Gabriel Boric: From student protest leader to Chile’s president

(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) –Former student protest leader Gabriel Boric has won a historic victory to become Chile’s youngest ever president. The 35-year-old has promised ambitious changes for a country that has been rocked in recent years by mass demonstrations against inequality and corruption.

When Mr Boric won the candidacy of his leftist bloc to run for president, he made a bold pledge. “If Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave,” he said. “Do not be afraid of the youth changing this country.”

And so he ran on a platform promising radical reforms to the free-market economic model imposed by former dictator Gen Augusto Pinochet. One that, he says, is the root of the country’s deep inequality, imbalances that came to the surface during protests in 2019 that triggered an official redraft of the constitution.

After a polarising campaign, Mr Boric defeated far-right rival José Antonio Kast in the second round of the presidential election by a surprising large margin, ushering in a new chapter in the country’s political history.

“We are a generation that emerged in public life demanding our rights be respected as rights and not treated like consumer goods or a business,” Mr Boric said in his victory speech to thousands of supporters, most of them young people.

“We know there continues to be justice for the rich, and justice for the poor, and we no longer will [we] permit that the poor keep paying the price of Chile’s inequality.”

Mr Boric not only faces a divided country but also a fractured parliament, worried investors and a slowed economy that is the result of the recent political upheaval and the pandemic.

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