We use cookies for site personalization and analytics. You can opt out of third party cookies. More info in our privacy policy.   Got it

Reversing Pinochet’s legacy will be an uphill battle

Credit: Fotografoencampana/WikiCommons

On March 11, Gabriel Boric Font will be inaugurated as Chile’s new president. A former student leader, he beat the far-right Republican Party’s José Antonio Kast by a margin of 12 per cent. His mandate is to tackle Chile’s social and economic inequality – the same conditions that led to popular mobilizations in 2019, dubbed ‘El Estallido’ or ‘outbreak’.

Typically, markets responded fearfully to Boric’s progressive agenda in the run-up to the elections – as did conservative sectors of Chilean society, which since 1973 have enjoyed the fruits of privatization. To affect any real social progress, Boric will have to persuade the armed forces and the politically-influential business elite of his agenda.

So Boric’s struggle is multifaceted: he must unite a politically polarized country, convince the Left that he will alleviate inequality without, to use his own words, compromising ‘fiscal responsibility’. Boric has critics on the Left: the Trotskyite Revolutionary Workers’ Party has accused him of a ‘rapid rightward shift’.

The ghosts of Chile’s past – and particularly the deposition of leftwing president Salvador Allende by Augusto Pinochet in a military coup in 1973 – have haunted this election more than any other in recent history. Kast is the son of a Nazi escapee, his campaign spokesperson was Pinochet’s great-great niece, and he even claimed that Pinochet himself would have supported him.

Back in 2019 Pablo Sepúlveda Allende, a doctor and Allende’s grandson, criticized Boric for calling on the Chilean Left to ‘condemn the human rights situation’ in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. Now another Allende grandchild, Maya Fernández, has been appointed to the symbolic post of defence minister.

But without clear commitments to decriminalizing protest, demilitarizing indigenous Wallmapu territory and nationalizing the copper industry – which precipitated the 1973 coup – breaking with Pinochet’s legacy will be an uphill battle.

New Internationalist issue 536 magazine cover This article is from the March-April 2022 issue of New Internationalist.
You can access the entire archive of over 500 issues with a digital subscription. Subscribe today »


Help us produce more like this

Editor Portrait Patreon is a platform that enables us to offer more to our readership. With a new podcast, eBooks, tote bags and magazine subscriptions on offer, as well as early access to video and articles, we’re very excited about our Patreon! If you’re not on board yet then check it out here.

Support us »

Subscribe   Ethical Shop