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Gabriel Boric: ‘Democracy Is Built by All of Us Together’

Gabriel Boric
Margarita Rebolledo Hernandez
Rae Lewis

In his inaugural address, new Chilean president Gabriel Boric salutes 'comrade Salvador Allende,' remembers the horrors of Pinochet – and pledges to fight the social inequality that has plagued the country.

New President of Chile Gabriel Boric gestures during the presidential inauguration ceremony at the Congress on 11 March 2022 in Valparaiso, Chile. (Marcelo Hernandez / Getty Images)

People of Chile: this afternoon, for the first time, I am speaking to you as President of the Republic, President of all of us who live in this country that we love so much—a country which has suffered greatly, and which has given us so much joy.

Thank you to all of you for giving me this honour, and to those of you who are watching us in your homes throughout our country. Thank you also to my family, to our cabinet, our teams, and also, personally, to Irina.

This Chile, made of diverse peoples and nations, located on a continental ledge between imposing mountain ranges and the magical ocean, between the desert and the Antarctic ice, is enriched and transformed by the work of its people.

It is this Chile that in just a handful of years has gone through earthquakes, catastrophes, crises, upheavals, a world pandemic, and human rights violations that will never again be repeated in our country. But it is in this Chile in which we always dust ourselves off, wipe away our tears, smile together, roll up our sleeves, and keep going. Chilean people—we always keep going.

The emotion I felt today as I crossed the Plaza de la Constitución and entered this Palacio de La Moneda is profound, and I need to share it with you. You are a part of this process; the people of Chile are the protagonists of this process. We would not be here without your mobilisation.

And I want you to know that we are not here just to fill positions and take solace among ourselves, but to commit ourselves, body and soul, to improving life in our country.

I want to tell you, compatriots, that I have seen your faces as I travelled through our country: the faces of the elderly whose pensions are not enough to live on because some have decided to make a business out of welfare; the faces of those who fall ill and whose families have no means to afford their treatment.

Those of the students in debt, those of the peasants without water because of drought and theft. Those of the women who care for their children with ASD, who I meet in every part of Chile. Their bedridden family members, their helpless babies. Those of the families who continue to search for their disappeared ones, for whom we will not stop searching.

Those of the gender non-conforming, who have been discriminated against and excluded for so long. Those of the artists who cannot make a living from their work, because culture is not sufficiently valued in our country. Those of the social leaders who fight for the right to dignified housing in the poblaciones [shanty towns] of Chile. Those of the indigenous peoples dispossessed of their land, but never of their history.

The faces of the stifled middle class, the faces of the children of the SENAME [National Youth Care Service]; the faces of the most isolated areas of our country like the Magallanes, where I come from; the faces of those who live in forgotten poverty.

Our commitment is to you.

Today we begin a period of great challenges and immense responsibility. But we are not starting from zero. Chile has a long history, and today, this day, makes us part of it.

To begin my mandate as Constitutional President of the Republic of Chile is to become part of a history that exceeds us all, but which at the same time gives shape, sense, and direction to our vision.

Thousands of people have passed through here before us—those who made possible the expansion of public education, the progressive recognition of women and gender non-conforming people in the country and at home, the democratisation of the country, the recognition of social rights.

Through here, the place from where I speak to you today, passed Balmaceda and his Chilean dignity, Pedro Aguirre Cerda, and his ‘to govern is to educate’ quote from Valentín Letelier.

Through here passed Eduardo Frei Montalva and the popular promotion policies, comrade Salvador Allende and the nationalisation of copper, Patricio Aylwin and the return to democracy, Michelle Bachelet opening unexplored roads with social provision policies.

Here, we also hear the echoes of those who have anonymously stood up against oppression, defended human rights, demanded truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-repetition.

Around here resounds the feminist clamour and the struggle for equality. Some will also remember the 1,800 hours of running around La Moneda for education.

But these walls have also been witness to the horrors of past violence and oppression—horrors we have not forgotten, and will not forget. Where we speak today, yesterday, rockets came through. That can never again be repeated in our history.

This palace, this square, this city, this country, all have a history, and it is to that history that we also owe a debt. Today is an important day on the difficult road of change on which the people have decided to embark, importantly, in unity. And the days when, together with many of those present here and watching at home, we marched together for a dignified future come to my mind and to my heart.

Where were we marching to, compatriots? Where were we marching to?

This government will not be the end of that march. We are going to continue walking, and the road will undoubtedly be long and difficult—but today, the dreams of millions of people are here pushing us, giving us the strength of purpose to bring the changes that society demands safely into harbour.

