By Maria M.Mur
Valparaiso, Chile, Mar 11 (EFE).- Chile’s leading leftist politician, Gabriel Boric, was sworn in here Friday as president in a ceremony laden with symbolism and attended by a large group of heads of state and government from around the world, including Spanish King Felipe VI.
The 36-year-old former student leader has become the youngest president in Chilean history and the first head of state to emerge from outside the two centrist blocs that have governed that South American country since the return of democracy in 1990.
New Senate President Alvaro Elizalde, a member of the Socialist Party, placed the presidential sash on a visibly moved Boric, who attended the ceremony without a tie and in the company of his partner, anthropologist and political scientist Irina Karamanos.
“We’re going to give the best of ourselves in confronting the challenges that lie ahead,” Boric said in brief remarks to the media while leaving the Senate building in Valparaiso, a port city located around 150 kilometers (90 miles) east of Santiago.
Boric, who had already made a statement by assembling the Americas’ first female-majority Cabinet, gave another unequivocal sign of the important role that feminism will play in his administration when he left the premises of the Senate building in a car driven by a female Carabineros (national police) officer.
Also riding in the vehicle was new Interior Minister Izkia Siches, the first woman in Chilean history to head up that portfolio.
The new head of state briefly got out of the car to greet people who had been waiting for him outside the security perimeter and then headed to the nearby city of Viña del Mar for a lunch with members of foreign delegations.
He will later return to Santiago and deliver his first official address as president at La Moneda presidential palace.
“It’s a historic day. We’re in the middle of a constitution-making process, and (this is) an administration that’s proposing profound transformations – step by step, but profound,” the government’s new spokeswoman, Camila Vallejo, told Efe.
Boric is a staunch supporter of the process of rewriting the current charter that dates back to Chile’s 1973-1990 military dictatorship and is derided by leftists as “neo-liberal,” a policy model aimed at transferring the control of economic factors from the public sector to the private sector.
His vision for Chile, by contrast, is much more closely aligned with the European model, particularly in areas such as expanding the country’s social safety net and bringing about a greener economy.
Among those attending the inauguration ceremony were the presidents of Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay and Bolivia.
“Chile has traditionally been a friendly country that’s always had good relations with Ecuador, and we had to be present to congratulate President Boric and wish him great success in his administration,” Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso told Efe.
Spain’s delegation was headed by King Felipe VI and also included Second Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz, who in remarks to Efe hailed Boric’s progressive platform.
“An inclusive, feminist, majority-female, environmentally friendly platform that gives young people the lead role,” Diaz said.
Besides the international delegations, Boric also extended personal invitations to a select group of individuals in Chile and abroad, including a young man – Gustavo Gatica – who was blinded in both eyes during a wave of anti-government protests in 2019 and became a symbol of police brutality.
Nicaraguan writer Gioconda Belli, a prominent opponent of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government, also was invited to the ceremony.
“I’m extremely hopeful that this new left will become a new alternative in Latin America,” the former Sandinista guerrilla told Efe. EFE