Insights | Gabriel Boric: rise of the left in Chile and Latin America

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Gabriel Boric: rise of the left in Chile and Latin America

On December 19, the second round of the presidential election took place in Chile. Recognized as the most polarized election since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship (1990), Gabriel Boric and José Antonio Kast faced each other at the polls. The first is a recognized former student leader, who presented a government plan based, to a large extent, on the social protests that the country experienced in 2019. He is associated with the left, as he has been critical of what he calls “the neoliberal model. ”Which, in his words, must be replaced by a welfare state. Kast, for his part, is a conservative politician. In his campaign he disagreed with abortion and proposed anti-immigration policies and reduction of the size of the State. His affinity for Pinochet’s military regime deepened his image as a right-wing leader.

Aware of the above, both campaigns tried to run to the center for the second round, in order to attract the electorate that identifies with more moderate policies. Polls and projections gave Boric an advantage of more than 7 points, who finally won with 55.9% of the votes. With his victory, Latin America continues to show a turn to the left. In this context, questions arise about what can be expected in the bilateral relations between Chile and Colombia and what the political map in Latin America looks like.

¿What can be expected in the bilateral relations between Chile and Colombia?

In recent years, Colombia’s main partner in Latin America has been Chile. The good relationship that Iván Duque and Sebastián Piñera had allowed them to lead different initiatives together and be strategic allies to boost their leadership in the region. In particular, there are two initiatives that stand out thanks to the good relationship between the two leaders: the strategy of the diplomatic siege against Nicolás Maduro and the creation of Prosur.

The first of them was led by Iván Duque. Quickly, the Colombian president found in his Chilean counterpart his main support to motivate different countries in the region and the world to take actions that put pressure on the Venezuelan regime. And although several countries joined Duque’s call, undoubtedly the most significant support was that of Sebastián Piñera.

Similarly, Duque provided solid support to Piñera in what was his main regional initiative, the creation of Prosur. Warning of the “excessive ideologization and bureaucratization of Unasur”, Piñera proposed to the presidents of South America to have a new body that would represent and ensure the integration of their countries. The first to accompany the proposal was Iván Duque. In fact, their involvement and support was such that the international press recorded the creation of the new body as a joint initiative of the Colombian president and the Chilean president.

This is why several questions have arisen about how they will be to bilateral relations, taking into account that Gabriel Boric has been a harsh critic of Sebastián Piñera. President Iván Duque mentioned last Monday (one day after the elections in Chile) that he and Boric held their first conversation, in which they discussed multilateral, regional and climate issues, always focused on maintaining and strengthening the historic bilateral relationship.

However, it should be taken into account that on August 7, 2022, Colombia will have a new president, so the course of bilateral relations will depend on who is the candidate who comes to power. In principle, it is to be hoped that there will be a greater understanding if a left or center option wins. Recently, several of the candidates congratulated Boric on his triumph. Among them were Gustavo Petro and Sergio Fajardo. But with which of all the applicants are there the greatest political similarities?

If only the proposals are taken into account, without a doubt the greatest resemblance is with Gustavo Petro. In fact, several of the reforms that Boric proposed in the campaign are reforms that, keeping the differences of each country, Gustavo Petro has proposed for Colombia. The most similar is the one referring to the pension system. Boric proposes to replace the Pension Fund Administrators system with a state pay-as-you-go system. Very similar is Gustavo Petro’s proposal in this regard, who has indicated that in his government all workers will be required to contribute to Colpensiones. Similarly, coincidences can be found regarding the handling of the climate crisis, in which both have spoken of the “decarbonization of the economy”. In this sense, bilateral relations will depend, to a large extent, on the option that reaches the presidency of Colombia in 2022.

¿How is the political map in Latin America?

This year was marked by several elections in the region: Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Nicaragua and Honduras went to the polls to elect a president. In all of them, with the exception of Ecuador, a leftist leader won.

Does this mean that we can speak of a trend in Latin America for the next few years? Not yet. Although the countries of the region have been opting for left-wing options, there is a block of countries that are still governed by right-wing leaders (Colombia, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay and Ecuador). Below is a map with the main countries in the region, differentiated according to the political current that governs. In several cases this is a simplification, since many of the rulers are leaders who are difficult to label with an ideology. However, for explanatory purposes, each country is shown with the current with which it is most identified internationally.

Mapa 1: Elaboración propia equipo Kreab Colombia (2021)

As can be seen on the map, although there is a predominance of countries led by left-wing currents, next year’s elections in Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay in 2023 will be decisive in speaking of a general trend.