A decade ago, Gabriel Boric was a 25-year-old hairy man who led thousands of clamoring students through the streets of the Chilean capital with megaphone in hand, demanding free education for all.
Boric was part of a radical generation of student leaders who were catapulted into the spotlight in 2011 during an uprising against disparities in Chile’s education system.
Those protests radicalized a generation and are now seen as a precursor to the broader outbreak of social unrest that erupted across the country in October 2019.
Now, after two terms in Congress, Boric has burst into Chile’s presidential race, winning more than 60% of the vote to become a candidate for the country’s left-wing coalition in the November elections.
Boric garnered more than 1 million votes in Sunday’s primaries, clinching a decisive victory over communist party candidate Daniel Jadue, and vowing to lead the assault on Chile’s Pinochet-era economic model.
“Something beautiful and exciting is happening here, friends,” he declared on a small stage in front of his campaign headquarters in the capital, Santiago.
“We come from social movements [and] they were politically shaped by the struggles that have been built throughout history … If Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave! ”He proclaimed, fist raised to the night sky.
Boric, a law graduate from Magallanes, Chile’s southernmost region, encompassing the dramatic fjords and islets of Tierra del Fuego, promised unity and inclusion.
Meanwhile, former social development minister and president of the state bank Sebastián Sichel fought competition from a conservative mayor and two other former ministers to win a right-wing four-way primary.
Sichel and Boric’s victories suggest that while many Chileans want change after 18 tumultuous months of protests and quarantines, they were unwilling to look to extremes on both sides of the political spectrum.
“This is just the beginning for the leaders of the 2011 protest,” said Javiera Arce, a political scientist at the University of Valparaíso. “Boric has learned from the mistakes of the past and sought to forge agreements; this is an incredibly important generation in the political history of Chile ”.
Leaders of the 2011 student uprising, including Boric’s political adviser Giorgio Jackson and Communist Party politicians Camila Vallejo and Karol Cariola, joined Boric in congratulating him on his victory.
All four are serving their second term in Congress, having entered politics shortly after leaving college.
Chilean politics has undergone a dramatic metamorphosis since October 2019, when a wave of protests saw millions of people flood the streets to denounce the inequalities and injustices that abound in society.
Boric faced criticism in some quarters for his willingness to share bread with the established political class when he signed a cross-party “peace agreement” in November 2019. But the agreement eventually paved the way for Chile to replace its era constitution. of Pinochet of 1980. – a process that began this month.
His campaign succeeded in mobilizing a significant number of people to vote for a political project that focuses on social welfare, decentralization of the state, and a more equitable division of Chile’s resources.
In the November vote, Sichel and Boric will face the far-right Republican party candidate José Antonio Kast; Paula Narváez of the Socialist Party, former government spokesperson; and the centrist Yasna Provoste, president of the Senate of Chile.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism