Chile’s 36-Year-Old President Promised Change. Now Some Are Worried About What That Means

By Matthew Kendrick

Latin America is full of unpopular presidents because of inflation and slow economies—the post-COVID scene, said AS/COA's Brian Winter to Morning Consult.

After three years of often violent street protests that grew out of decades of rising inequality, Gabriel Boric epitomized the hopes of many Chileans for a more fair and inclusive society when he was elected president on a staunchly left-wing platform in December. But just six weeks after his inauguration, meeting those hopes is proving painful — and the 36-year-old president now has his back up against the wall.

Boric’s approval rating is down 16 percentage points since his March 11 inauguration, with disapproval among Chilean adults up 27 points over the same six-week period. Simultaneously, the spike in consumer confidence in Chile that accompanied his inauguration has evaporated, with Chileans smarting from high inflation and grim growth prospects. […]

The speed of the new Chilean president’s decline has nevertheless been a surprise to many—even if it fits with broader regional trends, according to Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly and the vice president for policy at Americas Society/Council of the Americas.

“Latin America and the Western world in general are full of unpopular presidents right now because of inflation and slow economies—the post-COVID scenario,” Winter said, adding that Boric’s approval rating is about more than just the economy.

He pointed to the southern Araucanía region, where the indigenous Mapuche people have struggled to preserve their culture and autonomy for centuries, and where some confrontations have resulted in deadly violence in recent years. Boric dispatched Interior Minister Izkia Siches for negotiations with them early after his inauguration, having emphasized the rights of indigenous people in his campaign. Instead, Siches, who declined an armed escort, ended up fleeing the area after being confronted by armed men who fired into the air.

“The administration needed to show right away that they knew what they were doing,” Winter said, “and instead the first impression that many Chileans have after the Siches incident is one of an inexperienced government, whose ideology is clashing with reality.”…

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