Chile’s Election Signals a Hard Left Turn


Chile’s President-elect Gabriel Boric speaks to the press in Santiago, Dec. 20.


javier torres/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Latin America, or much of it, is moving to the populist left, and Chile became the latest example by electing socialist Gabriel Boric in Sunday’s presidential runoff election. He defeated conservative former congressman

José Antonio Kast

by a surprisingly large margin of 56%-44%, which means he can pursue his campaign pledge to redistribute income and usher in a new constitution.

The 35-year-old

Mr. Boric

is a member of the lower house of Congress and represents the left-wing Social Convergence party. He’s the most leftist politician to win in Chile since

Salvador Allende

in the 1970s. His major theme was reducing economic inequality, which he proposes to do through state power.

Mr. Boric wants to raise taxes, eliminate the country’s highly successful private pension system and increase government spending and regulation. He supports the constituent assembly now rewriting the constitution, and his goal is to give government more control over just about everything.

A substantial right-wing opposition in Congress—50% of the Senate and a blocking minority in the House—could moderate his agenda, and on Sunday night he pledged to be the president for all Chileans. But it isn’t clear how he will handle the street violence that militants on the left have become accustomed to using to advance their causes.

Foreign investors and Chileans with money and property are nervous. From the end of 2019—when the left launched riots demanding a new social contract—until August 2021, Chile’s central bank says some $50 billion (15% of Chilean GDP) fled the country. About half was investment capital and half from businesses and households.

Mr. Boric supported the upheaval in the streets, and on Monday the Chilean peso fell 2% against the U.S. dollar while the broader stock market plunged 10%.

An hour after the polls closed Sunday, Mr. Kast tweeted:“From today [Mr. Boric] is the elected President of Chile and he deserves all our respect and constructive collaboration. Chile is always first.”

Note to Mr. Boric: Such tolerance has made Chile a stable destination for capital since it returned to democracy in 1989. The world is watching closely to see if the new president will honor that tolerance or take Chile in the direction of such failing Latin states as Argentina or Peru, or worse.

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Appeared in the December 21, 2021, print edition as ‘Chile Takes a Hard Left Turn.’