The World Today for May 05, 2023


Bona Fides and Possibilities


Early last year, shortly after he was elected president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, 37, quoted a Chilean poem in his remarks at a meeting with the country’s most important industrialists and business leaders. The lines recalled a cemetery in Boric’s Patagonian hometown and how the commoners buried there suffered and toiled while the rich grew wealthier under the authoritarian regime of the late Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990.

“Boric was bringing out of the shadows the countless Chileans whose lives have been ransacked and neglected, reminding the cream of Chile’s ruling class,” wrote Ariel Dorfman, an author and professor emeritus of literature at Duke University, in the Washington Post.

Boric is doing more to bolster his leftist credentials than cite poetry. He recently proposed, for example, to nationalize the country’s lithium sector, reported Quartz. The move echoed similar proposals by Salvador Allende, a socialist Chilean president who won office in 1970 on a pledge to nationalize the South American country’s mines. Backed by the US, the military launched a coup in response, paving the way for Pinochet to assume power.

Still, the president is also tacking right, noted Americas Quarterly. The homicide rate in Chile increased by nearly a third last year. Around 75 percent of Chileans fear becoming a victim of crime, pollster Cadem reported. Drug trafficking and human trafficking have especially become problems. Boric has responded with new laws to expand police powers and put additional investment into security. The president has also failed to maintain his pledge of maintaining perfect gender parity in his cabinet, according to El País.

Boric’s leanings are important because the big, looming political question in Chile is how the country might reform its current Pinochet-era constitution. In September last year, a wide majority of Chileans rejected the president’s proposed changes to the document – a sign that Boric’s leftist agenda was not as popular as he thought his election victory might have indicated.

Now, however, Boric and lawmakers have agreed to try to draft a new constitution for a second time. This month, voters nationwide will elect 50 members of a provisional Constitutional Council who will debate a new proposed charter, wrote the Daily Free Press, the student newspaper at Boston University. A Commission of Experts is now drafting individual sections of a potential constitution, added Prensa Latina, the Cuban state-owned news agency.

Chileans are lobbying for their ideas, too. The abortion rights movement, for example, suffered a setback when voters rejected the previous revised constitution, which enshrined those rights. Now, as Al Jazeera reported, pro-choice activists are working hard to include those rights in this latest round of constitutional changes.

It’s Boric’s chance to make sure real change comes to Chile.

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