•Press Release Latin America and the Caribbean World
Washington DC — With 99.9 percent of votes counted, the progressive candidate Gabriel Boric has won a resounding victory in yesterday’s presidential election in Chile, with almost 12 points separating him from his far right rival José Antonio Kast. This is the biggest margin of victory of any presidential election since voting became voluntary in 2012. The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) responds with this analysis:
This overwhelming victory signifies, first of all, that Boric and the broad left-wing coalition that support him, now have a clear popular mandate for their agenda to transform Chile. While Kast promised to deepen the neoliberal economic agenda initiated under the late dictator Augusto Pinochet, along with hard right social and political measures; Boric is committed to pursuing strong social reforms funded by increased taxes on the rich and large corporations. Among other things he has called for a universal healthcare program, a major increase of the minimum wage and the reversal of the privatization of the pension system.
While the financial press has often praised Chile’s neoliberal model for bringing stability and economic growth to Chile, the Chilean “miracle” resulted in high levels of inequality and ever-decreasing access to quality healthcare and education for millions of Chileans. In 2019, massive nationwide protests erupted and, despite fierce repression, continued for several months. The Government was finally forced to yield to the rising call for a referendum, which was held in 2020, on whether to replace Pinochet’s constitution with a new one. A constituent assembly was finally elected in 2021 to draft Chile’s new charter.
Boric’s victory is thus a reaffirmation of Chileans’ support for the drafting of a new, progressive constitution that is being carried out by a majority progressive constituent assembly. Boric and his allies in the Approve Dignity coalition strongly support the work of the constituent assembly – which, among other things, is expected to enshrine new economic, social and cultural rights for Chileans. By contrast, Kast opposed the drafting of a new charter to replace Chile’s dictatorship-era constitution. The election of Boric therefore signifies the consolidation of a new political phase, in rupture with the post-Pinochet neoliberal phase of government and with institutions that still carried some of the right-wing marks of the dictatorship.
Finally, Boric’s landslide win would appear to confirm a broader regional shift to the left, following the victory of Xiomara Castro in Honduras last month, that of Pedro Castillo in Peru in June, and Luis Arce in Bolivia in October 2020. Under the rightwing administration of Sebastián Piñera, Chile had played a leading role in the creation of Prosur, a rightwing bloc of South American governments, which was strongly aligned with the US administration. Boric’s victory has been applauded by many left leaders in the region, including Lula da Silva, who may soon return to the presidency in Brazil. It is likely that Boric will seek to join other left-of-center governments in Latin America in pushing for a more assertive, sovereign and democratic region and for the consolidation of regional organizations who support that agenda.