Gene Block 0:03
Thank you and good morning, everyone. What a beautiful day and what an opportunity for UCLA today. So I want to thank the Burkle Center for convening in such a timely and important discussion about the challenges and democracy in the Americas. Very timely topic. And it's wonderful with all the things going on in Los Angeles today. Today, I'm honored to formally welcome to UCLA the President of the Republic of Chile, Gabriel Boric Font. Thank you for being here. It's wonderful. He's going to deliver our keynote address. It's a great privilege to have President Boric on our campus and I'm grateful for this opportunity to deepen the ties between our institutions and the Republic of Chile. I have visited several times and what a beautiful country, aspiring universities that we have close contact with and so special to be here today. Thank you for being here.
Hi, as many in the room know, [our ties] stretch back to the early 1960s when UCLA Chancellor Franklin Murphy played a central role in developing the Convenio Chile - California, a pioneering international academic exchange program. So our ties with Chile actually go quite far back 50 years ago, which is remarkable. Since then, UCLA and Chile have maintained a very strong relationship. Most recently, this has taken the form of the Chile-California Program on human capital Development, which aims to improve Chile's global competitiveness and the caliber of its academic programs. I'm grateful today that the events today will reinforce those close ties between our university and the Republic of Chile. Now it's a great honor to introduce the President. President Boric was sworn into office this past March, making history as Chile's youngest elected president, and as the presidential candidate with the highest vote ever turnout - highest vote ever in the country. Remarkable. He has distinguished himself as a forward thinker. His administration focuses on five cornerstones. Social rights that are democracy, justice and security, inclusive growth and the environment. Really a broad and really inspirational set of programs. President Boric was born in Southern Chile and whose parents were Catalan and Croatian descent. He studied law at the University of Chile and took on roles as counselor to Student Federation representing the Faculty of Law as a president of the Student Union and as a member of the University Senate. In these positions, he advocated for increased accessibility and affordability in higher education, issues that are important to Chile and very important in the United States as well. After student years, President Boric continued to help elevate youth voices, leading several student focused political movements in 2011 and 2013. He then entered the broader political world as a Congressional Deputy for District 28, representing cities in the Southernmost part of Chile, including his hometown. He focused his work on issues such as human rights, the welfare of indigenous peoples, labor and social security, all important issues in Chile, important issues in the United States as well. President Boris continued his ascent in Chilean politics over the next several years. And during the civil unrest in 2019, he helped negotiate the agreement for social peace and a new constitution, which initiated the process to create the first democratic constitution in Chile and history. 2021 he was named the presidential candidate of his party, Social Convergence, and this past winter in the Chilean national presidential election, running on a progressive feminist platform. We're honored to have such an esteemed public servant with us today. Please join me in welcoming today's keynote speaker, President Gabriel Boric Font, thank you for being here.
Gabriel Boric 4:35
Thank you very much, Chancellor. I understand that almost everybody here speaks Spanish. Is that right? Yes. And I've been told to give my speech in Spanish. I had worked out a long and maybe a little bit boring speech. But I think that's not what you're expecting now because I would rather prefer to have a more profound conversation with you. And not to have this kind of protocol or performance. And when I come to this instances, I like to learn too. So it's really important for me not only say what we have to say from Chile, but also learn what are your preoccupations and what can we learn from your experiences. (Spanish begins)
Sebastian Edwards 19:35
Okay, wonderful word by the President. We're gonna have now - he has a meeting. And I've been told by the Chief of Staff that we have a hard limit, but we have like 25 minutes, then we're going to end. So I am going to moderate and I think that it's very appropriate that we're at a university. The President ended with what we do here, which is to doubt and to question. Our job is to question. He mentioned and I'm going to be very brief, the profile that John Lee Anderson wrote about him. I was just I was in New York. And if you haven't read it, I strongly recommend you to read it. It's really very, very good. And I think that it does justice.
