Gabriel Boric’s Chile: structural reforms, more power for ministers and gender policies | International

The elected president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, participates in an event for International Women's Day, on March 8 in Santiago.
The elected president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, participates in an event for International Women’s Day, on March 8 in Santiago.JAVIER TORRES (AFP)

Gabriel Boric will be sworn in as president of Chile on Friday. On Saturday, already sitting in La Moneda, he must finally show how he intends to satisfy the demands that fueled the social revolts of 2019. The first government measure will be a tax reform that allows the State to collect more and, with it, allocate new funds public to education and health. In a profoundly presidential country, Boric will delegate a good part of the management to his Cabinet, as the first president of the democratic transition, Patricio Aylwin (1990-1994), did in his day. Other inherited emergencies will keep Boric awake at night: the economic crisis, popular discontent with the private pension system, the conflict with the Mapuche communities in the south of the country and the migratory pressure that Chile receives in the north. Meanwhile, he will have to accompany the constituent process and, before the end of the year, submit the text that comes out of it to a binding referendum.

The new president has put together a high-profile Cabinet, with names drawn from student militancy and dominated by women. Five names will lead the new power structure: as Minister of the Interior, Izkia Siches will be in charge of resolving day-to-day contingencies; Giorgio Jackson will outline the medium and long-term policies from the Secretariat of the Presidency; Mario Marcel, in the Treasury, will work so that these changes are “orderly and sustainable over time”, as he said in a recent interview with EL PAÍS; the feminist imprint will be the responsibility of Camilla Vallejo, as spokesperson, and Antonia Orellana, head of the Ministry of Women. “We want to show governability and this covers several aspects,” Jackson explained this week to the newspaper Third. “First, make it clear that we can handle the most urgent issues well, such as the pandemic, the return to school and everything related to order and security, which will be addressed in a different way than it has been done until now. There is the economic stabilization plan and we will put emphasis on issues related to human rights and everything that means reparation and solutions for the conflicts that derive from the social outbreak, ”he summarized.

Minister Marcel announced that his priority will be on a “quite ambitious” tax reform. “The collection goals that have been raised of 5% of the Product in four or five years is more than the sum of the two great reforms that we have had in democracy”, he said. He also promised “an inclusive recovery program that ensures that no one is left behind in the post-pandemic.” “There are lagging sectors,” he explained, “and the need to create jobs.” Marcel’s challenge is that these plans do not increase the fiscal red.

“The main challenge of the new government will be the economic deterioration that we will have in the coming months,” warns Max Colodro, a political analyst at the Adolfo Ibáñez University. “We have been living for the last two years in a very unrealistic situation, of an explosion of consumption, because in the midst of the crisis due to the pandemic, the Government allowed, because it could not prevent it, withdrawals of pension funds and very substantial economic aid for those that they had lost their jobs. 80,000 million dollars went into the pockets of the people, 50,000 million from withdrawals and 30,000 from social assistance provided by the Government, ”he explains.

With the fuel of consumption exhausted and without funds to resort to, Boric will have to resolve a persistent rise in inflation (it registered 7.8% year-on-year in February, well above the range of between 2 and 4% that the Central Bank had established ), “and the inevitable deterioration of what is happening with the war in Europe,” adds Colodro. Chile is a net importer of oil and gas and any rise in international markets has an impact on its domestic market. It is not a simple scenario for Boric, because “in the face of enormous expectations, the economic situation is going to deteriorate sharply in the coming months.”

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The Mapuche conflict

Izkia Siches, Boric’s star minister, will have in her hands issues that impact public opinion, such as the Mapuche conflict, urban violence and migration. “For a government that has promised not to repress and not expel immigrants, the solution is complex,” says Max Colodro. The future government has given few clues about what it intends to do, but it is to be assumed that Siches will not waste too much time. This week, he met with authorities from Araucanía, the region most affected by the indigenous issue, and has already resolved a paradigm shift: the Government will not renew the state of emergency in the area, which means removing the Armed Forces from control of security. In a television interview, Siches said that “the results will not be immediate,” but it will suffice at least as a sign that the approach is no longer to deploy soldiers on the ground.

The structural reforms will remain in the hands of Giorgio Jackson and Marcel. The finance minister said that there will be a reform of the pension system, which since the dictatorship has been based on a capitalization system managed by private companies, the AFPs. During the campaign, Boric announced the end of the AFPs and the creation of a distribution system in the hands of the State. Marcel clarified the dimension of the reform and clarified that the idea is “to build a mixed system, where capitalization continues to be a component but no longer the only axis of the system and with a more important role for the State.” The expansion of the free educational system, one of the main demands of the students who took to the streets in 2019, and the expansion of health benefits will face a long political and legislative debate.

a feminist government

The gender issue will be of vital importance to the new Government. The circle of power closest to Boric will be in the hands of women, and it will be they who impregnate the rest of the administration with the new guidelines. “I want to ask you, men in particular, to take it seriously. Being a feminist government means changing the way in which we relate to each other, with which we see the world,” Boric said last Friday after a meeting between ministries. “A feminist government must recognize the importance of collective action by women,” she added in an interview with this newspaper, Antonia Orellana, future Minister for Women. Her peer in Interior de Ella, Izkia Siches, warned that she plans to tour the country with her daughter Khala, who will be one year old in April. “The state will have to adapt to me, my daughter and the ministers,” she said. Camila Vallejo, former deputy of the Communist Party, will be the voice of the Government.

“The other great political challenge for Boric is in the Constitutional Convention”, says Max Colodro. Legislators have until July 4 to present a text that replaces the one inherited from the Pinochet dictatorship. Once this process is concluded, the Government will call a binding referendum to approve or disapprove the new Constitution. “There is a low risk that in the second semester that plebiscite could be lost and the rejection imposed. The polls still confirm that the approval is majority, but it is also true that it has been falling, “warns Colodro. The drafting of a new Constitution was the political solution to the 2019 riots and the failure of the process would put Boric before a tough governability test.

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