Chile’s Gabriel Boric Takes Selfie as One of Youngest Presidents in the World

Leftist Gabriel Boric waved and took a selfie with cheering crowds after winning Chile’s presidential election. Boric, 35, will take office in March as one of the youngest presidents in the world. He vows higher taxes, greener industries and greater…

Chile's Gabriel Boric Takes Selfie as One of Youngest Presidents in the World

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Leftist Gabriel Boric waved and took a selfie with cheering crowds after winning Chile’s presidential election. Boric, 35, will take office in March as one of the youngest presidents in the world. He vows higher taxes, greener industries and greater equality, after tapping into discontent over an investor-friendly economy that has left many behind.

With almost all votes counted, the former student protest leader won 56% of the vote, above conservative rival Jose Antonio Kast’s 44%, electoral body Servel reported. Kast conceded in a speech to followers saying Boric had won fair and square. The victory, by a larger margin than forecast, is likely to spook markets that fear interventionist policies.

His win in the country’s second round paves the way not only for a generational shift but also for the biggest economic changes in decades for one of Latin America’s richest countries, a global financial market favorite. He came out on top after a highly polarized campaign that only moderated in the final stretch as both contenders wooed centrists. He will face enormous challenges including a divided congress, sharp economic slowdown, the writing of a new constitution and the lingering threat of social unrest.

“I will do my best to live up to the challenge,” Boric said in his first comments as president-elect, a conversation with President Sebastian Pinera broadcast by local TV channels. “The agreements need to be among all Chileans and not behind closed doors.”

The two agreed to meet in Santiago on Monday to begin the transition.

Boric describes himself as a moderate socialist who shuns the hard left models of Cuba and Venezuela. Kast and his supporters didn’t believe that and, pointing to Boric’s alliance with the communist party, lamented that their country, famed for years of intense economic growth after neo-liberal policy shifts, would face disaster if he won.

Boric’s supporters saw Kast as a dangerous throwback to the right-wing dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet because of Kast’s emphasis on public order, conservative social mores and hardline against immigration.

Boric, who is unmarried, bearded and tattooed, first gained prominence a decade ago when he led nationwide demonstrations calling for free and high-quality education. He ran successfully for lower house deputy in 2013 and was re-elected to a second term in a landslide vote.

His emphasis on social justice dovetailed with a period of unrest that exploded over a transit fare hike in 2019 and quickly ballooned into a broader movement demanding better healthcare, public transport and pensions. During the presidential campaign, Boric often vowed that, “if Chile was the birthplace of neo-liberalism, it will also be its grave.”

He said he represented “a new generation that is entering politics with clean hands, a warm heart and a cool head.”

Boric wants to dismantle some pillars of Chile’s economy such as its private pension funds, which form the bedrock of the local capital markets. He backs higher taxes on both the rich and the nation’s crucial mining industry — Chile is the world’s biggest copper producer — while also promising to keep government debt in-check.

Kast criticized Boric for being soft on crime, changing views on key issues and backing a fourth round of early pension fund withdrawals that spooked investors. Questions have also been raised about Boric’s inexperience and youth.

In March, Boric will take the helm of a nation that’s facing unprecedented political upheaval. Social unrest kicked off the process of drafting a new constitution, now being done by a left-leaning assembly, which will be put to a national referendum in 2022.

Regionally, Chile’s election follows the triumph of Pedro Castillo in Peru earlier this year, and stands to add momentum to leftist candidates in Colombia and Brazil, which will hold presidential elections next year. Similarly to Chile, both of those countries are facing increasingly polarized politics.

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