Gabriel Boric pledges to “fight against the privileges of the few” as Prime Minister of Chile | Chile

Gabriel Boric has vowed to unite Chile, fight against “the privileges of a few” and fight against poverty and inequality after winning a decisive victory over his far-right opponent to become the youngest prime minister from the country of South America.

The 35-year-old former left-wing student leader won 56% of the vote in Sunday’s presidential runoff, overtaking his ultra-conservative opponent José Antonio Kast, who took 44.2%.

The triumph of Boric, who belongs to a generation deeply opposed to the extreme economic model bequeathed to Chile by the Pinochet dictatorship, comes two years after the rise in metro fares sparked huge protests and called for drastic changes in the political system and economical.

The president-elect, who will be sworn in on March 11, said the time has come for a radical overhaul of Chilean society and its economy.

“Men and women of Chile, I accept this mandate with humility and with an immense sense of responsibility because we stand on the shoulders of giants”, he declared in front of a huge crowd gathered on a boulevard in Santiago.

“I know the future of our country will be at stake next year. This is why I want to promise you that I will be a president who will take care of democracy and not jeopardize it, a president who listens more than he speaks, who seeks unity, who takes care of the daily needs of the people. people and who fights fiercely against the privileges of a few and who works every day for Chilean families.

Boric said his generation wanted their rights upheld and not treated “like a consumer good or a business,” adding that the country would no longer allow Chile’s poor to “continue to pay the price” for inequality.

He added: “The times ahead will not be easy… It is only with social cohesion, coming together and sharing common ground that we can move forward towards truly sustainable development – which reaches every Chilean. .

The new prime minister said he would be “the president of all Chileans … and serve everyone”.

Boric also pointed to the progressive positions that launched his unlikely campaign, including a pledge to tackle the climate crisis by blocking a proposed mining project in what is the world’s largest copper-producing country.

He also called for an end to Chile’s private pension system – the hallmark of the neoliberal economic model imposed by Pinochet.

Boric thanked each candidate in turn – including Kast – and reinforced his commitment to the Chilean constitutional process, a key consideration for many as the country enters this latest chapter of a turbulent transition period.

The new administration will likely be watched closely across Latin America, where Chile has long been a forerunner of regional trends.

It was the first country in South America or Central America to break with American rule during the Cold War and to pursue socialism with the election of Salvador Allende in 1970. It then turned the tide three years later. when Pinochet’s coup inaugurated a period of right-wing military rule that quickly launched a free market experiment across the region.

Kast won the first round of voting on November 21 by two percentage points, but Boric was able to win on Sunday by expanding beyond his base in Santiago and drawing voters in rural areas. In the northern region of Antofagasta, where he finished third in the first round, Boric beat Kast by almost 20 points.

Ghosts and old divisions returned to haunt the bitter campaign, in which Kast – who has a history of defending military dictatorship – sought in vain to caricature his rival as a puppet of his Communist Party allies who would upset the most stable and advanced economy in Latin America. .

However, Kast was surprisingly magnanimous in the loss. After tweeting a photo of him congratulating his opponent on his ‘great triumph’, he went to Boric’s campaign headquarters to see the new president. Kast, a father of nine, also said: “Gabriel Boric can count on us.”

Chile’s outgoing president, billionaire conservative Sebastián Piñera, held a video conference with Boric to offer his government’s full support during the three-month transition.

In the Santiago metro, the flashpoint of the 2019 protests, young Boric supporters waved flags bearing the candidate’s name while jumping and shouting as they walked downtown for his speech of victory.

“It’s a historic day,” said Boris Soto, a teacher. “We have conquered not only fascism and the right, but also fear.”

On a sweltering day in Chile, the vote was marred by difficulties with public transport across the country, although the government said it had done everything in its power to ensure that voters could get to the polls. to vote.

The voter turnout – in which 1.2 million more people voted than in the first round – reached nearly 56%, the highest level since voting was no longer compulsory. is nine years old.

Boric will become Chile’s youngest modern president when he takes office, and only the second millennium to lead in Latin America, after El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele. Only one other head of state, Giacomo Simoncini from the city-state of San Marino in Europe, is younger.

“It is impossible not to be impressed by the historic turnout, Kast’s willingness to concede and congratulate his opponent even before the final results are known, and the generous words of President Piñera,” said Cynthia Arnson , Latin America program manager at the Wilson Center in Washington.

“Chilean democracy won today, that’s for sure.”

Markets reacted less enthusiastically, with the Chilean peso falling and its dollar-denominated stock index plummeting 10% on Monday. The peso’s fall of 2% has let it fall by nearly 20% since Chileans elected a constitutional assembly dominated by left-wing and independent representatives in May to overhaul the country’s market-oriented constitution.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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