Former student activist pledges reform for the salmon industry in Chile: “There must be a limit on expansion.”
A left-wing legislator who rose to prominence during anti-government protests in Chile has been elected the country’s next president.
With almost 99 percent of polling stations reporting, Gabriel Boric has won 56 per cent of the votes, compared with 44 per cent for his opponent, Jose Antonio Kast.
At 35, Boric is set to become Chile’s youngest-ever president.
A native of Punta Arenas, in Chile’s far south, Boric first entered politics in 2011, when, during the final year of his law degree, he became a leader of the education protests which paralysed Chile.
But since narrowly losing the presidential first round to Kast in November this year, he has moderated his programme and revamped his image in an attempt to appeal to the centrist voters who have now propelled him into the highest office in the country.
Unlike his days at the front of the protests, Boric is now choosing to present himself as neat, humble and serious. He wears a blazer to cover his tattoos.
“I am going to be the president of all Chileans,” Boric said in the brief televised appearance with outgoing president Sebastian Pinera. “I am going to do my best to get on top of this tremendous challenge.”
Boric, who will take office in March, has tapped into public anger at Chile’s market-oriented economic model, widely considered to have helped drive decades of rapid economic growth but which have also stoked inequality.
Familiar with the salmon industry
On the campaign trail in June earlier this year, Boric promised to “bury” the neoliberal economic model left by General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and raise taxes on the “super rich” to expand social services, fight inequality and boost protection of the environment.
He has pledged to decentralise Chile, implement a welfare state, increase public spending and include women, non-binary Chileans and Indigenous peoples like never before.
As a native of, and former representative for, the country’s far south, Boric is familiar with the salmon industry. The president-elect has called for reassessment the economic and environmental impact of big industries such as salmon farming. He has expressed his concern about the continued growth of industry in Magellan.
‘Thoughtless about its mistakes’
He labelled salmon farming as among the largest polluters in Chile reported diarioacuicola.cl, and claimed the industry “has left the bill for their actions to be paid by everybody’s taxes.”
Asked by this approach, the candidate for the Broad Front elaborated: “I believe that the salmon farming industry in Chile, which has had exponential growth in recent years in the south of the country has been thoughtless about its mistakes.”
“Therefore, I would expect this industry, which generates so much employment, to achieve higher standards that are compatible with caring for the environment.”
The deputy added that, “there must be a limit on expansion.”
Employment at the expense of our environment
He stated that a significant part of the income generated by salmon farming must remain in the regions where production takes place.
“That it is not only to grow, harvest and export, but that we can also carry out the derivative products industry, and that this gives employment that is permanent and a job that is not precarious… Employment is undoubtedly important, but it cannot be at the expense of our environment.”
In another interview in November, Boric again attacked the salmon farms: “If they are not properly regulated and deconcentrated, in a few more years a socio-environmental crisis will be triggered, as there are several conflicts with communities and it will end up turning the seas of Patagonia into a new sacrifice zone. To avoid this outcome, a profound change in the industry is required.”