Boric comes to government with the support of a motley coalition of parties and it is likely that his administration will also go through moments of internal tension and conflict.
His background and student mobilization
Boric, 36, comes from the south, from the Magallanes region and Chilean Antarctica. He remembers that when he went to Santiago de Chile to study law, he found it difficult to adapt and that is why he still claims his origins.
His great-grandfather, Juan, arrived at the end of the 19and century of Croatia. His great-uncle Vladimiro was the first diocesan bishop of Punta Arenas and his father, Luis, was a Christian Democrat activist.
When he arrived in the country’s capital, he enrolled in the Faculty of Law at the University of Chile. During his studies at the faculty, he was assistant professor of institutional history of Chile, theory of justice and international human rights law.
During this period, he had an active student activism and was one of the most visible faces of the student mobilization of 2011. He became president of the Student Federation of the University of Chile, after winning an election against Communist activist Camila Vallejo.
Political career and difficult early decisions
Student mobilizations catapulted him onto the national stage of the country and in March 2014 he assumed the post of deputy, which he renewed in the 2017 elections. In 2018 he founded Convergencia Social, a left-wing party that is part of the Frente Amplio .
As a legislator, he participated in the “Agreement for social peace and the new Constitution”, signed on November 15, 2019 – a month after the “social unleashing” – and which served as the basis for the call for the election of a Constitutional Convention. . This position earned him criticism within Convergencia Social, a conflict that resulted in the resignation of 73 activists, including the mayor of Valparaiso, Jorge Sharp.
Putting his signature on this document was one of the most difficult things he had to do, he admitted two years later, then a presidential candidate.
Despite the fact that in 2019 and 2020 he had declared that he was unwilling to be a candidate, on March 17, 2021, his party, Convergencia Social, proclaimed him candidate for the presidency of Chile. A few days later, he added the support of the Democratic Revolution Party, whose main reference was Giorgio Jackson, one of Boric’s closest leaders.
If he was not a favorite within the Apruebo Dignidad coalition – a name that pays homage to the constituent process – he was the surprise of the primaries by beating the Communist Party candidate, Daniel Jadue. “If Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its tomb,” were Boric’s first words on the night of July 18, already as a proclaimed presidential candidate.
The rest of the story is known. In the first round on November 21, he received 25.8% of the vote (1,814,809 people), a result below expectations, but in the second round he managed to win against the ultra-right winger José Antonio Kast, with 55.8% of the vote.
“The campaign was hit by second place in the first round. They weren’t expecting it. However, I believe that the result ended up being important afterwards, because it showed that the danger was real, and that we had to mobilize. This is what defined the second round: the feeling that we had to move, otherwise Kast was going to become the government,” admitted Sebastian Kralkevich, chief campaign strategist, in an interview with ARN.
The path to moderation
To win in the second round and avoid a victory for the far right, Boric had to make “fundamental turns” and moderate his speech, says Josefina Araos Bralic, researcher at the Institute for the Study of Society (IES ).
“Along with the campaign against Kast, Boric summoned the former Consultation, (coalition of center-left political parties founded in 1988) with whom relations were previously quite tense, and at the same time, paradoxically, he appropriates part of Kast’s discourse. He had to moderate. It reduced the importance of its “without borders” program for the migration issue and began to monitor security requirements more closely,” traced the researcher.
She adds: “He also started to speak more explicitly about the need for gradual changes, thus calming the business world. It is a narrative that moderates and reconciles itself somewhat with recent history. The discourse began to be “we are the heirs of the paths that others have started, who have advanced as far as they could and now we have to make changes but on this basis”.
This tendency, according to Araos Bralic, led Boric to a “moderation in the narrative”, which also reflects his political ability to understand “the complexity” of Chilean society. “He understood that left-wing projects must be able to embody change and security, transformations and certainties. He has that in favor and explains that certain optimism and air of hope that surrounds him. It’s a new air, ”concludes the analyst.
The rapprochement between the social democratic sectors of the old Consultation and Boric’s entourage is no small feat for the Chilean progressive camp. A review of comments made by young Chilean students over a decade ago on social media shows the distance that existed between the two worlds.
“(Ricardo) Lagos is terribly arrogant, self-referential and a politician of the past,” Boric wrote on his Twitter account in March 2011, nearly a decade before the former Chilean president gave him his backing in the second round. “Who am I, what is my story, my past, obviously at this point I have to say Boric,” were the words used by former President Lagos to express his support for Boric, who evidently thanked the gesture.
The synthesis of this rapprochement between the former Consultation and the Apruebo Dignidad sectors are found in the composition of the cabinet. Besides the sign of gradualism with the appointment of Mario Marcel to the Ministry of Finance, there will be three members of the Socialist Party in key positions: Maya Fernandez in the Ministry of Defense, Carlos Montes in Housing and Antonia Urrejola in the ministry. Foreign Affairs.
The Party for Democracy (PPD) will be represented by Jeanette Vega in the Ministry of Social Development, the Radical Party (PR) by Marcela Hernando in Mines and the Liberal Party (PL) by Juan Carlos Garcia in Public Works. The Christian Democracy (DC), an important part of the cycle of the old Concertación, was excluded from Boric’s cabinet, in which the need to have more powerful majorities in a Parliament that was a priori rather adverse was also weighed.
These difficulties lead Boric to adopt a more moderate and gradual approach, which already earned him the first criticisms of the Communist Party, for example after the appointment of Marcel as referent of the economic team.
Araos Bralic claims that these internal tensions could complicate the first months of Boric’s government, which will have to resort to its “political instinct” to deal with these situations. “He’s smart and there’s a reason why and how he won,” she said.
“Everything will depend on his ability to manage and read reality well, with great caution, moderation and humility. Moderation does not imply that he cannot undertake profound changes, but with the attitude of always being attentive to whether he reads society correctly,” she concludes.
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