Who Is Gabriel Boric? The Radical Student Leader Who Will Be Chile’s Next President

Boric comes from a cohort that is grimly determined to bury dictator Augusto Pinochet’s bitter legacy once and for all 

Four months ago, 35-year-old Gabriel Boric confounded the polls to claim victory in a presidential primary he had barely been old enough to compete in. But on 11 March next year, he will now be sworn in as Chile’s youngest ever president – having amassed more votes than any presidential candidate in history.

Boric is the driving force behind Chile’s abrupt changing of the guard. He belongs to a radical generation of student leaders who are grimly determined to bury dictator Augusto Pinochet’s bitter legacy once and for all.

“Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism, and it shall also be its grave!” he shouted from a stage the night of his primary win, his forearm tattoo peaking out from beneath a rolled-up sleeve.

General Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship bestowed Chile with its extreme economic model, and Boric and his influential cohort of student leaders have taken it upon themselves to dispose of it.

“I know that history doesn’t begin with us,” he declared on stage on Sunday night as president-elect before a baying crowd.

“I feel like an inheritor of the long trajectory of those who, from different places, have tirelessly sought social justice.”

Boric was born in Punta Arenas in 1986 and is fiercely proud of his home region, Magallanes, below the Patagonian ice fields.

In 2011, entering the final year of his law degree, Boric was a leader of the education protests which paralysed Chile and saw several young leaders – all of whom were part of Boric’s presidential campaign – thrust into politics.

He never completed his degree, instead winning election to Chile’s congress in 2013 and serving two terms as a deputy, becoming one of the first congresspeople to come from beyond Chile’s two traditional coalitions in the process.

But since narrowly losing the presidential first round to José Antonio Kast, a far-right supporter of General Pinochet, he has moderated his programme markedly, appealing to the centrist voters who have now propelled him into La Moneda.

Unlike his firebrand days at the front of the marches, Boric is now neatly groomed, humble and serious – while he often wears a smart blazer covering his tattoos. His girlfriend Irina Karamanos joined him on stage on Sunday night after the results.

He has pledged to decentralise Chile, implement a welfare state, increase public spending and include women, non-binary Chileans and Indigenous peoples like never before. But it is Boric’s ultimate goal of extricating the country from the binds of Pinochet’s dictatorship that will define his legacy.

The next four years will see this process begin, as the 2011 student generation led by Boric, take on an even more important role than before.

- The Guardian


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