Gabriel Boric 20:30
I didn't like it that much but it's okay.
Sebastian Edwards 20:39
I have another question from the audience, what did you not like about the profile? Another thing is that Mr. Anderson, that John Lee cares about, which it is showed in his remarks, it's his love for Boric. And I thought what kind of politician is he. And I thought about others but I thought that at the end, we should talk a little bit or I should mention Joaquin Murrieta. So there's a controversy whether he was Mexican or Chilean. And Murrieta was abandoned. And he rebelled in Northern California against injustice, against abuse. And he wrote with on this course, the countryside until he was killed. Pablo Neruda wrote a very nice, very, very moving play about Joaquin Muerrieta. I want to read the first four lines, which I think that they capture a little bit of President Boric's personality and I'm going to read them in Spanish. (Spanish) we've already won a Tony nomination now to rally but it also some Imodium so naturally here extempore their reader proposal is a clever one. Camera and. We'll take your questions. So, if you want to ask a question, just raise your hand. And we will have two or three questions and then the President will answer it. And we will have two or three more questions and then the President will answer it. We will have parity in the questions, very important. We will start over there.
Kemal Mohamedou 23:52
Mr. President, it's a real honor and pleasure to be with here today. Thank you for taking the time with to be with us. My name is Kemal. I'm an intern here at the Burkle Center, and an exchange student from King's College London.
Gabriel Boric 24:06
Can you turn down your mask?
Kemal Mohamedou 24:07
Of course. I'm just worried. You know, some people might freak out. My name is Kemal. I'm an intern here at the Burkle Center. I'm an exchange student from King's College London. I'm originally from Mauritania. And as I said, it's a real honor to be with you to be here with you today. Your country has gone through many political changes in the past few decades engineering a complex political transition. You outline many challenges to Chile's future going forward. But looking forward if you had to identify a single challenge, the most important challenge that Chile has to overcome to achieve perhaps greater levels of democracy or just to keep going on the right path, what would that challenge be? Thank you.
Sebastian Edwards 25:00
And let's get one more over here.
Audience Question 25:00
I'm a PhD student in anthropology at UCLA. And my dissertation is about political participation in Chilean high schools, and I actually wrote my question, so I'm gonna read it. Many people have said that if Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism, it will also be neoliberalism's grave like you said. But one of the lasting effects that dictatorship and economic policy that is most like strongly felt in Chile is through the education system at all levels but my question is specifically about universities. As a student at UCLA or as students at UCLA, we also feel the effects of neoliberal policy like privatization, false austerity, and the securitization of everyday life. UCLA is an intriguing public university in California, one of the wealthiest places on Earth, but very little about this school feels public or democratic sometimes. UCLA students accumulate massive amounts of debt, they experience homelessness and food insecurity. And the people who teach at UCLA that teach the classes, especially graduate students, and instructors, are not paid enough to afford to live in Los Angeles. One elite class of decision making administrators and politicians get rich off of our tuition and tax money. This model for financing higher education is something that Chile and the US have in common. So what does the death of neoliberalism or at least a democratic movement away from neoliberal policy, look like for universities in places like Chile in the United States? And what can this mean for students? Thank you.
