As we imagined, the new Chilean government has not had a second’s respite. It has not been able to enjoy even a week of the supposed “honeymoon” enjoyed by the new leaders. Rather, Boric and his team have been thrown into an unforeseen ring, where they have been on the receiving end of combo after combo. From enemy fire, friendly fire, even neutral fire. Hits that come from their right and from their left, without mercy. The spectacle is painful and outrageous and makes one wonder what their detractors are looking for: to set the prairie on fire just for the pleasure of seeing fire that burns everything? Like Nero watching Rome?

By Patricia Politzer

There is an irrationality that is beyond comprehension. The outburst of 2019 led to an overturn of the political scenario in force until then and Chile achieved triumphs that were unthinkable before that revolt. Without going any further, the overwhelming triumph of Boric and the installation of a Constitutional Convention were unprecedented in the history of Chile.

However, what we are seeing is dramatic and surprising. It began with representatives of the Mapuche people who were shot at by a Minister of the Interior who, on her first day in office, was going to initiate the dialogue that is so badly needed. It is true that the history of the dispossession of these indigenous people was horrendous and merciless and there has never been real justice for them, but is it not possible to call a truce and receive the visit? The polite does not take away the brave, as the popular saying goes. The problem is that in our country there are ancestral quarrels, perfectly understandable but which, if they remain frozen and immutable, will prevent change.

There are also the problems with the students, who are rightly marching for an increase in their food allowance, which has remained at 1,600 pesos a day for almost twenty years. It is irrational to think that a young person can feed himself on that amount for a whole day. And it is even more irrational that there are young people from the upper classes who manage 20 times that amount every day, which does not take into account (because that is a separate item) the payment of work done for them by professionals in need of money. This is how many of these well-to-do children graduate today! The problem is that these young people marching for the 1,600-peso increase are so angry that they get out of hand and end up mixing with delinquents and attacking anyone who crosses their path, as happened on Friday 25th, with the result that a student was shot and wounded by a traffic policeman who pulled out his gun without measuring any consequences due to his fear.

Other troublemakers are those who did not change their bad habits with the start of the Boric government. These are the groups of vandals who every Friday ravage Plaza Italia and the Lastarria neighbourhood. They continue to harm the tenants of the area, obsessed with the former Fuente Alemana, which they almost set fire to with its workers inside on Friday 25. They are carrying a protest whose motivation nobody knows anymore and seem determined to continue playing the dangerous game of “paco y ladrón”, at the expense of the owners of the small businesses in the area – who were only recently able to reopen – and of the customers who can no longer go out there in peace and quiet. No one can explain why no one has been able to identify those who attack “La nueva fuente” every Friday, let alone arrest and punish them. It seems that, for them, the Boric and Piñera governments are the same thing, or symbolise the same thing. Or they symbolise the same thing. What? We don’t know.

Also, among Boric’s woes are the immigrants who have flooded in over the last few years, in the midst of a thunderous lack of immigration policies, and who have taken up jobs allowed without papers, such as making deliveries (which has turned the Chilean capital into a dangerous chaos of motorbikes and motorcyclists who drive as they did in their homeland). And with the excuse of economic exile, many criminals have slipped in, robbing, kidnapping, pulling out their guns at the drop of a hat, and dealing drugs by the bucket. The new government is also dealing with both the good and the bad. Because it is clear that if it expels the criminals, at least two things will happen: the just will pay for the sinners, or there will be re-entries of the sinners through our porous northern borders, as in the case of the Venezuelan who shot Cristian de la Fuente’s daughter. In other words, Boric receives a country where today not only people steal but also kill on a daily basis.

And then there is the bitter pill to swallow with his colleagues in the political pact, who have taken to criticising their colleagues in the government on a daily basis. And darts come and go from mayors and deputies who accompanied the President in his political life and campaign. And there is also an increasing number of “little bombs” from known dissidents, from the finance minister and from any Frente Amplista that gets in their way.
It is not easy like this, and we are not yet talking about the worst part: the enemy fire. The right wing, in a state of serious verbal and behavioural incontinence, vocifies, disqualifies, threatens, invents, distorts, magnifies, in a totally irresponsible way and with absolute brazenness. Dangerously activating a campaign to reject the exit plebiscite and any of the progressive norms proposed in the Constitutional Convention. For example, once again, we are faced with an anti-abortion onslaught, within the framework of the classic double standard of the right wing in alliance with the Catholic Church. Or that of senators – of whatever persuasion – who are terrified of losing their jobs and are shooting at the changes proposed for the new parliament.

The government authorities have also had to face a classist onslaught of the worst kind, outlining what will be the campaign of terror they are sure to inaugurate later to call for a “rejection” vote. The attacks on Minister Siches are an example of the prevailing virulence.

And in the midst of this rather convulsive atmosphere, a young and well-meaning team must govern, whose leader is the opposite of the macabre and stump operator that was so prevalent in the old politics. It is not that he is not a political animal – Boric is one and as such he says he is “calm but not confident”, which proves that he knows where he stands – but he and especially his inner circle has a different outlook and would like to establish a different way of getting off the horse.

For his enemies, they are naïve, unprepared and inexperienced. This is not true. They are very prepared, very hard-headed and very mateos. Just look at what Izkia Siches got herself into despite having such a small baby that she still has to breastfeed. The point is that they really believe in the art of governing and want to apply a new way of dealing with problems, while the old way is still too deeply rooted in Chilean culture. Perhaps, as it is sometimes simplistically put, “you have to be a dog to keep them from going to your head”. Boric is not a dog in three more lifetimes, nor could he be. Nor Jackson, nor Siches, nor Vallejo.
Boric wants to confront the old problems without repression, with politics. And it seems that his counterparts perceive this as weakness, perhaps because of that ancestral culture of needing a father who treats you harshly.

Boric wants to dialogue, talk, negotiate to settle conflicts, but in his second week in office he gets slammed in foreign policy, as Bolivia did last week. However, he is convinced that this is the right way to go. Perhaps he must accept that cultural changes are slower than one would like. It is hard for him, although he knows it. He has said it many times, and he said it in his inaugural speech: “We are going slow because we are going far”.

The problem is that our new President lives in a country imprisoned by old habits, with a conservative and often reactionary media, which are out to impose their ideology at any cost; a country where a deeply powerful Catholic Church still reigns, despite its immense glass roof; a country with a middle class that is volatile in its motivations and beliefs, still very permeable to the guidelines of the economic model, which continues to tell it that it is better to have than to be.

In short, Boric has begun his mandate governing alongside a people who move between total weariness and learned despair, who want significant changes but find it hard to believe that they will come about. This, despite having a president for whom they voted enthusiastically. A people whose appetite has been whetted, and rightly so, but who are hit on a daily basis by the crudeness and forms of politics and its vicissitudes. Like Boric’s homeless neighbours in the Yungay neighbourhood, who ask him on TV not to forget them, who would also like to live among Hope and Freedom, because they live in that elegant house in Calle Huérfanos.

It is not easy for the President. Fortunately, he is convinced of what he believes in, he has the strength of reason, the passion of youth, the energy of love, the lack of fear of making mistakes, the candour and dazzle of the new, the freedom to change course without complexes, the powerful energy of humility. In short, the gift of being different, credible and not believing the story.

Patricia Politzer, journalist and current member of the Chilean Constitutional Commission.