The Victory Of Gabriel Boric, A Woke Leftist Millennial, In Chile's Presidential Election Sparks Fears Of Venezuelan-style Socialism and Economic Ruin

by Swarajya Staff - Dec 23, 2021 10:05 AM +05:30 IST
The Victory Of Gabriel Boric, A Woke Leftist Millennial, In Chile's Presidential Election Sparks Fears Of Venezuelan-style Socialism and Economic Ruin
Gabriel Boric
Snapshot
  • Gabriel Boric, a former radical leftwing student leader, who was identified closely with Chile’s biggest protest movements in 2019, has won the country's presidential election.

    Boric has made several populist promises including abolishing Chile's successful private pension funds, reducing the working week to 40 hours, increasing the minimum wage, making public transport free, move towards universal healthcare system, rising taxes for the rich and waiving off student debt.

Gabriel Boric, a former radical leftwing student leader, who was identified closely with Chile’s biggest protest movements in 2019, has won the country's presidential election. He will succeed Chile’s center-right president, Sebastián Piñera.

Boric will assume office in March 2022.

Boric received a whopping 56% of votes while his conservative rival José Antonio Kast managed to secure only 44%. The formidable coalition including communists and centre-left parties that Boric put together helped him post a big win despite his defeat in the run-offs.

The victory of Boric, a bearded and tattooed 35-year-old who hails from far south of Chile, is a culmination of a meteoric rise that catapulted him from the rank of student politics to the highest political office in the mineral-rich South American nation.

Boric's comprehensive victory appears to be a part of an ongoing shift in electoral landscape and ideological moorings in South America with elections in Peru, Bolivia and Argentina resulting in left-wing candidates notching up decisive victories. Early indications point to possible victories for left-leaning candidates in Brazil and Colombia which go to polls in 2021.

An ultraconservative far rightwinger, the losing candidate Kast represents the traditionalist strand of country's politics formed by devout Catholic values. He spoke with great reverence about the controversial military rule of deposed dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1980.

Pinochet is widely credited by his supporters for reshaping Chilean economy. In the mid-1970s,under the influence of the Milton Friedman and group of economists (pejoratively called the 'Chicago Boys'), Pinochet's military dictatorship initiated profound changes by following laisse-faire economic model. During Pinochet's reign, businesses and lands expropriated by the previous regimes were re-privatized, price controls were abolished, import liberalized, the financial market, capital flows were deregulated and tax rates reduced.

Boric mounted an electoral campaign focussing on themes like social justice, human rights, the environment and feminism. He has made several populist promises including abolishing Chile's successful private pension funds, reducing the working week to 40 hours, increasing the minimum wage, making public transport free, move towards universal healthcare system, rising taxes for the rich and waiving off student debt.

Boris has also promised that children as young as 14 would be able to change their gender on officials documents and schools would be equipped with condom dispensers.

The Economic Road Ahead For The Most Prosperous Nation In South America

Over the years, Chile had emerged as one of Latin America’s safest and most stable economies by largely pursuing a free-market model. The country also achieved great degree of success in poverty reduction )poverty from 31 percent in 2000 to 6.4 percent in 2017). Chile is also highest-ranked country in Latin America on the United Nations Human Development Index.

The country however has been recently rocked by massive protests. What began as a protest 4 percent fare hike raising the price of a ride on the capital’s metro system in Santiago, later turned to a movement riling against income 'inequality', demands for reform of country's private pension system, calls to address soaring living costs and reducing high tuition fees etc. The military was called to quell the riots in which over 30 people were killed and at least 20 metro stations were burnt down

Boris' radical redistribution agenda has stoked fears of Venezuelan-style socialism and economic ruin. However the country's parliament is sharply divided between left and right which is likely to act as a check on Boris' ambitious agenda.

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