Gabriel Boric, the hope that does not take off | The USA Print

Chilean President Gabriel Boric, 37, celebrates his first year at La Moneda this Saturday. It has been a complex 12 months for the leader of a new generation of leftists, the Broad Front, who came to power just a decade after bursting onto the Chilean scene as student leaders, in 2011. Together with his fellow travelers, Boric represented the promise of political renewal, after three decades since the return to democracy led by the faces of the transition. The high expectations, however, soon collided with repeated errors and a lack of political experience within the Government. The president’s popularity is at 35%, according to the pollster Cadem, which measures it week by week, although he hit a floor of 25% in January. The difficulty of reaching agreements with a fragmented Congress, where the ruling party does not have majorities, has helped to create a complex panorama. But what was definitive was the result of the constitutional plebiscite on September 4, when 62% of Chileans flatly rejected the transformative proposal for a new Constitution, which Boric and his followers supported. It was the milestone that marked the current Chilean Administration early, in which the fundamental positions of the Cabinet are now in the hands of the socialists, the moderate left.

“His management style, at times dominated by impulses, was marked from the beginning by lacking any coordination and a precise agenda in terms of priorities. A few days after Boric’s government took office, the problems of driving, management and the lack of experience of several of his ministers became evident, ”says Octavio Avendaño, a political scientist and academic at the University of Chile.

The president has made important gestures, in tune with the new times, especially with young people and women, who continue to be his support. He formed a Cabinet a year ago with 14 women and 10 men, in a trend that has been corrected towards total parity in the change of Government this Friday. In public, the image of the president with children, with whom he has great affinity, and the way in which he has addressed issues such as mental health, is popular. Boric himself has suffered from diseases of this sphere in other times, which he has recounted without any trauma, and has achieved laws such as the one that guarantees social inclusion, comprehensive care and the protection of people with the autism spectrum. He completed an important measure for the benefit of 5.3 million Chileans: the free public health network. Internationally, he has been able to speak out against regimes such as Venezuela and Nicaragua, despite internal pressure from his Communist Party allies. But if the president shines outside the borders in meetings with the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and the resigned New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern –a new generation of international progressivism–, a different reality is lived inside.

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Boric has had to deal with an unprecedented event since the return to democracy, two coalitions within the same government. It has its original alliance, made up of the Broad Front and the Communist Party, and, on the other hand, Democratic Socialism, made up of the socialists and other moderate formations that were part of the center-left Concertación, which Chile led between 1990 and 2010, after the end of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. There have been attempts to unite both pro-government souls, but there are too many differences. Ideological contradictions, even in the same ministry, such as Foreign Relations, have been frequent in this first year in which Boric has had to, with pain, get rid of some of his fellow generation of the first ring of La Moneda.

“The Broad Front and the president are involved in the dilemma of being revolutionary and institutional, subversive and official at the same time,” says María José Naudon, a lawyer and political analyst. “His movement towards the center after the defeat in the 2022 constitutional plebiscite has very contradictory episodes.”

Boric’s government has had to change course many times and contradict its previous definitions. The most evident has happened in matters of public security, where one of the main challenges of this left-wing Administration is recorded. This matter was not among the axes of the program with which the president came to power in March 2022, but it has now become the main priority. It is what the Minister of the Interior, Carolina Tohá, a political professional who fulfilled different functions in the center-left governments, is mainly dedicated to.

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On the other side, the opposition has a traditional right led by some young leaders, less conservative, more open to a more modern and less unequal Chile. In these months there have been moments of great agreements, such as when this sector honored its commitment to continue with the constituent process, despite the defeat of the text in the September plebiscite. But in the opposition there are internal wars between the traditional formations and the extreme forces, such as the Republican Party. This fact pushes the classic parties to harden their positions with a view to not losing the right-wing electorate.

“If the Government fails to dialogue with the opposition and reflect that dialogue in concrete adjustments, the falls may be more and more frequent. The risk is an inactivity that can only be justified by blaming the opposition and that ends with a government with no achievements to show for it. The challenge will undoubtedly be how to go down that path without losing an identity that is relevant in the short term and in electoral terms”, comments Naudon, an academic at the Adolfo Ibáñez University (UAI).

This first anniversary finds La Moneda with a new Cabinet, where Boric has removed five ministers, including his chancellor. In line with its complex first year, the Government faces difficult days: on Wednesday, the deputies demolished its tax reform project that was just beginning its legislative process. It is a strong blow for the Executive, because it intended to collect 3.6% of GDP to pay for the Government program and leaves relevant promises for citizens without financing. The legislative failure represents a stab for an Administration that was raising its head in economic matters with recent signs of recovery. “Clearly, the possibility of financing a good part of the social agenda, as well as initiatives in health, social security and education, is frustrated. To this is added what has been the weakest point of the Government: the fight against crime”, analyzes the political scientist Avendaño.

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What is coming is not obvious. Boric has three years in power ahead of him and, immediately, a relevant election on the horizon: on May 7, the citizens must elect the 50 members of the council that will draft a proposal for a new Constitution, in the second attempt to Chile in four years to replace Pinochet’s Magna Carta, reformed many times in democracy. This campaign climate only helps to stress the political dynamics in Boric’s Chile, a hope that does not take off.

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