Leftist Gabriel Boric won a landslide to become Chile’s president and backs reform to improve water rights and access for communities like Petorca
In the drought-hit town of Petorca, the result of yesterday’s Chilean presidential election has raised residents’ hopes that they can reclaim their dwindling water supplies from avocado farmers.
Thirty-five year old leftist Gabriel Boric defeated the far-right’s Jose Antonio Kast, sparking “relief” and renewed “hope” from climate campaigners and Chileans who lack access to drinking water.
Maisa Rojas, a climate scientist who advised the last government before resigning to campaign for Boric, said she was “very pleased and very relieved as well”.
Environmental lawyer Patsy Contardo said her reaction was “hope”. She added: “Boric represents the start of a new era after four years of darkness, human rights violations and impunity.”
Morakot maroonedSurvivors of a Typhoon in Taiwan long for their families to return home
Nationwide, Boric won 56% of the vote to Kast’s 44%. In Petorca, which has become er child for the nation’s climate change driven, 10 year mega-drought, he gained 73% of the vote – one of his strongest showings in the country.
In a televised election debate, Boric said he would consider taking Petorca’s water away from avocado growers and giving it to people. “When we see a ‘blocking’ of water , for example, what is happening in Petorca, where avocado monocultures are preventing water from getting to the schools, it is something that we will have to ‘unblock’”, he said in Spanish.
Barbara Astudillo Delgado, an ecofeminist activist from Petorca, said it was “imperative” that he prioritised water for human consumption. She told Climate Home News: “We live in times where life is at risk, schools and health centres have been closed for not having access to drinking water, food production is scarce and agribusiness has only favoured a few while generating water poverty.”
A convention is currently drafting a new constitution of Chile. Delegates suggested adding a human rights to water. Boric’s presidency would financially and logistically support the convention, while Kast had opposed drawing up a new constitution.
Boric has pledged to establish water basin councils where water-using groups like agriculture, mining, and local communities can have a discussion about water access.
Sebastian Pinera, the centre-right billionaire and former Chilean government, had made climate change a central political issue and offered to host the Cop25 Climate Talks in Santiago. However, protests were sparked by an increase in the cost of public transport and the talks were moved to Spain.
Amnesty International accused China of violating human rights in its response to protests. They cited thousands of complaints of police brutality, and hundreds of eye injuries due to tear gas.
On climate, Pinera set a net zero by 2050 target, a coal exit plan and sought to establish a green hydrogen industry powered by the country’s abundant sun and wind.
Rojas stated that she expected Boric would continue and accelerate climate work. In April 2020, the government published an updated national climate plan and a long-term strategy. Boric’s government will seek to enshrine the targets in a climate law.
Kast, who Rojas compared to Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and the US’s Donald Trump, questioned in 2019 whether humans had caused climate change. He sought to win centrist voters by accepting that climate change was caused by humans and calling for action, but he did not provide any detailed policies.
Kast’s solution to water scarcity was to build desalination plants which turn salt water into drinking water. These plants require a lot energy and can be harmful to aquatic ecosystems because waste salt is released into the rivers and seas. Rojas stated that they might be necessary, but not the only solution.
Source: Climate Change News