The left is not to be trusted;  the right is still very strong: Boric
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Mexico City. The president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, in full exercise of his diplomatic muscle to break the distance with Latin America established by his predecessors, proposes to the leaders of the so-called new progressive wave: “From the start, you should not trust yourself. One looks at the elections we had in Chile, the ones that took place in Brazil or the situation in Peru and sees that, despite the fact that we have rulers where we had a presidential majority, the right or the most conservative sectors continue to be very strong. Therefore, we cannot put aside the exercise of convincing our people that the alternative that we are proposing is better and that we are going to propose it together”.

He has been in the Presidency for eight months and has already suffered a serious setback: the rejection in a referendum of the Magna Carta proposal drafted by a new constituent assembly. This has not made him desist from changing the current Constitution, which dates from the Pinochet period, for a new one.

“There is a cross-sectional consensus that the current Constitution is exhausted and must be changed,” he maintains. It is in the Chilean Parliament where the mechanism to define the new constitutional body will be established, and Boric has urged the parliamentarians: “We do not wait for another constitutional crisis like that of 2019 to renew our social pact. The reasons that led to the crisis are still valid”.

He arrived in Mexico on Tuesday night and yesterday held a meeting with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, “with whom we have built a relationship of trust.” Initially, his visit was scheduled for four days, to attend the Pacific Alliance summit. But this was suspended, due to the internal crisis that Peru is going through.

The trip to Mexico was shortened to two days. López Obrador’s decision to postpone the meeting was described by his Chilean counterpart as an “act of solidarity” with Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, who should receive the presidency pro tempore of the organism.

time between books

But in addition to the official agenda, there is a stopover that he wants to make and is not willing to jump: a bookstore. His work team has located one near the hotel where he is staying and, in the morning, after his meeting with businessmen, after talking with this newspaper and before the procession starts for the National Palace, he almost starts running – his suit light blue, without a tie– so as not to take minutes away from his time between books.

Throughout the interview with the day Ideas and definitions abounded about what it means, today, to be on the left. From the outset, he distances himself from a definition that is often attributed to him as a “moderate leftist” and “well-behaved.”

Does this definition bother you, does it fit into what you want to do?

-Nope. I work with the north so that our people live better. And in that I don’t need to give guarantees of leftism to any academic or activist. My convictions are firm on the left, rooted in the history of the left in Latin America, and I believe that the left has a duty to constantly rethink itself and act responsibly. It doesn’t mean being moderate, it means being responsible.

Before this official visit to Mexico, he was in Colombia with Gustavo Petro and in Argentina with Alberto Fernández. Next week he will be with Pedro Castillo, in Lima. “I want to proudly claim that we are deeply Latin American and that from here we want to speak to the world.”

And he defines: “In addition, we have to be deeply internationalists. The pandemic made it very clear that no one here is going to save themselves and that in this sense integration, particularly Latin American integration, is tremendously important to me.”

“Arauco has a pity”

Another difficult obstacle to resolve is the centenary conflict in Araucanía and the land claims of the Mapuches. Last week he traveled to that southern region, there were acts of violence and Boric toughened his speech. At the same time, he started a peace commission.

How has this initiative progressed? How to solve those actions that you have defined as terrorists?

–Here there are things that run on parallel tracks: there is a totally legitimate demand regarding the peoples of the Mapuche nation, which has to do with their right to exist as a people. That means that their language, Mapuzugun, is recognized; the bases of intercultural medicine, its forms of organization; that their tradition, their culture and their world view of the world be respected.

“In addition, there is a specific problem regarding the land. The colonization of Araucanía in the second half of the 19th century was based on occupation and dispossession. The commission’s main mandate is to establish an official truth regarding the land claim; recognize that not all the lands will be able to be restituted, because there are many cities that were founded on them or small peasants who own property today.”

–How much support do you have among the Mapuches?

–We have had a good reception so far, because everyone wants peace. Violence and dispossession have brought a lot of pain to the area. Violeta Parra sang “Arauco has a penalty” 50 years ago and this is still fully valid. I believe that today the conditions are in place for us to move towards peace and a meeting.

The President of Chile, Gabriel Boric, in an interview with ‘La Jornada’, described López Obrador’s decision to postpone the Pacific Alliance summit as an “act of solidarity”. Photo Cristina Rodriguez.

New agenda for Latin America?

– What can be expected of the course of Latin America with this new impulse, after Lula da Silva, Gustavo Petro and yourself won the presidency? A change of regional agenda?

–I hope that, in Latin America, after a time that we have been involved in fights, we can reach a good port with our international issues. For example, it was very sad to see that in times of the pandemic we began to compete for vaccines instead of collaborating between governments, so that we all had the best possible access.

–Another possibility for Latin American consultation, could it be to rethink a position regarding the war in Ukraine, where no progress has been made in the search for a peaceful solution?

–First, all efforts must be made so that the war does not escalate. That said, you have to have a clear position. For me this is an illegitimate aggressive war of Russia against Ukraine. We must respect the sovereignty of the countries, something that Russia is not doing, and resolve things through multilateral channels. It is terrible to see how the war in Ukraine has affected even the table of our families with inflation and the cost of food production.

– The United States and the European Union have not encouraged this exit so far. Can Latin America contribute something so that the only possible way out is not the war?

“Of course we have something to say. But that something cannot be relativizing multilateralism or the territorial sovereignty of countries.

Lithium and neoliberalism

–Lithium: your government proposes a national industry, that lithium not only be a private mineral. The government of Mexico has advanced a similar idea. In this matter, can Chile and Mexico establish some kind of alliance?

We know that there must be links between the public and private sectors. But we are determined that the State has an important and guiding role in the exploitation of lithium in our country, because it is a strategic mineral, which is needed in the world for conversion, regarding the climate crisis, and therefore the State has more than anything to say on this issue. We are going to continue promoting this policy, we hope to hear soon about this issue.

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