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Leftist Gabriel Boric sworn in as Chile's new president

The leader of a broad leftist coalition, which includes Chile's communist party, Boric has long promised to move forward with the left’s thirst for reform and overhaul Chile's market-friendly economic model

El presidente Gabriel Boric juró este viernes como presidente de Chile
El presidente Gabriel Boric juró este viernes como presidente de Chile | Twitter - Gabriel Boric Font

March 11, 2022 12:45pm

Updated: March 21, 2022 2:05pm

The 36-year-old Chilean leftist Gabriel Boric was sworn in as president on Friday, bringing the end of a free-market era as the Andean nation struggles to deal with ever mounting social and economic pressures.

After besting free-market candidate Jose Antonio Kast in a presidential runoff election in December of last year, 36-year-old former student leader took the oath of office at the congressional building in Valparaiso, the headquarters for the Chilean National Congress since 1990, Chilean outlets reported.

"Before the Chilean people, I make my pledge," he said before a crowd of about 500 people.

Although Boric’s unexpected victory sparked hope among Chile’s left-wing, the president will enter La Moneda, Chile’s presidential palace, at a turbulent time for the world’s leading copper producer. He will ultimately have to navigate ambitious political projects through a highly polarized society that has been rocked by country-wide protests and untamed terrorist violence in the country’s southern regions and an ever worsening economic climate.

The leader of a broad leftist coalition, which includes Chile's communist party, Boric has long promised to move forward with the left’s thirst for reform and overhaul a market-friendly economic model which many have claimed has deepened economic divides.

The president also told voters he will work to reform Chile’s prolific private pension funds (AFPs) and support the implementation of a new constitution – answering a call to relieve Chile of any vestiges of General Augusto Pinochet’s military government, which ruled for 17 years after socialist President Salvador Allende committed suicide during a military coup in 1973.  

"He reminds me of Allende, but I hope it has a happier ending," 62-year-old Marigen Vargas said, according to Reuters. "We want a more united, happier Chile."

Boric indeed holds a deep admiration for Allende and, after meeting at La Moneda with Piñera in December, stopped to pay his respects before the former president’s bust.

"When I stood in front of Salvador Allende's bust, I thought of those who, like him, came before us. Their dreams of a better Chile are the ones we will continue to build together with all of you,” he Tweeted shortly after.

After taking office in 1970, Allende’s time in office was marked by rampant inflation, the weakening of democratic institutions and a 23-day state visit by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

As Chile’s new, young leader assumes the reins of power, he will also have to address challenges brought about by an economic slowdown (which will surely be worsened by the growing tensions in Europe), a split legislature and growing popular opposition to his proposed reforms.

Boric's female-majority Cabinet was also sworn in on Friday, with delegations from the United States, Ecuador, Argentina, Peru and Spain in attendance, among others.

"I wish him success in his future government," outgoing president Pinera said in his final address. "But also the wisdom to distinguish right from wrong."