Petro consolidates with a visit to Boric the new Latin American progressive axis

Petro consolidates with a visit to Boric the new Latin American progressive axis

The presidents of Chile and Colombia, Gabriel Boric and Gustavo Petro, at the Casa de Nariño, in Bogotá, on August 7, 2022.
The presidents of Chile and Colombia, Gabriel Boric and Gustavo Petro, at the Casa de Nariño, in Bogotá, on August 7, 2022.Mauricio Duenas Castañeda (EFE)

Gustavo Petro and Gabriel Boric get ready to stage, once again, their political harmony. With his state visit to Chile starting this Monday, the Colombian president strengthens the Latin American progressive axis that he has emphasized so much. Both presidents head the new breed of left-wing leaders in the region, a heterogeneous block with abundant nuances, and seek to strengthen ties at a critical moment, since the former student leader who stopped the far-right in Chile is embarking on renewed efforts to put forward a new Constitution.

The president of Colombia will meet with the heads of all branches of the State. On Monday he will have an audience with Boric at the Palacio de la Moneda, and later with the presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, as well as the mayoress of the Santiago commune at the end of the day. And on Tuesday, before returning, he will visit the Palace of the Courts of Justice, where he will meet the president of the Supreme Court.

Petro, convinced of Latin American integration, approached Boric when he was just a candidate, and even traveled to his inauguration, in March of last year, in the middle of the Colombian campaign and on the eve of the legislative elections. An event that the then president Iván Duque did not attend. Candidate Petro and President Boric had plenty of gestures of camaraderie, including photos in which they drew the shape of a heart with their hands. That closeness allowed the Colombian to soften his image to become the first left-wing president in the country’s modern history.

Boric reciprocated later with his presence at the inauguration of Petro, on August 7. Both even appeared together at his first press conference as president, in which they emphasized “revitalizing the Andean community” and other integration mechanisms. And they also coincided on January 1 in another inauguration of a progressive president, one more, that of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil.

With Lula, the five main economies in the region are for the first time in the hands of leftist leaders – or who boast of it, along with Mexico and Argentina. But nuances abound. The progressivism that stands out with Petro and Boric is not the left that exploits raw materials, it has a strong environmental agenda and claims the rights of minority identities and communities. There they have met, both understand fossil fuels as part of the past to be able to face the climate crisis.

Chile has also accepted the invitation to be one of the guarantor countries of the peace process with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the last active guerrilla in Colombia. From day one, Petro has placed the Colombian Foreign Ministry at the service of his total peace policy, which includes a more determined implementation of the peace agreement with the FARC and negotiations with the ELN. And both presidents have also sought formulas to release detainees in the midst of the respective social outbreaks that preceded them in their countries, as they promised in the campaign. “Social protest should not be criminalized if it is about strengthening democracy,” Petro reacted a week ago to news about Boric’s pardon for prisoners from the protests. But far from that tone of support, the controversy unleashed in Chile has ended up forcing the resignation of the Minister of Justice and the Chief of Staff this Saturday.


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Petro lands in the middle of a political crisis. Amid the coincidences, differences have also emerged between Bogotá and Santiago. When the new Constitution championed by Boric ran aground in the plebiscite last September, a very delicate moment, Petro had an abrupt reaction. “Pinochet revived,” he wrote on Twitter when Boric had not even spoken in public yet. That message sparked controversy. And later, before the dismissal of the Peruvian Pedro Castillo by Congress, Boric distanced himself from the support of the governments of Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia and Argentina for the rural teacher, which evidenced the fissures of the progressive bloc. He has also been more critical of his associates with the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, with which Petro has reestablished relations.

“Boric’s left is not willing to compromise on the commitment to liberal democracy as it is known. If one looks at Chile’s international positions, they have been very clear and super coherent in that,” says internationalist Sandra Borda, a professor at the Universidad de Los Andes. In addition, given the shock of the plebiscite, the Chilean president is determined that the next trial of the Constitution goes well, which forces him to move towards the center and get closer to the traditional political class, he explains, above any regional leadership plan or foreign policy issues. “That suggests that it is not a good time to flaunt Petro’s visit a lot,” she assesses.

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