By Sophie Squire
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2786

How much will change after left wins president in Chile?

There are powerful obstacles to fundamental change
Issue 2786
Chilean leftist Gabriel Boric salutes a huge crowd with flags and banners at a rally in Santiago

Boric spoke to mass rallies on the campaign trail such as this one in Providencia, Santiago (Pic: @fotografoencampana on Flickr)

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Chile on Sunday. They were celebrating the victory of left presidential candidate Gabriel Boric and the defeat of far right Antonio Kast.

Boric won by 56 percent to 44 percent.

Boric, who made a name for himself leading protests against the privatisation of education in 2011, became the second ever president to receive more than four million votes.

This election comes after powerful mass protests against neoliberalism and inequality that hit Chile in 2019.

One major demand that the movement forced those in power to concede to was the rewriting of the constitution that had been in place since the 1973 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Had Kast won it would have been a major boost to the far right. His father was a Nazi soldier who escaped to Chile after the Second World War with forged documents.

Antonio Kast opposes abortion, same-sex marriage and wanted to abolish the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality.

He counted among his supporters Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and said he was in support of the “economic legacy” of Pinochet.

Such a programme meant that even many who were not enthusiastic about Boric voted for him to keep Kast out.

Boric promised reforms to the free market economy, changes to the pension system and human rights protections for indigenous and LGBT+ people.

Many workers and the poor will now expect change. But there are clear limits to Boric’s radicalism.

Throughout his election campaign, he was eager to get the support of right wingers. So he demanded action against those accused of “burning and looting” during the October 2019 uprising. Boric ignored the way that cops had made up such charges and brutalised protesters.

He also refuses to call for pardons for those jailed under the “anti-barricade” law, which increased punishment for those who build barricades.

Boric was central to the “Peace Agreement” of November 2019 which saved outgoing president Sebastian Pinera’s and meant no action against those who had led the repression of demonstrations.

He has also committed to following the austerity measures in the 2022 budget and implementing “fiscal responsibility.”

Boric heads a political coalition that includes the Frente Amplio (Broad Front) and Chile’s Communist Party. But the left and right in parliament have nearly the same number of seats, adding to the likely blockages to change through mainstream methods.

Since the fall of the Pinochet dictatorship in 1990, a succession of right and left governments have failed workers and the poor.

That’s why people rose up in October 2019 against poverty and inequality.

But they were let down by the traditional left forces that diverted an explosive revolt into elections.

It will take a movement on the streets and in workplaces, not in parliament, to force Boric to keep his promises and to go much further.

 

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