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Election of Gabriel Boric as Chile’s youngest president ‘symbol of hope’ for new generation

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(RIO DE JANEIRO) — Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old self-described “moderate socialist,” will be sworn in as Chile’s president in March, making him both the youngest leader in South America and the youngest president in modern Chilean history.

The left-wing former student protester secured 56% of the vote in Sunday’s election, defeating the ultra-conservative José Antonio Kast, 56. Boric has vowed sweeping changes in Chilean society, campaigning on promises to dismantle the economic legacy of the General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s.

“I am going to be the president of all Chileans, whether you voted for me or not,” Boric said after his victory.

His campaign was successful in part because it appealed to the interests of younger Chileans. Boric rose to prominence as a key figure of the recent student protests, which included several years of nearly constant demonstrations against inequality and demands for social reforms.

“Boric is a symbol of hope for all Chile not just the rich or the poor,” Mariana Bona, a 27-year-old music teacher and Boric voter from Santiago, Chile’s capital, told ABC News. “We need to become one people.”

Born on Feb. 11, 1986, in Punta Arena in southern Chile, Boric began his activist career a decade ago, as a leader in student marches seeking better and cheaper education for all.

The former law student never finished his studies and instead turned his focus to politics. Striking a casual figure compared to other Chilean lawmakers — Boric rarely wears a tie — he was first elected to congress as a lower-house legislator for the Magallanes region in 2013. He was reelected in 2018.

During his presidential campaign, he promised to “bury” the neoliberal, free-market economy implemented under Pinochet’s rule, vowing to tax the richest in society to improve social services.

The left-winger was able to secure support beyond Santiago, including from ethnic minorities and the LGBT community, eliciting favor through his support of same-sex marriage in a majority Catholic country. Sunday’s high-turnout vote brought with it a message of unification, according to Lucía Dammert, a political analyst at the Universidad de Santiago de Chile.

“So many people went to vote, more than at the first round where Kast was leading,” she said. “This is the presidential elections with the largest number of votes in the history of Chile. This is significant — and it does provide a lot of legitimacy for Gabriel Boric. This is truly an historical event.”

In his post-victory speech, Boric said the country would no longer accept that the poor continue paying the price of inequality.

“Boric’s win will allow the country to grow,” Dammert said. “And it will allow Chile to find and define a new path.”

 

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