Chilean people: my dream is that when we finish our mandate—and I speak in the plural, because this is not something individual; this is not about me, this is about the mandate that the people have given us for this collective project—we are able to look at our children, our sisters, our parents, our neighbours, our grandparents, and feel that there is a country that protects us, welcomes us, cares for us, guarantees us rights, and fairly retributes the contributions and sacrifices that each one of you make for the development of our society.

I would like, compatriots, for the people of Puchuncaví and Coronel to look to the future and know that their children will not grow up surrounded by contamination—something so basic. I would like the workers of Lota to no longer continue living in poverty.

I would like the communities of seaweed-harvesters and artisanal fishermen in the province of Cardenal Caro to be able to continue carrying out their traditional activities, and the children of Alto Hospicio to know that they too will be able to access dignified housing.

I would like the residents of Antofagasta, of Maipú, of Hualpén, to feel peace of mind when they return from work and have time to live with their families. That is why, as we have committed ourselves to, we will promote the forty-hour week.

I would like the young people of Juan Fernández, that isolated place, that island, to have a decent school to study in.

We know that achieving 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 make amends for those mistakes with humility, always listening to those who think differently, and supporting ourselves on the people of Chile.

I want to tell you that we are going to live through challenging and tremendously complex times. The pandemic continues its course, with a toll of pain and loss of life that will be with us for a long time. Surely all of you know someone who has left us as a result of the pandemic.

Let’s think, for a second, about those who have left us. Let’s think about the pain that each family feels for those who have left and will not return. We have to embrace each other as a society, love each other again, smile again. This is beyond speeches, and beyond what is written: how important, how different it is, when, as a people, we love each other, take care of each other, trust each other, support each other. We ask our neighbour how they are doing, we support the worker next to us, we appreciate each other, we move forward together. That is what we have to build, compatriots.

We also know that the economy is still suffering and that the country needs to get back on its feet, and to grow and distribute the fruits of that growth in a fair manner. When there is no distribution of wealth, when wealth is concentrated in the hands of just a few, the result is very hard. We need to redistribute the wealth produced by the Chilean people, produced by those who live in our country.

Besides all of these difficulties, we know we have, additionally, an international context marked by violence in many parts of the world, and today, also by war. In this, I want to be very clear: Chile, our country, will always promote respect for human rights, everywhere, and regardless of the colour of the government that violates them.

From Chile, in our Latin America—because we are profoundly Latin American, and it is time to stop looking at our neighbouring countries from a distance—we will make efforts to ensure that the voice of the South is once again heard in a changing world.

The challenges are so many: the climate emergency, migration, economic globalisation, the energy crisis, the permanent violence against women and LGBT+ people. We must work together with our sibling peoples, as we discussed today with presidents from other countries. Let us never again look down on each other, and never again look at each other with mistrust—let us instead work jointly in Latin America to move forward together.

We will practice, compatriots, political autonomy at an international level, without ever subordinating ourselves to any power, and always pursuing coordination and cooperation between peoples.

I want you to know that, as President of Chile, our Cabinet and our teams will not ignore problems. We will explain; we will talk with you about the reasons for our decisions, so that you too can be a part of the solutions. This requires changing the relationship we have with the authorities. The authorities cannot be unreachable—we want ministers on the ground, in the street, with the people. We do not want to make visits to the regions that only last a couple of hours to inaugurate a project, and that’s it. We want to listen, not be in hiding.

For that, it is important that there is also reciprocity. What do I mean by that? That the relationship with the authorities should not be one of consumers; that we should work together and be citizens, and that this should be the government of the people, which you feel is your own—the government of all Chilean people.

For that, we are all going to need each other, government and opposition, institutions and civil society, social movements. Our government, whose political base is Apruebo Dignidad; I also salute our comrades who have worked so hard for this, and the parties of Convergencia Progresista.

I want you to know that this government does not end with its supporters. I will be the President of all Chilean people, and I will always listen to constructive criticism and proposals from those who think differently to us—who will always be guaranteed the freedom and right to dissent.

As I have said more than once, quoting words born in the heat of mobilisations in a school occupation in a población, far away, in a lost region (because from the mobilisations [of the people] we come): today we are here, but we do not forget where we come from.

We are going slowly because we are going far, and we are not going alone, but with all of you: men, women, boys and girls who are with us today in this square; through your screens in your homes; maybe on your mobile phones, on the bus; or those who are following us from abroad and longing for their beloved Chile—it is essential, as I have said, that you are an active part of this process, because we cannot do this alone.

