The World Today for December 07, 2022


Quitting, Loudly


Irina Karamanos recently resigned from her position as First Lady of Chile. She is still Chilean President Gabriel Boric’s partner. The 33-year-old Santiago-based anthropologist, feminist and political organizer simply didn’t want a public position based on that personal relationship.

Writing in the Washington Post, columnist Kate Cohen supported the decision. Karamanos initially accepted the role reluctantly, saying she could use it or reform it for the better. “But there’s no way to reform the role of first lady,” Cohen wrote. “It’s either sexist or antidemocratic or both.”

The former first lady’s move exemplifies how Boric, a leftist, is presiding over the country known as one of the most conservative and pro-free market in South America.

As the Australia-based Lowy Institute explained, the 36-year-old Boric became the youngest leader in Latin America when he assumed office in March. His victory was part of a wave of left-wing victories in the region, known as the ‘Pink Tide,’ where many voters now reject the conservative, pro-business views of past generations. Socialist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s victory in the recent Brazilian presidential election over right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro was the latest example of the trend.

But Boric suffered a defeat in his first major test as president when 62 percent of Chilean voters said no in a referendum that proposed a new, progressive constitution, CNN wrote. The new charter would have expanded social rights, environmental protections, social welfare programs, mandated gender parity, and given new seats in the Chilean Congress to indigenous representatives.

A military junta ruled from 1973 to 1990, building up the country’s extractive economy and setting the stage for growth. Sympathizers with those right-wing movements are organizing to oppose Boric, argued author Ariel Dorfman in The Nation, a left-leaning magazine. Other Boric critics say his government is composed of millennial-generation activists who don’t know what they’re doing, Al Jazeera added, noting that the president’s popularity has fallen sharply.

But Boric now faces a second test that, if he can pass it, could reinvigorate his administration. Pensions in Chile are now too low, Americas Quarterly wrote. Boric recently proposed a new system that would hike pensions, compel workers and companies to contribute more to the funds, and allow investment funds to participate, too. It was not clear how Boric would compel companies to pay an additional six percent of their employees’ wages to the pension system without raising prices, cutting expenses or other adverse impacts.

Regardless, if he fails, don’t blame his partner.

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