Gabriel Boric 26:01
When I'm talking in Spanish, does everybody understands? Yes, yeah. Not everybody. Because if I talk in English, I won't be able to be as profound as I would like to be. Well I'm going to try in English. And if something - if I can't do it, I'll change it to Spanish. Well, why the world needs Chile, and how are we facing the conflicts we have with indigenous people in a country? It's a really good question, because we have a big conflict nowadays. In Chile, we recognize at least nine indigenous people. And there might be more. The Chilean state has ignored them for decades. And we took off their lands. We not we not only took off their lands, we also took off their cultures. And we tried that after violence, it came assimilation. And that's one thing, I think I'm totally convinced, we have to reverse. We have to change our politics in that. So we're working in two separate dimensions. First of all, we need to face, we need to face the the profound roots of the conflict. So we have to give back land. We have to respect the language and promote language. I think language is really important for identity. We have to invest more in roads, access to services, like water, gas, light in the areas that are in conflict. But we also have to say really strong, that violence is not the way. Violence is not the way to achieve those goals. So any group who prefers violence, and are going against the law are going to be persecuted as it. As I am, I have the obligation to do so. But indigenous communities have to participate in the start of the decisions we make. And we have to end with the paternalism paternalism, is that right? Yeah. We have to help with the paternalism and think that indigenous people are only like for two reasons or for how do you say? (Spanish) Handicrafts? Yeah, some people say that the way you can support indigenous people is by buying their handicraft. No, that's not the way. We have to respect them. And understand that there's another vision of the world another way of approximate to truth. Another, we have to respect their medicine. I insist with their language. The language actually UNESCO, UNESCO is the same in English? UNESCO has started with the decade of indigenous languages. And we're going on that. So in the new Constitution, that we have a plebiscite on the Fourth of September. The indigenous view of the world is more - it is present. So I hope it can lead us to a new understanding between the state and the pueblos that live in our territory. I hope I got the answer.
Kemal? Kemal, right? The most important challenge, as I said, I think that the most important challenge that we have now is rebuilding confidence. Because I could say the tax reform, for example. The tax reform, it's the one that will allow us to do the other reforms, the health reform, it's not like Obamacare, but we would we want to do is to provide social services or social rights that today are privatized in Chile. I mean, health, education, pensions, well, housing, it's more complicated, but we want to work on that too. And for that, we need the tax reform. I'm really interested. I know, I've read your columns, but I'm really interested in discussing with Sebastian and what he tells us about the tax reform, because he's not that into it. He doesn't like it that much. And I want to convince him. I want to convince him that it's good for everyone. It's not against someone, it's good for children. But I really think that the most challenging, the most difficult challenges that we have is rebuild confidence, and to end up intolerance. And intolerance, come not only from the alt right movements that we have in Chile, but also from the left. In politics, it's harder, it's harder to compromise, than to stay clean with your principles. Do you know what I mean? Because I don't want to be in politics. And in the end of the day, I say, in front of my mirror, oh, I stay clean. I fought for my principles. But I didn't change anything. I can go to bed happy. No, in politics, you have to sit in the table with people who think different than you. And you have to respect and to try to understand the best version of the people you have in front of you. And I'm really trying to it's not that easy always. We have a difficult right movements in Chile. But I truly believe that that intolerance is the most, the biggest threat that we have nowadays. So I would say most important challenge, build confidence. Build confidence. And the other question about well, nearly neoliberalism, as I said, the structural changes that we want to push won't carry won't come from night to morning. So what we want to do is build a welfare state, but from the 21 century, not the welfare state post Second World War. We have to end up with that spirit because we're not Europe. We are not living a world like it was World War Two. And what does that mean? And I will relate that to the first question that Chile has the possibility, I think to be very attractive to the world with another kind of mining, for example. The world is advancing to electromobility. And we've got copper, and we've got lithium. The world is advancing to carbon neutrality. And we've got green hydrogen. The world is shaking on the authoritarian regimes, and we've got democracy and we believe in democracy. So the way to fight neoliberalism, it's not only with public policies, it's also with organization. So it was kind of weird to me a little bit weird that when you received us, I haven't met the like the president of the student confederation of UCLA. Is he or she here? The union? Is he or she here? No. I would strongly recommend you to organize yourself, to push. I will strongly recommend you to stay rebel. In my position, I try not to get used to like 100% to be a President because I have to feel a little bit of uncomfortability. And for that you need to organize. You won't get anywhere if you act only by yourself. That's something that history has, a lesson from history. I don't know if I could express as I would like this. But yeah, it's okay?
Sebastian Edwards 36:56
We're getting to the time.
Gabriel Boric 36:57
No no no, it's cool, it's cool.
