In recent years, Chile's policies have been met with huge protests, a new constitution and a new president. Dissatisfaction has attracted people to the polls and now great challenges await left-wing politician Gabriel Boric. The Chilean people have woken up and now they want to see a change, says the 29-year-old Chilean Gonzalo Artigas.
Gonzalo Artigas is a 29-year-old Chilean citizen who was active during the extensive protests in the country that started in 2019. When asked what the reactions were when the protests broke out, Artigas answers:
- Joy! When I went to primary school and university, I learned about the problems that exist in our society with inequality, education and the health care system. For me, it was amazing to see people start waking up and talking about what we need to do to create change in our country.
The protests in Chile led to a referendum on amending the constitution signed under the Pinochet regime in 1980. The old constitution focuses on economic growth and the free market. It is also based on Catholic values, according to with the BBC. The protests began with the price of public transport being raised, but soon developed into inequality and high costs for care and education.
Gonzalo Artigas says he was not surprised that the protests broke out as poverty has long plagued the country. There have been protests on several occasions before, such as 2006 and 2011 when Artigas went to primary school and university. He believes that these were started by the younger generation of citizens, born between 1985 and 1995, who wanted to create change in the country.
The protests have united the country
The latest wave of protests led to the then President Sebastián Piñera calling a referendum on rewriting the Constitution, which resulted in yes side won with 78 percent of the vote. A panel to rewrite the constitution has now been voted on - and half of the members are women. The indigenous people also have representatives on the panel.
On December 19, 2021, the presidential election was held in Chile, which resulted in the left-wing politician Gabriel Boric winning with 54 percent of the vote. After the first round, however, it did not look so promising for Boric - and his conservative opponent José Antonio Kast looked to be able to take home the win.
Do you think the protests have polarized Chilean society?
- I am young and have always seen our society as polarized since the dictatorship in the 70s. However, there is not a 50/50 division in our society, but it is something that politicians want the rest of the world to believe.
Gonzalo Artigas believes that the protests have rather united the country. The large number of votes for the new constitution shows that even though different people want different types of change, Chile is united in the fact that change is what the people want.
- The 20 percent who voted against in the referendum are always the same people. It is rich people, police and military who will always support the old constitution.
The people want to create change
Gonzalo Artigas believes that the problems in the school system, healthcare and inequality in Chile remain despite the new democracy created after Pinochet was removed from power. He believes that the capitalist system implemented in the 80s under the Pinochet regime created more problems than Chile had before.
- We are the most unequal country in all of Latin America, which means that the new economic system that was implemented in the 80s does not work. That is why people now want to create change - for the people and for the people.
After the first round of elections in December, it looked like José Antonio Kast would win the election as he had received 30 percent of the vote, according to DN. Gonzalo Artigas believes that this did not represent the will of the people, but rather was a matter of turnout.
- I was sure that Kast would lose. After the first round, the people woke up and went to the polls. The fascist politicians in the country pay part of the population to vote for them, but I still knew that since the protests started, the people have woken up.
He knows many people, including his own family, who would have left the country if Kast had won. He says it would have been like going back to living in 80s Chile. Artigas, who currently lives in Denmark, says he himself would not return to his home country if the conservative politician took home the win.
Positive reactions to Gabriel Boric's win
According to Gonzalo Artigas, the reactions to Gabriel Boric's win have been positive. There is great confidence in the new president, especially among the people born between 1985 and 1995. He believes that this is because Gabriel Boric was chairman of the Chilean student federation and has participated in the protests that have been going on for more than 20 years. He sees it as step one being completed and that it is now about trying to shape a country that is created for the people and by the people with the new constitution.
- My dad went out and celebrated Boric's win. He has lived his whole life under right-wing governments with corruption and this is a new start. I hope it will be good and if it is not, we will have to fight to create change again until we can build a good country.
Gonzalo Artigas believes that Chile has been under US control for 50 years and the great power has become part of Chile's economy. He also explains that the country has one of the most capitalist systems in the world.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge for Gabriel Boric?
- To talk to the great powers and to find out how we can take back our mines, resources and education systems, the state health care, our land and our water. It will be difficult, but we as a people must stand behind our president and support him.