Gabriel Boric crossed the Plaza de la Constitución on Friday afternoon, in front of La Moneda, already anointed as president. She was still wearing the sash that he had received that morning in Congress, evidence of his new position, and she now had to speak to the crowd from one of the balconies of the government headquarters. But before he got to the front door he broke protocol, he left the red carpet and headed to his left. He then stopped in front of the statue of former President Salvador Allende, who died in his office in La Moneda during the coup perpetrated by Augusto Pinochet on September 11, 1973. It was a simple but studied tribute, which anticipated the spirit of what would come after. . Boric impregnated his speech with the epic of the socialist leader, while his followers chanted the name of Allende. There were even some tears.
“These walls have witnessed the horror of a past of violence and oppression that we have not forgotten and will not forget. From where we speak today, rockets entered yesterday and that can never be repeated in our history, ”he said almost at the start of his speech, referring to the bombing of La Moneda during the military coup. He returned to Allende later, to close: “As Salvador Allende predicted almost 50 years ago, we are again, compatriots, opening the great avenues through which free men, free men and women pass, to build a better society ” . “It feels, it feels, Allende is present,” they replied.
The atmosphere in the square was that of the satisfaction of a fulfilled dream. Patricia Requena, actress, was born in 1957 and remembers that she was a teenager during the socialist government. “I lived through Allende’s time, she was very young, and we never had a collective project like that again. The disappointment was in our hearts, especially in our generation. And now I celebrate the collective joy of feeling that everything is possible. Boric projects something different, transparent”, she says.
Those who did not experience Chile before the dictatorship also celebrated Boric’s references to the socialist leader. Like Rodrigo Martínez, a 42-year-old accountant who came to the square accompanied by his wife. “We have been fighting for this for many, many years. This is a dream, because it is the moment in which the changes that are needed to be, finally, a developed country will be made. Many years have passed since Allende, and now there is a generational change where we already have the capacity to create a fairer country”, he says. Or Ignacio Salinas, a 24-year-old advertising student who says he knows “everything about Allende” thanks to his grandfather: “He was able to pass on the knowledge about Allende to me, and how they didn’t let him govern. The big difference between Allende and Boric is that now the people support him, Congress supports him and he has all the weapons to succeed.”
Boric returned from the balcony of La Moneda to the roots of the Chilean left and barely named Michelle Bachelet, the last socialist president, as a reference. He ignored the other president of that party, Ricardo Lagos. The rest of his speech was dedicated to enumerating those who will be the axes of his Government. He did not avoid the most thorny issues, such as violence for the control of indigenous lands in the south of the country and migratory pressure in the north. “In the south we have a problem,” admitted the Chilean president. “Some said the Mapuche conflict, no gentlemen, it is not the Mapuche conflict, it is the conflict between the Chilean State and a people that has the right to exist. And there the solution is not and will not be violence”, he said, thus confirming that he will withdraw the Army from the conflict zones. On the migration issue, he promised to work together with neighboring countries to regain control of the borders, but before that he asked not to forget that migrants “are human beings.”
Boric also outlined a harsh economic outlook, but insisted on the reforms that were the axis of his campaign, especially those related to the pension system and education. And he occupied a good part of his speech to bet without nuances on the constitutional process that will accompany the first months of his Government. From there, a new Constitution should come out in July to replace the one inherited from the Pinochet dictatorship. Boric said that the current Constitution “was imposed by blood, fire and fraud by the dictatorship,” and asked to defend one that “is born in democracy, on a parity basis, with the participation of indigenous peoples.” “We need,” he said, “a Constitution that is for the present and for the future, a Constitution that is for all and not for a few.”
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There were also nods towards the region, with a request from Boric to Chileans to stop “looking from a distance” at neighboring countries. “We are profoundly Latin American,” he repeated twice, which may anticipate a shift in Chilean foreign policy from the Pacific axis towards the Atlantic and Mercosur, the bloc made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, as well as Bolivia as associated. “From here, from this continent,” Boric said, “we will make efforts so that the voice of the South can be heard once again in a changing world.”
In that south that Boric imagines, however, there are countries that he is not willing to support, such as Venezuela. Without directly naming the government of Nicolás Maduro (absent at the investiture in Santiago), Boric warned that his administration “will always promote respect for human rights, everywhere and regardless of the color of the government that violates them.”
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