Name? Gabriel Boric
Westphalian identity? Chilean
Why is he in the news? President Gabriel Boric of Chile just suffered the largest referendum on his own agenda to date. A constitutional assembly, made up of mostly left-leaning members, was busy the last three years drafting a new constitution from scratch. Yesterday, 62% of voters rejected it. Not even the most pessimistic predictions expected such a resounding no to this constitution.
Why do we care? Boric is a transformative figure in Chile, representing its shift to the left. Although Boric’s first few months in office have not been amazing, the assembly in charge of this constitution predates his ascendency, and the proposed constitution is a big deal. It included laws on healthcare, housing, water, autonomy for indigenous people, sanitation, education, and more.
Why should you care? Besides reasons we have previously explained, this rejection was a wake-up call for the activists who influenced the creation of this constitution. In the same way that the current constitution enshrined specific ideologically driven policies, the new one would just represent the “other” side. In the wake of the referendum, Boric is reshuffling two of his closest cabinet members. He insists that this is not a loss for the left, rather a signal of unity from Chileans for a more centrist government, and the cabinet must reflect that. You should care 7/10 about good governance.
Who else cares? Colombian president Gustavo Petro claims this referendum is the “return of Pinochet”. Frankly, his comments are misleading, and a new constitutional assembly could still create a constitution that works for all of Chile. These events are, however, a truly democratic referendum on the left-wing politics of Latin America, which may worry leaders like Petro.
Any further comments? Keep in mind, just because this constitution was rejected, does not mean that Chileans do not want a new constitution. A new assembly will be put together to propose another, less transformed, yet consequential, constitution.