Vehemently anti-Israel millennial vows to remake Chile after historic win

During a campaign meeting with Jewish leaders, Boric, 35, referred to Israel as a “murderous state.”

By Associated Press

Former leftist student leader Gabriel Boric will be under quick pressure from his youthful supporters to fulfill his promises to remake Chile after the millennial politician scored a historic victory in the country’s presidential runoff election.

Boric spent months traversing Chile, vowing to bring a youth-led inclusive government to attack nagging poverty and inequality that he said are the unacceptable underbelly of a free market model imposed decades ago by the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

The bold promise paid off. With 56% of the votes, Boric on Sunday handily defeated his opponent, far right lawmaker José Antonio Kast, and at age 35 was elected Chile’s youngest modern president.

Amid a crush of supporters in downtown Santiago, Boric vaulted atop a metal barricade to reach the stage where he used the indigenous Mapuche language to initiate a victory speech to thousands of mostly young supporters.

“We are a generation that emerged in public life demanding our rights be respected as rights and not treated like consumer goods or a business,” Boric said.

“We know there continues to be justice for the rich, and justice for the poor, and we no longer will permit that the poor keep paying the price of Chile’s inequality.”

In his speech, the bearded, bespectacled president-elect highlighted the progressive positions that launched his improbable campaign, including a promise to fight climate change by blocking a proposed mining project in the world’s largest copper producing nation.

Boric also has a history of hostility towards Israel.

During a campaign meeting with Jewish leaders, for instance, he referred to Israel as a “murderous state.”

When Boric served as a member of Chile’s Chamber of Deputies, the lower house legislature, the Jewish community sent him a jar of honey ahead of the Jewish New Year, when Jews traditionally eat honey as a symbol for a coming sweet year. Boric returned the honey and tweeted, “I appreciate the gesture, but they could have asked Israel to return illegally occupied Palestinian territory.”

Boric has also supported draft legislation to boycott products and services from Israeli settlements.

‘A historic day’

In Santiago’s subway, where a fare hike in 2019 triggered a wave of nationwide protests that exposed the shortcomings of Chile’s free market model, young supporters of Boric waved flags emblazoned with the candidate’s name while jumping and shouting as they headed downtown for his victory speech.

“This is a historic day,” said Boris Soto, a teacher. “We’ve defeated not only fascism, and the right wing, but also fear.”

Boric will become Chile’s youngest modern president when he takes office in March and only the second millennial to lead in Latin America, after El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele. Only one other head of state, Giacomo Simoncini of the city-state San Marino in Europe, is younger.

The new government is likely to be closely watched throughout Latin America, where Chile has long been a harbinger of regional trends.

Boric’s stated goal is to introduce a European-style social democracy that would expand economic and political rights to attack nagging inequality without veering toward the authoritarianism embraced by so much of the left in Latin America, from Cuba to Venezuela.

He was able to prevail by expanding beyond his base in the capital, Santiago, and attracting voters in rural areas. For example, in the northern region of Antofagasta, where he finished third in the first round of voting, he trounced Kast by almost 20 points.

Also key to his victory were Chilean women, a key voting bloc who feared that a Kast victory would roll back years of steady gains. Kast, 55, a devout Roman Catholic and father of nine, has a long record of attacking Chile’s LGBTQ community and advocating more restrictive abortion laws.

Boric, in his victory speech, promised that Chile’s women will be “protagonists” in a government that seeks to “leave behind once and for all the patriarchal inheritance of our society.”

World Israel News contributed to this report.