Santiago – Gabriel Boric won Chile’s runoff election. The former student leader is the nation’s youngest elected president, joining the growing list of millennial presidents across the globe. But who is he?
Gabriel Boric will be the youngest Chilean president when he is sworn into office next March. The 35-year-old becomes the second millennial to win a presidential election in Latin America following El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele, 40. Together with the two other millennial heads of state, New Zealand’s Jacinda Arden and San Marino’s Giacomo Simoncini, they have an average age of 36.
Boric was born in Punta Arenas, Magallanes, in 1986 to Spanish and Croatian parents. His interest in politics was sparked when he attended the University of Chile to study law in 2004. At the university, he joined the student political movement Izquierda Autónoma (Autonomous Left) and later became an advisor to the Law Departments Students’ Union in 2008.
The road to presidency
Presidencies and advocating for inclusive systems are not new to Boric, as he was elected president of the Law Department Students’ Union in 2009, a year after being one of its advisors. In his time as president, he led protests against the university’s dean and again led protests two years later as president of the university’s Student Federation (FECH), this time advocating for free and high-quality education for all.
The FECH protest of 2011 ultimately resulted in some students from across various universities in the country receiving free education after the protests garnered the attention of Congress.
The Apruebo Dignidad (Approve Dignity) standard-bearer’s educational policies were shaped and inspired by his political involvement during his time in higher education. His political program calls for inclusivity in education as well as improved access to higher education for all – a point again reiterated in his acceptance speech when emphasizing that “everyone would be a protagonist” in his government, and promising to be a “president for all.”
In 2014, Boric became a Lower House representative for the Magallanes Region where he was born and will continue to hold the position until his inauguration in March next year. As a result of Boric’s meteoric political career he did not complete his degree upon being sworn into Congress.
Also joining him in the Lower House were some former student leaders who had helped with the FECH protests three years before, including Camila Vallejo and Karol Cariola. Vallejo, Boric’s FECH predecessor at the University of Chile, headed a tour across the country with senator-elect Alejandra Sepúlveda for the president-elect during the second round of campaigns.
In the Lower House, Boric gained much wider visibility and popularity and then threw his hat in the ring for president before the primaries. He then handily defeated the left’s top picks in the primaries and last weekend proved he could go the distance after running a smart campaign and beating the right’s José Antonio Kast in the runoff by neary 12 percent.
Election day, Dec. 19, was a defining moment for Boric’s political career and a reminder to all just how short the trajectory can be from student-union advisor to president-elect of the country: in Boric’s case, just 13 years.
Emmanuela is an International Relations and Modern Languages student from the Univeristy of East Anglia. Human Rights is of key interest to her as are culture, politics and sports.