West News Wire: The streets of Santiago erupted in excitement on Sunday after leftist millennial Gabriel Boric won an unexpectedly large victory over his far-right opponent in a polarizing race, becoming Chile’s youngest-ever president-elect.
Boric, 35, received nearly 56 percent of the vote, while ultra-conservative Jose Antonio Kast received 44 percent and conceded even before the final result was known.
Following Kast’s concession, tens of thousands of Chileans took to the streets of the capital and other cities, honking car horns in approval, waving pro-Boric placards, and shouting “Viva Chile!”
For hours, fireworks lit up the sky.
“I’m overjoyed, and I’m crying tears of joy. Fascism has been defeated! “Jennie Enriquez, a 45-year-old pharmacy worker, told AFP.
“I am happy because there will be many changes that will benefit the people and the working class,” said Luis Astorga, a 58-year-old construction worker.
Boric had campaigned on the promise of installing a “social welfare” state, increasing taxes and social spending in a country with one of the world’s largest gaps between rich and poor.
Branded a “communist” by his detractors, he vowed in his first official address Sunday to “expand social rights” in Chile, but to do so with “fiscal responsibility.”
“We will do it protecting our macro-economy, we will do it well… to improve pensions and healthcare,” he said.
Chile is going through profound change after voting overwhelmingly last year in favor of drawing up a new constitution to replace the one enacted in the Pinochet years.
The 2020 referendum was in response to an anti-inequality social uprising in 2019 that left dozens dead.
The drafting process, in the hands of a largely left-leaning body elected in May, must yield a constitution for approval next year, on the new president’s watch.
President Sebastian Pinera, who leaves office with a low approval rating, said Sunday the country was living in “an environment of excessive polarization, confrontation, disputes.”
Pinera urged his successor, before the result was known, to never forget that “he will be the president of all Chileans, and not just those who support him.”
Boric will be inaugurated in March next year.