High hopes and a host of challenges left as Chile transformed under Borek

Chile turned sharply to the left on Friday when Gabriel Borek, 36, was sworn in as the youngest-ever president of a South American country after pledging social and economic reforms, riding a wave of voter discontent with the political status quo.

Borek, a tattooed former protest leader, marks a sharp departure from outgoing billionaire Sebastian Pinera. It has raised hope among progressives as well as fears that Chile’s decades of economic stability will be under attack.

The leader of a broad left-wing coalition including the Chilean Communist Party has vowed to reform a market-led economic model to fight the inequality that fueled violent protests in 2019, though he has toned down his fiery rhetoric in recent months.

Borek’s rise marks the biggest shift in Chilean politics since the country’s return to democracy 30 years ago after the bloody dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

Pinochet, whose shadow still hangs over the Andean country, ousted Socialist President Salvador Allende, who committed suicide in 1973 during a military coup, and Borisha has often praised Allende’s legacy.

“It reminds me of Allende, but I hope it has a happy ending,” said Marijn Vargas, 62, who traveled the night for Borek’s inauguration outside Congress in the coastal city of Valparaiso. “We want a more united and happier Chile.”

Leftist Borek demands broad mandate after election victory

© France 24 Boric faces a host of challenges from an economic slowdown, high inflation and a divided legislature that will test his bargaining ability to drive health care and pension reforms, as environmental regulations tighten.

Carlos Ruiz, an academic at the University of Chile who taught Borek, said Borek will have to deal with a rising bloc of ultra-conservatives that did well in elections last year and find consensus to advance his reforms.

“This is the task that awaits Borek now,” he said.

Chile at a crossroads: Chile, the bastion of free markets and economic responsibility in turbulent South America, finds itself at a crossroads. The state is also rewriting its Pinochet-era constitution, which supported growth but has been blamed for stoking inequality.

Borek’s female-majority government was sworn in on Friday before receiving the presidential sash in the presence of delegations from the United States, Spain, Argentina and others.

“This is an era full of hope to stand up for society, youth, a green future and equality,” tweeted Yolanda Diaz, the second vice president of Spain who traveled to Chile, referring to Buric’s environmental and feminist agenda.

High hopes may be quickly bolstered against the split of the Electoral College and the legislature, split halfway between right and left. The simmering issues of crime, immigration and indigenous rights mean that the Borek government also has its full attention.

“I wish him well in his future government,” Pinera said in his latest speech, but cited concerns about identity politics, the weakening of the judiciary and crime. “But also wisdom in distinguishing between right and wrong.”

(France 24 with Reuters)

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