Facing criticism at home, Chile president makes Time’s most influential list

By Sebastian Silva

Santiago, May 23 (EFE).- Chilean President Gabriel Boric was included Monday on Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people of 2022, even as he struggles with low approval ratings at home just over two months into his four-year term.

Coinciding with the 36-year-old left-wing head of state’s recognition in that New York-based publication, a survey by the Cadem polling firm showed just 38 percent approval of Boric’s performance in office and 50 percent disapproval.

That same survey, which is less reliable than others but often cited in the local media, showed 77 percent of respondents approve of Boric’s decision to declare a state of emergency in the conflictive southern region of Araucania even though he had pledged not to take that step and criticized his conservative predecessor, Sebastian Piñera, for doing so.

The recognition by Time marks a continuation of a trend seen since the young politician became president-elect in December. While he racks up plenty of plaudits and inspires optimism abroad, he has come under fire at home from the right and some sectors of the business community.


In that regard, the brief profile of Boric in Time penned by Nobel Prize-winning American economist and Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz said the “the former student leader’s win represented a changing of the guard.”

“But more importantly it marked a change in direction for Chile’s economy, and possibly the world’s.”

“The night Boric won the primaries, he promised, ‘If Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave!’ and that has become the rallying cry for those around the world looking for an alternative to the right-wing economic policies of the past five decades,” Stiglitz wrote.

“Boric’s approach combines fiscal responsibility with a more competitive economy, better social protections and working conditions, social equality and inclusion, and protecting the environment.”


But Stiglitz also underscored the challenges that lie ahead.

“With a divided polity and the hard work under way of creating a new constitution, Boric will need all the skills he has already demonstrated – listening and communicating, empathy, and a deep understanding of Chilean history and culture,” he said.

“He is making Chile the social, economic, and political laboratory of the world once again.”

With his decisive victory over right-wing candidate Jose Antonio Kast in the Dec. 19, 2021, second round of balloting, Boric not only became Chile’s youngest-ever president-elect but also set a record for most votes received in a single contest (more than 4.62 million).

The leader of an alliance that brought together the leftist Broad Front coalition and the Communist Party, Boric’s primary focus is on dismantling the Chilean economy’s neoliberal structure and charting a path toward a social welfare system similar to that found in some European countries.

For some observers, Boric’s administration marks the start of a new political era and an end to a more than 30-year post-dictatorship transition in which two large coalitions held sway.

Although a center-left coalition was in office for all but eight of those years, Boric is considered Chile’s most left-wing president since socialist Salvador Allende, who governed from 1970 until being ousted in a military coup in 1973.

Boric is not the only Chilean to earn mention recently as one of Time’s 100 most influential people.

Last year, Mapuche indigenous rights activist Elisa Loncon Antileo made that list after being elected president of Chile’s Constitutional Convention. EFE

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