Veronica Herrera 37:18
(Spanish introduction) I wanted to ask you, how do you reconcile or deal with this need to protect indigenous communities and to really be stewards of our environment in Chile? For example, with mega development projects that are coming in extractive industries for lithium, for example, right, and displacing communities, polluting water, air, different unfortunate things that happen when you have extractive industries that come in. Are communities being consulted, that are being impacted? And so that, I mean, this is literally something that comes up as in a lot of the classes that - I'm a professor at UCLA here, Veronica Herrera - and, you know, even as a professor, it's hard to tell my students well, you know, we need the lithium, we need the green energy. But we do have this structural conflict, because we also are seeing that there are unexpected consequences of even greening the economy that are being placed on communities that are being displaced, and our environmental degradation that's coming out of mining, which is causing a lot of socio-environmental conflicts in the region, and Chile and throughout. So I don't envy you for having to be you know, someone who's going to have to really confront these challenges, but I wonder what you would say to that.
Sebastian Edwards 38:51
Let's get some more here.
Thank you so much for being here. My name is Nikki and I'm from UCLA School of Management. And I'm a South Korean. I'm curious to know how did you develop a national consensus on many issues facing people in Chile? And based on your experiences, when you compare the process of building a national consensus in Chile to how democracy was achieved in South Korea or any other Asian countries, what do you find as similarities or differences?
Sebastian Edwards 39:35
Let's get one more. I'm trying to get students. Sorry, I don't know who is a student.
Student Question 39:46
I am a student. (Speaks in Spanish)
Gabriel Boric 41:02
Okay, we have to find an equilibrium, a balance between the - and I think we're going to make it between the big grander projects and communities. Because do you know what NIMBY means? Right? Not in my backyard? That is not an answer also. Because like, we want to be the not the first but we want to be on the trail of fighting climate change. And for that we need we need to change. And to change, we are going to have some impact on nature. It's impossible not to. So I've heard some criticism on for example, the windmills that we need to build in order to have clean energy for green hydrogen. But okay, you don't like windmills? What's the answer then? Coal mines? We have to choose. And we have to involve communities from the beginning. From the beginning. But there is a common wealth? A common good, a common good. That it has to be a common good that it's superior to individual interests. And that's the role of the state and leadership. I think it means to sometimes go against some interests. But we have to protect communities, of course. We have to involve them. And the way to involve them is not to buy them as some like mining companies have been doing so in in Chile. They go they put a lot of money. They divide communities, everyone is against everyone, and that doesn't work. We have to make high our environmental standards. And also it's an economic opportunity, because the things that we produce, if we have higher environmental standards, they will be better sellers, better sellers in markets in the developed countries. And our challenge is to convince the other countries for example, like Peru, that the way to attract foreign investors, it's not lowering down taxes. It's not like with low labor standards, but working together in raising them, raise them. And if we do it together, I think we can be a huge contribution to the world. But in this decision, that's something that it kind of obvious, but I learned it the hard way. Nobody is going to be 100% fulfilled. And that's okay. And that's okay. And we have to deal with that. How to build consensus. Well, consensus doesn't mean that everybody has to agree on a way to development. Because when with democracy it's not like you can say that it's not the moral say (Spanish explanation). Consensus, it's for me at least is to sit on the table with people who think different. And then ask the people to decide. And in order to sit on the table first, as the correlation of forces, it's unequal, the people has to be organized. So for me, it's really important, the social movements. The social movements. And the non state organization. NGO, but not like classic NGOs. I mean, like, not like international NGOs. I mean, NGOs in the neighborhoods (Spanish). And once in power, you have to accept that they are going to defy you. And I cannot forget where I came from. I came from student movements, and I have to understand that the student movement, it's not going to be like, Oh, yes, Gabriel, you were at the student movement so we like everything you do. No, they're going to protest, and they're going to push us more. And that's okay. And we have to incentivize. We have to intent encourage, we have to encourage that. So the way to build consensus is to respect the one who thinks different, but to build social power also. Don't be naive in that mean, if you see it with the Chairman of the university and say, okay, the fees of tuition are too expensive. What do you want me to do? But if you have a big strong union organization, it might be different. So no harm intended. No harm intended. And about immigration, yeah. Actually, we have a big immigration, I don't like to say crisis, but phenomenon, you know, the biggest immigration issues, phenomenon. The housing? Okay the housing.
