Leftist Millennial Gabriel Boric Wins Election as Chile's Next President
Image Courtesy: AP
Santiago: A Leftist millennial who rose to prominence during anti-government protests was elected Chile's next president Sunday after a bruising campaign against a free-market firebrand likened to Donald Trump.
With 56% of the votes, Gabriel Boric handily defeated by more than 10 points lawmaker José Antonio Kast, who tried unsuccessfully to scare voters that his young, inexperienced opponent would upend Chile's vaunted record as Latin America's most stable, advanced economy.
Breaking from the polarising rhetoric of the campaign, Kast immediately conceded defeat, tweeting a photo of himself on the phone congratulating his opponent on his "grand triumph."
He then later travelled to Boric's campaign headquarters to meet with his rival.
Meanwhile, outgoing President Sebastian Pinera — a conservative billionaire — held a video conference with Boric to offer his government's full support during the three month transition.
Amid a crush of supporters, Boric crawled atop a metal barricade to reach the stage where he initiated in the indigenous Mapuche language a rousing victory speech to thousands of mostly young supporters.
The winner highlighted the progressive positions that launched his improbable campaign, including a promise to fight climate change by blocking a proposed mining project in Chile, which is the world's largest copper producer.
He also promised to end Chile's private pension system — the hallmark of the neoliberal economic model imposed by the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
"We are a generation that emerged in public life demanding our rights be respected as rights and not treated like consumer goods or a business," Boric said. "We know there continues to be justice for the rich, and justice for the poor, and we no longer will permit that the poor keep paying the price of Chile's inequality."
He also gave an extended shout out to Chilean women, a key voting bloc who feared that a Kast victory would roll back years of steady gains, promising they will be "protagonists" in a government that will seek to "leave behind once and for all the patriarchal inheritance of our society."
In Santiago's subway, where a fare hike in 2019 triggered a wave of nationwide protests that exposed the shortcomings of Chile's free market model, young supporters of Boric, some of them waving flags emblazoned with the candidate's name, jumped and shouted in unison as they headed downtown to join thousands who gathered for the president-elect's victory speech.
"This is a historic day," said Boris Soto, a teacher. "We've defeated not only fascism, and the Right wing, but also fear."
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