Student protest leader Gabriel Boric wins Chile's presidential election - Reuters News Agency

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Student protest leader Gabriel Boric wins Chile’s presidential election

Ten years after leading student protests demanding better education, Gabriel Boric set to become Chile’s youngest-ever president on Sunday (December 19), capping a remarkable rise for the Andean nation’s progressive left.

The former law student who has pledged to bury Chile’s “neoliberal” economic model convincingly defeated far-right rival Jose Antonio Kast in the country’s presidential runoff on Sunday.

Boric, who will take office in March, has tapped into public anger at Chile’s market-oriented economic model, widely considered to have helped drive decades of rapid economic growth but stoking inequality.

That imbalance sparked widespread angry social uprisings in 2019, lighting the fuse for the political rise of the progressive left and the redrafting of the country’s dictatorship-era constitution.

During a speech after his electoral victory, he said his government will also expand social rights but will do so with fiscal responsibility and taking care of the economy in the world’s top copper producing nation.

With over 99% of ballots counted, Boric, 35, who leads a broad leftist coalition, had 55.86% of the vote, compared with 44.14% for far-right rival Kast, who conceded defeat.

A native of Punta Arenas, in Chile’s far south, Boric as a student led the Federation of Students at the University of Chile in Santiago. He rose to prominence leading protests in 2011 demanding improved and cheaper education.

By 2014, still in his 20s, he had joined the national Congress as a lower-house lawmaker, representing Chile’s vast and sparsely populated southernmost region of Magallanes.

With thick black hair and a trimmed beard, he is more groomed now than in his student leader days. Although a known face of the left in Chile, Boric was initially a dark-horse candidate for the presidency.

He just reached the threshold of 35,000 signatures needed to be a candidate. But then he beat out the popular Santiago-region mayor, Daniel Jadue, of the Communist Party, to lead the leftist alliance.

Boric has since looked to distance himself from some of the more extreme views of far-left groups in his alliance, including support from the Communist Party for the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro.

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