Gabriel Boric wants a regional solution for Venezuelan migration. In the first appearance before the accredited international media in Santiago, the new president of Chile has proposed a system of migratory quotas inspired by the model that the European Union applied to receive Syrian citizens fleeing the war. “A migration crisis, in this case of more than six million people, especially from Venezuela, cannot fall on one or a group of countries. We have to think about Latin American solidarity. Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and also Bolivia, have a role to play,” said Boric. The Chilean president has also asked to de-ideologize Latin American multilateral organizations “so that relations do not change when governments change.” However, he was explicit in his support for regional leaders such as Lula da Silva and Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro. His first trip abroad will be to Buenos Aires, where he will be received by his counterpart Alberto Fernández.
Between January and July 2021, Chile received some 24,000 Venezuelans who arrived by land at its northern border, against 16,000 in all of 2020, according to figures from the Investigative Police. Although the number does not compare with the figures, for example, Colombians (1.8 million migrants since 2018). Chile is facing a serious humanitarian crisis, with entire families arriving exhausted, on foot, in a desert area where they cannot find food or water. There they collide with a ditch dug by the previous government of Sebastián Piñera. Those who make it through and survive the desert try to reach the coastal city of Iquique, where they camp in the plazas. Months ago, the residents of Iquique set fire to the mattresses, clothes and shops of the newcomers.
Boric said on Monday that he asked European governments for advice on “the quota system” that he applied to the Syrian exodus. “We have asked the opinion of foreign leaders regarding that. We have to talk about it multilaterally, but I think it is something in which we could all win, both the countries and also the immigrants, who do it in a very desperate situation. Many times, when everything is overloaded in a single country, they find themselves in a very difficult situation of insertion”, he explained.
The arrival of a leftist government in La Moneda will have a regional impact. Boric said that he intends to de-ideologize organizations such as Unasur or the Lima Group, “where countries are grouped by ideological affinities and do not serve to unite us.” “We talked with different presidents that it is necessary for Latin America to once again have a single voice in the world, which we have lost a long time ago.” He did not hide, however, his political affinities. Boric has said that he will remove Chile from Prosur, a regional alliance founded in 2019 by the right-wing governments of the time, including Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, and that he felt “joy” with the result of the legislative and primary elections in Colombia, where the candidate from the left, Gustavo Petro, received the most votes. “And we have a coincidence with Lula da Silva, with Dilma [Rousseff]with the MAS [Movimiento al Socialismo] in Bolivia,” he added. At the same time, he did not have good words towards the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, one of the great absentees at the inauguration in Santiago. “It is clear to everyone that we are radically different with Bolsonaro, but that does not mean that we have to cut off relations with Brazil.”
Boric assumed the presidency of Chile on Friday, amid a popular expectation only comparable to that generated by the socialist president Salvador Allende in the seventies. Managing the anxiety of an electorate demanding changes will not be easy for the new government, with leaders who emerged in the heat of the 2019 street protests and all of them very young. Boric turned 36 in February. “Every generation thinks that their role is to change the world, and I think we are building on what was before. You have to understand that profound changes are slow, you have to act without arrogance”, he said.
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The new Government will advance in changes in the pension system, today in the hands of private companies, and in expanding the gratuity of the health and educational systems. It needs funds, and for this reason it will promote, as a first measure, a tax reform that increases fiscal income. Boric promised to respect the budget inherited from the previous Legislature, which imposes a hard corset on any attempt to increase spending. “You cannot throw the house out the window in the midst of a global crisis. We have to be clear that permanent expenses have to be financed with permanent income, because otherwise it is selling smoke, ”he clarified.
The tax reform aims to raise tax revenues to 5% of GDP. The challenge has been left in the hands of Finance Minister Mario Marcel, a socialist who was president of the Central Bank under Piñera until January. Marcel has a very good image among businessmen, and his figure has generated some resentment in the most left-wing sectors of the alliance of the new Chilean government, especially in the Communist Party. Boric came out on Tuesday in his defense, denying that Marcel is “a conservative.” “He is a progressive who is not there to stop things, but to do them well. A reform has to have consensus, and I tell businessmen that this will not be an anti-business reform, it will be to improve income distribution. As we manage to raise more we will be able to advance more with the changes”, said Boric.
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