International Juan Pablo Cárdenas Latin America Politics

How Far to the Left Will Boric Want to go?

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By Juan Pablo Cárdenas / Pressenza

President Gabriel Boric is confident that his Tax Reform will find the broadest support in the National Congress. If we take into account the current political make-up of the Legislative Branch, this means that this initiative would have to be backed by the right wing or a good part of it in order to become law.

As has been pointed out, the government needs to raise resources to finance its government programme, and the best or easiest way to obtain them is by raising taxes on individuals and companies. In any case, there is no proposal whatsoever to “revolutionise” the economy, nationalise the means of production, recover the large copper ores for state administration and carry out other actions that would be typical of a left or centre-left administration. Beyond, of course, the undeniable intention of the authorities to solve the most pressing problems of the millions of poor people throughout the country. Especially in one of the harshest winters of recent decades.

Before the parliamentary discussion has even begun, it is already recognised that Chile will not even reach the tax standards of the capitalist countries that are members of the OECD, to which many boast of belonging. But despite this, there are already right-wing legislators who propose postponing the Tax Reform, arguing that the intense discussion it would provoke could scare off investment. They even warn us that there are huge resources that would be emigrating from the country due to the fears that a government administration in which the Communist Party plays an important role is provoking.

Although the discussion on tax reform has already begun, Chile’s political class remains more involved with the exit plebiscite that in September will approve or reject the new constitutional text proposed by the Constituent Convention, which has just completed its work. Given the narrowness of the predicted results, it seems highly inappropriate that the ruling party has promoted the idea that the Boric Programme can only materialise with the approval and entry into force of a new Constitution. For the same reason, the President is now making belated efforts to link the fate of his government to the results of this citizens’ consultation, given that it is quite possible that many voters will express their repudiation of the current inhabitants of La Moneda by voting for the “rejection” of this text.

In today’s Chile, in truth, there are many pressures due to inflation, as well as the unprecedented state of violence and criminality that has reached unprecedented levels. It is a commotion that especially hits middle and low-income households, as well as disrupting traffic on the streets and highways. The police and the Armed Forces installed in the Araucanía region have proved incapable of mitigating the assaults, arson attacks and the daily attacks by criminal gangs, which have increased due to drug trafficking and the influx of immigrants.

Although during the last government of Sebastián Piñera the opposition, now in government, encouraged all kinds of bonuses and benefits for the Chileans most affected by the Pandemic and the explosive unemployment, now those in government are reluctant to continue extending these benefits at the expense of the national treasury. As a result, the purchasing power of thousands or millions of people and families has been ostensibly diminished.

Many of the regime’s supporters were gratified by the readjustment of the minimum wage approved a few weeks ago in agreement with the trade union confederation and business entities. This was celebrated with great fanfare, but a few days later it turned into a poor wage increase in light of the rising cost of living and, in particular, of the basic basket of goods. The saddest thing for those who are once again being left out in the cold in terms of income is that they will hardly be supported by the unions and parties of so-called progressivism, when it is known that these entities now have their two feet in La Moneda and not “one in the street”, as was the case in some governments of the former Concertación.

In any case, from the political leaderships, some left-wing groups are annoyed at the resistance of the Executive to come to the aid of the millions of Chileans who urgently need to increase their meagre incomes. As the Executive has said, there will be no more bonuses or withdrawals from the pension funds, although curiously, a former Finance Minister now acknowledges that the State still has plenty of funds available to cover the new social demands. In addition to the general enthusiasm for the excellent outlook for copper exports.

The loss of popularity of the new rulers, the deterioration of the image of the head of state himself and some of his collaborators, has sparked rumours of a change or adjustment of the ministerial cabinet. In any case, as is already accepted, this should materialise next spring if “rejection” prevails, or if the triumph of “approval” turns out to be very discreet. It must be acknowledged that in terms of public opinion, opposition to the government is materialised especially through the dissemination of all kinds of surveys and through the strict control of the big media in the hands of the big businessmen. However, when it comes to social networks, the forces seem to be more evenly matched.

On the other hand, it is vox populi that the so-called “front line”, i.e., the most radicalised sectors of the Social Outbreak of 2019, are no longer pleased with the leadership of Gabriel Boric, and accuse him of appeasing the right wing and big business. Nor do they forgive him for not doing more to free the hundreds of prisoners of the revolt. An election promise that today would mean defying the current legal system, when many detainees are accused of having committed terrorist crimes or “blood crimes”, as the right wing prefers to call them.

It is very likely that, if social unrest intensifies, the protest will once again become uncontrollable, with or without the support of political organisations and trade union superstructures. And with that, the longed-for new constitution could suffer serious setbacks. Because of the economic and social context, of course, rather than because of its content, which, by the way, very few citizens will take the time to read and analyse. There is no doubt that suffrage in Chile is not exercised in an informed manner as in other democracies.

La Moneda is surely running out of time to clearly define the direction of its government, especially in relation to the socio-economic demands of the population. In addition to tackling what is one of the main social nightmares: rampant crime, which many do not trust the institutional loyalty of the uniformed forces.

In this respect, it is worth adding the annoyance that Boric has also provoked in sectors of the left that he has resorted to the armed forces to impose order in the Araucanía, also contradicting the promise not to resort to them to achieve peace in the troubled southern macro-zone of the country.

Likewise, in international affairs, it seems that the new president’s desire is to distance himself as far as possible from the leftist regimes condemned by the White House. He is criticised for being more concerned with lavishing smiles on the White House and the First World than with reaching agreements with the region and the Third World. His extemporaneous message of solidarity with the Ukrainian president, in the midst of a conflict that has too many unknowns and outcomes, sounded truly strident to many.

Juan Pablo Cárdenas
Juan Pablo Cárdenas

Juan Pablo Cárdenas Squella is a journalist and university professor with vast experience. In 2005 he received the National Prize for Journalism and, before that, the Golden Pen of Freedom, awarded by the World Press Federation. He also obtained the Latin American Prize for Journalism, the Houten Camara de Holanda (1989) among many other national and foreign distinctions. He is part of the sixty journalists in the world considered Heroes of Freedom of Expression, a recognition made by the International Federation of Journalists. He has been director and columnist for the magazines Debate Universitario, Analysis and Los Tiempos, as well as for the electronic newspaper Primeralí He was also director of Radio Universidad de Chile and its digital newspaper for more than 18 years. He has worked as a professor at several journalism schools in Santiago and Valparaíso and at the University of Chile he reached the rank of full professor and university senator.

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