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THE decisive victory of the Chilean people’s candidate Gabriel Boric over his pro-fascist opponent has been rightly celebrated as a democratic triumph of global significance.
Those who dogmatically accuse Boric of centrism and neoliberalism have totally failed to understand the context.
After two years of massive popular protests and brutal repression which revived memories of the worst years of the Pinochet dictatorship, Chileans desperately needed a president who would guarantee democracy and fundamental change — but would do so in a manner which would bring peace and reconciliation.
In his victory speech on December 19 Boric promised “substantial democracy” and “a change of the historic cycle,” but insisted that the people must continue to mobilise with commitment and enthusiasm to ensure that his government stays on the right path.
Paraphrasing Salvador Allende, he declared to loud applause: “I invite you, as you were invited many years ago, to go home in healthy rejoicing for the honest victory we have achieved” now that hope has defeated fear.
This clarity was soon apparent in statements and actions on future policies, including foreign relations.
Already on December 27 Boric rejected outgoing President Sebastian Pinera’s invitation to attend a meeting of Pacific Alliance leaders in Colombia: it was neither the time nor the place for such a gesture.
Among many congratulatory phone calls from regional and world leaders, Boric emphasised his positive conversation with Bolivian President Luis Arce, particularly relevant given historic tensions arising from Chile’s 19th-century seizure of Bolivian territory which deprived that country of access to the sea.
But the president-elect’s first personal diplomatic meeting was with Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who arrived in Santiago on January 5.
Ebrard first met veteran politician and diplomat Luis Maira, who thanked Mexico for its role in granting asylum to more than 2,000 Chileans following the 1973 coup.
Ebrard then visited the constituent assembly and met its outgoing President Elisa Loncon, a Mapuche indigenous woman praised by Ebrard as “a defender of the identity and rights of the Mapuche people and a persevering feminist.”
The next morning Ebrard had a breakfast meeting with Boric and Izkia Sanchez, his campaign manager.
He declared: “We are filled with enthusiasm and hope by what the new government of Gabriel Boric represents and by its programme.”
Boric declared afterwards that “the conversations we had with the foreign secretary and also with the president [of Mexico] a couple of weeks ago, were very positive and I have no doubt we are going to initiate an era of strengthening our relations.”
He added: “We shall deepen the friendship and co-operation between Chile and Mexico, brotherly peoples united in the most difficult times.”
Ebrard confirmed he would attend the Chilean president’s inauguration on March 11 and invited Boric to visit Mexico.
There is no doubt about the similarity of their goals and policies: both emphasise social justice, women’s rights with parity at all levels of government, tax justice where large corporations and the rich must pay their taxes and will have no tax holidays or exemptions, environmental justice and economic sovereignty — and Latin American unity.
A very significant issue which is high on the agenda in both nations (and which they share with Bolivia) is public control of lithium resources which all three countries possess in large quantities and which transnational capital is anxious to appropriate.
Both Mexico and Chile, with Bolivia and other fraternal nations, are determined to develop their own resources for the benefit of the people.
David Raby is a retired academic, writer and activist based in Norwich — follow him on Twitter @DLRaby.
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