Chile’s president Gabriel Boric reflected on several lessons learned since the social uprising of 2019. He discussed human rights violations, the public’s demands, and the current state of the country. In sum, “We know that Chile is asking for reforms.”
Three years after a series of students protests transformed into a nationwide protest that inspired millions, lasted for months, and led to the lengthy constitutional process that ultimately ended in failure, President Gabriel Boric reflected on the social uprising in a speech he delivered from the courtyard of the presidential palace, La Moneda presidential palace. “Three years ago, thousands of people demonstrated, expressing a long-accumulated malaise that demanded greater justice, equality and an end to abuses. They protested, so that neither the size of the wallet nor the place of birth would be a condition for access to a secure life, decent health, quality education and pensions,” he said.
Watch the entire speech here:
— Presidencia de Chile (@Presidencia_cl) October 18, 2022
According to Boric, various political sectors have three years after that infamous October 18 completely different views of what happened that day and over the days that followed. “The estallido was not an anti-capitalist revolution and neither, as they have wanted to install in recent days, was it a pure crime wave. It was an expression of pain,” he said. “Sometimes we hear opinions that limit themselves to explain October 18 as if it were a pure explosion of violence, as if this violence had only arisen from delinquency or lack of police control. However, those who promote this view these days forget that there was a day, October 25, when more than one million people took to the streets in Santiago and thousands in the rest of the country.”
With an estimated more than 70 percent of Chileans supporting the estallido in its early days, Boric emphasized Chile should not pretend “to deny history.” He also reflected on the numerous human rights violations that police committed according to various international organizations. “People who were exercising a legitimate right in a democracy suffered injuries and abuses to which we cannot be indifferent.”
“As a State we must assume that the police control of those months exceeded the limits of what was acceptable. There were deaths, there were sexual abuses, there were eye injuries, and this cannot go unpunished and cannot be repeated,” Boric said, emphasizing the need to investigate and speak justice. “It is essential that in a democracy, police abuses are investigated and punished: it is not only an act of justice for the victims, but also an act of justice for the police institution, whose work should not be confused with misconduct that was extremely serious.”
According to the president, the years after the estallido, especially the Constitutional process which resulted in a massive defeat for those promoting a new Constitution, taught Chile’s politicians valuable lessons. “We know that Chile is asking for reforms. And the reforms it is asking for do not always coincide with those we reformists are promoting. The first constitutional process was, in fact, a proof of this and the result of the plebiscite has made it clear,” Boric acknowledged. “Today we see that people who have material demands, on a daily basis, are often far from the political prescriptions of one or the other. They want guaranteed social rights, but they also want to defend their autonomy and choice. They want a State that protects but does not stifle. They want equality and, at the same time, they demand their freedom. The challenge, then, is political, and that presents us with a tremendous challenge. I believe that this is the most eloquent mandate of the estallido, to get out of these trenches.”
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.