On December 19, Chile elected its youngest president ever: 35-year-old Gabriel Boric, a progressive Democratic Socialist who ran on the promise to enact widespread social and economic change. The former student activist has vowed to make Chile — one of the earliest nations to implement neoliberal reform — the ‘grave’ of neoliberalism.
Following a historic voter turnout, Boric beat conservative opponent Jose Antonio Kast by a wide margin with 56% of the votes. Boric’s triumph over Kast — whose far-right, reactionary politics are comparable to authoritarian leaderssuch as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and former U.S. President Donald Trump — is considered a significant win for Chile and leftist politics in South America.
“Boric’s victory on Sunday is actually a huge victory for the social movements of the Chilean people,” said Chilean writer Pablo Abufom in an interview with Democracy Now!. “In the middle of a political and social crisis in Chile we see that finally there’s an opening for a progressive government in Chile that we haven’t had in 40, almost 50 years.”
During his campaign, Boric promised to impose higher taxes on the wealthy, cancel student debt “make sizable green investments,” and overhaul the neoliberal policies that have allowed for massive economic inequities within the country. This is in contrast to Kast who ran on “anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, nationalistic and very hateful rhetoric in relation to everything that is progressive,” according Chilean American author Ariel Dorfman.
Writing for Jacobin, Cale Brooks noted issues caused by Chile’s neoliberal economics since 1990:
“In the decades that followed the transition [from General Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship], power has traded between a center-right and center-left that have both managed the system effectively handed to them by the Pinochet regime without making any fundamental changes. During this time, Chile has seen immense economic growth, but it has been heavily concentrated in the hands of the rich while workers have faced more and more economic insecurity.”
Progressive International member Convergencia Social, the left-wing political party led by Boric, said in a statement Monday that “for decades, our people have expressed their dreams and hopes on the streets and in the squares.”
“Through creativity and hope, we have built the road to a new Chile, one that is more democratic, one with social rights and a new way of relating to the environment,” the party said. “Now, we will travel down that road to a new Chile. Together, we will bury neoliberalism and rebuild the world.”