From here, I would like to make a call to all of you to join each other in this task. Let us walk together the road of hope, and let us all build the change towards a country that is dignified and just. Dignity—what a beautiful word. We will build it step by step with the wisdom of those who know that the changes that last are those based on accumulated knowledge, and supported by large majorities.

We will pay special attention, as I have pointed out, to the effects that the pandemic has had on the health system, on the workers who have protected and cared for us, on the waiting lists that generate so much anguish within families.

We are going to continue the successful vaccination strategy of the last government, always making health the first priority. We will also implement a specific strategy to deal with the consequences of mental health issues, because mental health matters too.

We are going to focus, specifically, on education, where there has been a huge gap as a result of the need to close schools. We have to reopen schools so that our children can meet again, ensuring, of course, all the safety measures to make this possible.

We are going to implement the consolidation of our economy, for a recovery that does not reproduce structural inequalities. We need growth that is sustainable, without sacrifice zones—and for this, the state is also responsible.

We want the small and medium-sized enterprises that generate value to grow again. We want to put an end to the abuses that have happened so unjustly, and have so justly outraged our people, and we want to follow up on the good past ideas of dignified employment.

We also recognise that millions of Chilean people live with fear today, and we cannot look the other way. We are going to tackle the problem of crime by tackling the social inequality that is at its root, and by reforming the police to ensure a presence in the places that most need it, to increase the effectiveness of investigations, and to focus on the criminal and drug trafficking organisations that destroy our neighbourhoods. I have a message for those who have made crime commonplace and who believe they can live with impunity: we will confront them with the community.

We also need to repair the wounds left by the social uprising. That is why, yesterday, we withdrew the lawsuits made on the basis of the state’s Internal Security Law [against political prisoners after the 2019 uprising], because we are convinced that, as the people of Chile, we need to come together again. We will work intensely on this; we have talked about this with the families of the prisoners, too.

We also know, compatriots, that we will face great challenges in the North and in the South. In the North, because of the migratory crisis, we will retake control of our borders and work together with our sibling countries to collectively address the challenges caused by the exodus of thousands of human beings. Please, let us never forget that we are human beings.

I want to say to the people of Colchane, of Iquique, of Antofagasta, of San Pedro, that they will not be alone; the people of Arica, as well.

We also have a problem in the South. In the past, it was talked about as the pacification of Araucanía—a crass and unfair term. Later, some people called it the Mapuche conflict. It is not the Mapuche conflict: it is the conflict between the Chilean state and a people who have the right to exist. There, the solution is not and will not be violence.

We will work tirelessly to rebuild trust after so many decades of abuse and dispossession. The recognition of existence of a people, with all that this implies, will be our objective, and the path will be dialogue, peace, rights, and empathy with all the victims—yes, all the victims. Let us cultivate reciprocity, let us not see each other as enemies. We must come together again.

In this first year of government, we have also given ourselves the task of supporting the constitutional process for which we have fought so hard. We are going to wholeheartedly support the work of the Convention. We need a Constitution that unites us, that we feel is our own; a Constitution that, unlike the one imposed by blood, fire, and fraud by the dictatorship, is born in democracy, on a basis of parity, with the participation of the indigenous peoples; a Constitution that is for the present and for the future; a Constitution that is for all of us, and not just for a few.

I invite you to listen to each other in good faith, without caricatures. Let us take this seriously, on all sides. I say it to ourselves, too: let us listen in good faith, so that the exit plebiscite [for the new constitution] can be a meeting point, not a point of division, and so that we can sign here, together with the people, for the first time in the history of Chile, a democratic, equal Constitution, with the participation of all our peoples.

Chilean people: the world is watching us. I am sure that they are watching what is happening in Chile with hope.

We have the opportunity to humbly contribute to the construction of a fairer society, and I am sure that we will live up to this democratic process that was decided by an immense people’s majority. Let us replicate this result.

Dear inhabitants of our land: I assume today with humility, and with awareness of the difficulties, the mandate that you have entrusted to me. I do so with the conviction that only in the collective construction of a more dignified society can we found a better life for all. In Chile, no one is superfluous. Democracy is built by all of us together, and the life that we dream of can only be born from coexistence, dialogue, democracy, and collaboration, and not from exclusion.

I know that in four more years the people of Chile will judge us by our deeds and not by our words, and that, as an old poet said, the adjective, when it does not give life, kills. Today it was necessary to speak; tomorrow we must all get to work together.

As Salvador Allende predicted almost fifty years ago, we are here once again, compatriots, opening the great avenues through which the free man and the free woman can walk, to build a better society.

We keep going. Long live Chile!