“We Want Government Ministers on the Ground, in the Street, Among the People,” New President of Chile, Gabriel Boric
In a historic ceremony held in the Hall of Honor of the National Chilean Congress, Gabriel Boric assumed Chile’s presidency to become the 34th head of state in the history of Chile. The President received the presidential sash accompanied by his entire family, his cabinet, and international authorities invited to the ceremony.
The Executive addressed the press promising to give it all to meet the challenges that lie ahead. “I am very excited right now, with a great sense of responsibility, of the duty we have to the people of Chile, and they know that we are going to do our best to rise to the challenges we have as a country.”
Gabriel Boric, President of Chile
In his address, the president emphasized the relevance of the people to making Chile a fairer country,
“You are a leading part of this process, the people of Chile are leading in this process, we would not be here without your mobilizations. And I want you to know that we did not come here just to fill positions and entertain each other, or to generate unattainable distances, we came here to give all of ourselves, body and soul, to the commitment to make life in our country better,” he pointed out.
Top Agenda Items
On the great works that are ahead, the President stressed several of the points,
On an economic level, he explained, “we know that the economy continues to suffer and that the country needs to stand up, grow and fairly distribute the fruits of this growth, because when there is no distribution of wealth, when wealth is concentrated only in a few, the pay is very difficult. We need to redistribute the wealth produced by Chilean men and women, produced by those who inhabit our country.”
Regarding the international context, he indicated, “I want to be very clear on this. Chile, our country, will always promote respect for Human Rights, everywhere and regardless of the color. There are so many challenges, the climate emergency, migratory processes, economic globalization, the energy crisis, violence against women and dissidence. We have to work together with our sister nations, as we discussed today with Presidents of other countries. Never again look down on each other, never again look at each other with mistrust, let’s work together in Latin America to get ahead together,” he pointed out.
A hallmark of this new government will be the constant outing to the field to learn about the different realities of the population. In this sense, the President stressed that “I want you to know that, as President of Chile and our Cabinet, we are going to talk with you to tell you the reason for our decisions. We are changing in some way the relationship with the authorities, the authorities cannot be unattainable; we want ministers on the ground, in the street, being with the people. We do not want to make visits to the regions and stay a couple of hours to inaugurate a work and leave.”
In terms of health, he assured, “we are also going to continue the successful vaccination strategy of the past Government, always placing people’s health as a first priority and we will also implement a specific strategy to deal with the consequences of mental health because the mental health also matters to Chilean men and women.”
Regarding education, he said, “We have to reopen the schools so that our boys and girls meet in person again, within all the security conditions for this to be possible.”
Security is another topic of his agenda, “we are going to face crime by confronting the social inequality that is its origin and also with a reform of the police that ensures presence in the places where it is most needed. We will investigate criminal and drug trafficking organizations that are destroying our neighborhoods.”
On migration, he stressed, “we are going to retake control of our borders and our brother countries will work together to collectively address the difficulties that the exodus of thousands of human beings entails. Let us never forget that we are human beings, please.”
“I also want to say that in the south we have a problem. Some call it the Mapuche conflict. It is not the Mapuche conflict, it is the conflict between the Chilean State and a people that have the right to exist. And the solution is not and will not be violence,” he indicated.
At 36 years old, the former student leader arrived in La Moneda along with a new generation replacing the great center-left and center-right blocks that have governed the country since the return of democracy in 1990. Boric takes office with an ambitious agenda of intended changes —reforms to the pension, tax and health systems, among others—, which responds to some of the demands represented in the social outbreak of October 2019. He will govern without a majority in Congress and with a constitutional process underway that seeks to propose a new Magna Carta for Chile.
Three weeks after the massive protests of October 2019 began in Chile, Gabriel Boric —along with other politicians of different tendencies— signed an agreement to change the Constitution that currently governs the country and which is the legacy of the Augusto Pinochet regime ( 1973-1990).
The assembly that is writing the new Magna Carta must present a proposal in July of this year, which must be ratified in a plebiscite where the entire country will participate. The drafting of a new Constitution was overwhelmingly approved in a plebiscite held in October 2020; the Convention in charge of writing it began its sessions in July 2021. “I am not going to try to guide the Convention with what it has to do, but to respect and implement what is deliberately decided here,” Boric said last December.
Gabriel Boric assumes the presidency of Chile at a challenging moment in the century-old Mapuche conflict. In recent years, there has been an escalation of violence in the region, with arson attacks, burning of houses and the death of both Mapuches and farmers and policemen. Several provinces in this area have been under the control of the Armed Forces since mid-October, when outgoing President Sebastián Piñera declared a State of Emergency.
Boric and his ministerial team seek to establish open lines of conversation with the Mapuche people —including the Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (CAM) and do not intend to renew the State of Emergency. This represents a change in strategy from the previous administration that invested heavily in police and military control in the area.
Migration Crisis in the North
In the last decade, Chile has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of migrants. In just one decade, it went from welcoming 305,000 migrants (which corresponded to 1.8% of the total Chilean population in 2010) to almost 1,500,000 people in 2020 (7.5% of the population), according to the organization Jesuit Migrant Service (SJM), which has been studying the migratory phenomenon in Chile for more than 20 years.
In addition, the massive influx of displaced persons from Venezuela and Haiti has strongly increased entry through irregular points, causing a complex circle of informal entry which has been received with hostility in some parts of the country. Truckers from several regions in the north of the country led protests and blockades of entire cities demanding greater security and measures in the face of this crisis.
Piñera decreed a State of Emergency in the most affected provinces, installing more than 600 soldiers on the borders. Boric’s government has promised to resolve the situation of people in shelters, close unauthorized crossings, register undocumented migrants and combat trafficking networks. Boric faces the difficult challenge of protecting migrant human rights while bolstering the security agenda in the northern part of the country.
The migration crisis affecting Chile is one of the issues that aroused the most interest in the presidential elections. Boric led his campaign with a migration and migratory policy set on combating human trafficking and smuggling networks and to establish registration mechanisms hoping to resolve migration challenges in four months.
In his first 100 days in office the migration crisis will play a primary role. His agenda will prioritize protecting children and victims of human trafficking, expelling the people who “should be expelled, and not expelling people without even checking their background, which is illegal,” reports Eduardo Thayer, in charge of migratory matters of the Boric administration. Among the migratory challenges, Chile’s new government will have to delineate new immigration policies, resolve thousands of visa renewal requests and facilitate access to housing for migrant families in temporary shelters.
Chile looks to re-enter the international community on migration matters. To address the regional crisis will require collaboration and dialogue with Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.
Dr. Soledad Quartucci is the founder and CEO of Latina Republic, a 501(C)3 California-based nonprofit organization. Latina Republic is committed to improving the diversity and professional development of storytellers in the media industry as representation matters and affects the stories we tell. Latina Republic makes space for and empowers unheard voices and trains the next generation of leaders in the U.S.