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Chile’s Boric pledges an orderly economy, swift naming of Cabinet

The win marked another advance for Latin America’s left as the country faces raging poverty due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Image: Chile's President Sebastian Pinera meets with President-elect Gabriel Boric, in Santiago
From left, Chile's outgoing President Sebastian Pinera meets with President-elect Gabriel Boric at the presidential palace La Moneda, in Santiago, Chile on Dec. 20, 2021.Chilean Presidency / via Reuters

Chilean leftist Gabriel Boric on Monday pledged to maintain an “orderly economy” and to move swiftly on naming a Cabinet, a day after a sweeping electoral victory propelled him to become Chile’s youngest-ever democratically elected president.

Boric, a former student protest leader who leads a leftist coalition and has pledged to overhaul Chile’s economic model, firmly beat out far-right rival Jose Antonio Kast, who quickly conceded defeat, helping give certainty to the result.

The win marked another advance for Latin America’s left, and bolstered talk of a new “pink tide” in the region, as raging poverty fanned by the coronavirus pandemic sways voters toward those who promise bigger government and higher social spending.

His rise — and the wider polarization of the vote — had rattled Chile’s markets and spooked mining firms concerned about his rhetoric to “bury” the country’s market-orientated economic model, push higher taxes and tighten environmental regulation.

Boric, the 35-year-old former law student, had previously pledged to bury Chile’s “neoliberal” economic model but in recent weeks softened his tone in an apparent nod to more centrist voters.

“This is something that we discussed with our academic economic advisory team, it is something that I maintain, it was not merely an electoral strategy, but rather a conviction,” Boric said. “Chile needs transparent accounts, an orderly economy, because otherwise reforms we do can wind up being reversed.”

He said he would strive to have a Cabinet named within a month’s time.

In his victory speech on Sunday, he touched upon indigenous rights, gender equality and the environment, though he also talked about fiscal responsibility and said he would look after the economy. He took aim, however, at mining projects that hurt the environment.

“We have an enormous challenge. I know that in the coming years, the future of our country is at stake, so I guarantee that I will be a president who cares for democracy and does not risk it,” he said.

“I will firmly fight against the privileges of the few, and I will work every day for the quality of the Chilean family.”

Progressives in Chile partied into the early hours of Monday with thousands taking to the streets with flags and banners in capital Santiago to celebrate the election win.

“I’m very excited because this is an achievement of the people. There have been many years of abuse, and we need a renovation within politics,” said Boric supporter Patricia Garrido amid crowds celebrating on the streets of the capital.

“I have a lot of faith and hope in the youth.”

Leftist leaders around the region cheered his win: Alberto Fernandez in Argentina, Luis Arce in Bolivia, Brazilian former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Pedro Castillo — another outsider leftist who became Peru’s president in July.

“It’s spectacular. At one point, we thought it was going to be closer. Luckily fascism didn’t win from the current far-right,” said Andres Rodriguez, another Boric supporter.

“There is a big project behind what we are proposing: we want to unify the system and equalize things a bit.”

Despite a campaign that at times turned heated between the two polar-opposite candidates, Kast quickly recognized the win, congratulating Boric and calling for the result to be respected, important as the country tries to heal and unify.

“I’m super-excited,” said Cristian Aburto, a Boric supporter who was working in a polling station.

“I think the most important thing is seeing the people here together. We all want people to be united.”

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