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Hits and Misses: Chile’s Gabriel Boric’s First 100 Days in Office

One-hundred days since taking office, the Chilean left-wing president’s approval rating is around 32%, according to a recent poll, the most abrupt fall in popularity for a leader since 1990

Chilean President Gabriel Boric
June 20, 2022 | 07:55 pm

Santiago — Chilean President Gabriel Boric marked 100 days since taking office on Sunday, with an approval rating close to 32.8%, according to Activa’s latest survey Pulso Ciudadano, published in the first fortnight of June and with a margin of sampling error of 2.8%, and which is the sharpest fall in popularity by a president during their ‘honeymoon’ period since 1990.

“We know, compatriots, that the fulfillment of our goals will not be easy, that we will face external and internal crises, that we will make mistakes and that we will have to amend those mistakes with humility,” Boric anticipated in his first speech as head of state, on March 11.

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For Mario Herrera, a political analyst at the Universidad de Talca, “there have been two mistakes [by Boric so far]. On the one hand, the declarations by Interior Minister Izkia Siches, which for some time occupied the agendas of the media and, on the other hand, the timing in the presentation of the presidential announcements”.

Siches became one of the most controversial figures during the beginning of the new administration. In April, the minister was forced to retract a statement on the deportation of migrants, which turned out to be based on false information.

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Herrera says that, although there were important announcements related to Boric’s government program, such as the increase in the minimum wage and the economic recovery plan, these were overshadowed by negative news associated with his administration.

“The main blunder has been from within the Ministry of the Interior, where Siches has made several mistakes,” he said.

A complex context

In his first three months in government, Boric has had to face violence in the so-called southern macro-zone of Chile. At first, the president entrusted Siches with the mission of traveling to La Araucanía in an attempt to initiate talks with the local people who were protesting, but who was met with violent groups that prevented the government delegation’s entry into the conflict zone.

After opposing the ‘state of exception’ imposed by his predecessor, former president Sebastián Piñera, Boric made a U-turn and reapplied the measure and even extended it recently to control a further outbreak of violence in the region, and in the provinces of Arauco and Biobío.

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“There are situations that are going to remain latent during the rest of his government. These are the conflict in the southern macro zone and the situation of migrants in the north of Chile, to which he is unable to find a solution,” according to Herrera.

According to the political analyst, dialogue is being neglected in favor of the “limited” states of exception, and which could mean a “change of strategy”.

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International trips

However, Boric’s travels abroad have proved to be positive, according to Herrera. “In terms of foreign policy, at least there are more hits than misses,” he said.

Image taken from Gabriel Boric's Twitter account.dfd

Boric’s most recent trip was to the US to participate in the Summit of the Americas. Boric said his impression was that the meeting went well, and polls showed a slight increase in his approval ratings after his meetings with President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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“It left him with a positive balance and that is important, because normally foreign agenda items tend to unite Chileans,” Herrera said.

Another of the good decisions of the new administration was the increase in the minimum wage, and the post-pandemic economic aid measures.

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The new constitution

The first months of Boric’s administration were marked by the final stage of the process to draw up a new constitution to replace the one dating back to the 1973-90 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

To that end, a constitutional convention was created, comprised of citizens from all walks of life, who debated the content of the new document that will be put to public vote in September.

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“Although, logically, there is an ideological association between the president and his government program and the Constitutional Convention, this logical association between the two issues has forced the president to, on the one hand, separate himself from it, while his ministers try to link themselves more to the content of a new charter,” according to Herrera.

Giorgio Jackson, Boric’s minister secretary general, said in an interview with El Mercurio newspaper that in the event that the draft of the new constitution is rejected by the electorate in the September 4 plebiscite, the government would have to review which are “the best mechanisms to carry out” its program, but that “many of these reforms, with the current constitutional framework, would not be able to be carried out”, meaning that the failure of the constitution could also result in the failure of Boric’s government to achieve its stated aims.

Translated from the Spanish by Adam Critchley