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Boric tries in the Public Account a story of unity to navigate in a pessimistic Chile, with economic and security problems


Highlights: Chilean president Gabriel Boric gave his second Public Account in Congress. It has been the longest Public Account since the return to democracy in 1990. Boric tried in several chapters to appeal to the stories of unity and political understanding. The president, who has around 30% popularity, has used it in this speech on June 1, where the act of greatest symbolism for the Chilean Republic takes place, writes Pablo Coste-González. He says Boric has given prominence to the most moderate sectors of the left, such as the Socialist Party.

In his second Public Account in Congress, the longest since the return to democracy, the leftist president defends the achievements of his 15 months of government and calls for understanding. "My priorities have changed," he admits.

With a speech of three hours and 36 minutes, the Chilean president, Gabriel Boric, has reported before Parliament and the nation his main advances of these 15 months of Government and the measures with which he will face the remainder of his mandate, until March 2026. It has been the longest Public Account since the return to democracy in 1990, because the previous record was held by the Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin, who in 1993 spoke 160 minutes, that is, two hours and 40 minutes. During his speech – where Boric left the script, allowed himself to joke, although in the end he was already tired and heard – the 37-year-old head of state tried in several chapters to appeal to the stories of unity and political understanding, along with emotion. It was his formula to overcome a complex political moment, less than a month after the Republican Party, of the extreme right, won by far in the elections of the Constitutional Council that will draft the new Constitution, precisely in the year that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the coup d'état against Salvador Allende. The president, who has around 30% popularity, has in the word one of his best tools and used it in this speech on June 1, where the act of greatest symbolism for the Chilean Republic takes place.

With about 800 guests in the hall of honor of the Congress in Valparaiso, about 120 kilometers from Santiago, Boric made some important recognitions. In addition to recalling the state with which the country found when he took office in March 2022, after a social outbreak and still in the middle of a pandemic, he spoke about the failed work of the Constitutional Convention, which proposed a text that was rejected by 62% of citizens. It was, less than a year after coming to power, his first major political defeat, from which he has not yet recovered. "Unfortunately, the Convention did not endorse the need for encounter, unity and understanding that Chileans expected, generating a climate of reciprocal intolerance and confrontations that ended in the rejection of the proposal that emanated from it," the president analyzed. He added: "In retrospect, we should have been firmer in the face of warning signs, promoted and demanded greater dialogue and transversal consensus both within the Convention and with respect to it with society."

Boric organized his extensive speech in three axes: social rights, public security and sustainable development. And although he detailed what he considers the great achievements of these first months – the maximum 40 hours of work per week, minimum wage of 500,000 Chilean pesos (about 622 dollars), the fiscal balance and a foreign investment that in 2022 was higher than the last nine years – he admitted greater realism. Although he said that his principles had not given up, he acknowledged: "If someone asks me, then: has the degree of tension that Chilean society presents, its fears and uncertainties, and the delay of the State in responding to them, made you reorder priorities? My answer is yes; emphatically yes," said Boric, who after the result of the plebiscite last September has given prominence to the most moderate sectors of the left, such as the Socialist Party, and has stepped aside from the second constitutional attempt.

Boric, in speeches outside the official script, repeatedly said that his government is willing to talk with the highly fragmented Parliament, where it does not have majorities. He did so especially in reference to the tax reform, which in March fell in Congress and which, according to the president today, the Executive will present again next July, after an intense dialogue. "Neither this government nor any other will be able to advance responsibly in materializing rights if it is not with a tax reform. And everyone also knows that the demand for a dignified life will not be extinguished with the passage of time. If we do not do it now, it will be up to those who occupy this podium in the future. Let's not continue delaying it," said Boric, who linked several of his promises to the approval of his reform. Better pensions – "which after more than 15 years of inability to agree has become a national emergency," the president said – are strongly linked to more permanent resources for the State.

In the more than three and a half hours of speech – where there were more relaxed moments than usual in this type of ceremony – the Chilean president made some announcements, although it was not what especially marked his second Public Account before Congress. Within the framework of citizen security, the main priority of the people, he announced a restriction on the funerals of drug traffickers who paralyze the life of cities, a remote surveillance system that uses artificial intelligence to monitor thousands of security cameras "to search cars with search warrants, lost people and people wanted by justice" and greater prison capacity. "During our government we will increase by 12% the current capacity of the penitentiary system, enabling 4,796 new places by 2026, either through new facilities or expanding the capacity of existing ones," said the head of state.

There was news related to transport, such as the addition of three new train services between the regions of El Maule and Los Lagos, in southern Chile, which will connect the towns of the interior with their regional capitals. And in education, where the country faces one of its main crises. The president committed by 2025 to "halve the number of students who today have a level of serious absence, reach the average attendance prior to the pandemic and raise the annual re-engagement rate to 45% of disengaged students."

Just when Chile presents a fall in economic activity of 1.1% in 12 months, according to figures released on Thursday, the Chilean president announced some economic measures, such as the incentive to hiring, a bill that strengthens and modernizes the National Consumer Service, Sernac, and measures to placate the rise in electricity rates. But no substantive or strategic measures were heard to boost growth that has been paralyzed for 11 years, with a potential of around 2% per year.

There were various calls to "take care of coexistence and mutual respect", various recognitions to the presidents who preceded him – even of different political signs – literary quotes (Gabriel Mistral or Ernest Hemingway) and reiterated in what was said at the Brasilia summit, a few days ago: "We will not take a step back in the defense of human rights in Chile and the world, regardless of the color of the government that violates them. Having a single standard in this matter is for me an essential issue," referring especially to the regime of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, which he has publicly criticized since before becoming president 15 months ago.

It was when he spoke about human rights, in fact, the moment of greatest intensity in the speech that the head of state offers a few months before Chile commemorates the 50th anniversary of the 1973 coup d'état in September. "This commemoration should help us overcome the times of fear and hatred, which lead, as we Chileans know well, to paths of division, violence and stubborn denial." Boric called on his compatriots to unite "as one body, as one soul, to prevent the poison of lack of empathy and intolerance from continuing to be inoculated into our collective body," according to the leftist president, who has had to face one of the most difficult facilities seen in recent decades.

Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-06-01

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