Gabriel Boric 47:44
In Chile, it has increased actually because of immigration, but we had before the migratory wave. We had a lot of people living in campamentos (camps). Actually, (Spanish begins) (Spanish end). The increase of the cost of construction has been 50% per year, in Chiles. At least I don't know how it is here, but 50% a year. So that is one thing that we are going to for sure discuss in the Summit of the Americas tomorrow. And I know that that it has been a topic of discussion in every country. We don't have a straight solution. We are building shelters. We are building shelters in order to allow people not to pass the winter in the streets. And one last thing about that, it's impossible that each country face the immigration wave by itself. So we need to have a regional agreement on the Venezuelan crisis. And I hope that other countries like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay can help too because nowadays the only countries or the countries that are most affected by it are Colombia, Peru and Chile. And we can't afford it. and we have to regain control of our frontiers, our boundaries - borders, but in a humanitarian way. We will never do as Trump, for example of dividing families. Never. Actually Chile needs it in my opinion. Chile needs people who are working for example in agriculture or in some services. So if we are able to have an immigration with control of borders and with help of our friends of other countries, I think we can manage it but nowadays it is one of the biggest problem, issues we have in Chile. But we are working hard at least on the shelter for the winter as you said in Santiago.
Sebastian Edwards 51:51
Do we have time for a few more questions?
Gabriel Boric 51:53
One last round? One last round.
Audience Question 51:54
(Spanish question) Thank you
Sebastian Edwards 52:25
Let's get one from this side. We are going to have two questions. It's really a hard question.
Audience Question 52:38
(Spanish begins) (Spanish ends) And for the past 20 years, I've had the honor of representing Chile in investor state arbitrations. But I want to ask you a different question today. Not about investor state arbitration, but you commented about intolerance and that being one of the most, one of the biggest challenges. To the extent that a lot of the problems in the United States that we face today are rooted in white supremacy, how do you tolerate the intolerant?
Gabriel Boric 53:15
Okay, first of all about embassies and participation, one of the things I want to ask for or instruct our ambassadors and council is that their work has not to be only like - I know some of them do a great job - but they have to incentivate more the participation. I totally agree with you on that. Actually you mentioned as like a little thing the vote but it costed a lot. It was really difficult to get it because you know the right wing parties were really opposed to the voting, to the vote abroad. But we have to - we're working in creating an abroad district in order to promote more participation. I actually I presented a bill on that. It was rejected, like two years ago, but we're going to insist from government now. But I totally agree with you and we're going to work hard (Spanish). Maybe some of you might know but I had a scratch because I signed the agreement of social peace and new Constitution by people who were at my left because they told me you're a traitor, you're a yellow, you sold on all that stuff. And we stood strong. We stood strong, and we won the election afterwards. I think that we have to defend the right of disapproval, the right of disagreeing. And thank you very much for having me here. I really appreciate it.
Sebastian Edwards 1:00:38
Let me just say one word, I think that there's been no disappointment. He touched on everything that is important for the administration. But one thing stands for me. I was born in Chile, and I am obsessed, of course with my country of origin. His emphasis on organizing an organization. He comes from being an organizer as former President Obama. There is a tradition of politicians that come from being organizers, and activists. And I think that to me, at least, and I think for everyone, the one thing that is a little different because we don't hear it all the time, is the role of organization. And I want to thank you, Mr. President for bringing this up because it is important.
Gabriel Boric 1:01:21
Thank you very much.