ISSN 2330-717X

Chile: Politician Of Croatian Origin Runs For Presidency

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By Matea Grgurinovic

The news that Chilean presidential candidate Gabriel Boric has tested positive for COVID-19 was picked up this week by various Croatian media outlets, who have been following the left-winger politician because of his Croatian roots, repeatedly pointing out that a Croat might become the president of Chile.

Boric, 35, is the candidate of the leftist Frente Amplio coalition, which includes the Chilean Communist Party, and is currently running second after conservative candidate Jose Antonio Kast, according to election polls.

But Croatian media are interested because his family emigrated to Chile from the Croatian island of Ugljan in 1897. Boric never fails to mention in his official biographies that he has “Croatian and Catalan” roots, RTL reported.

Zadarski.hr traced Boric’s entire family history. Comparing Boric to Che Guevara, the media outlet concluded that if Boric wins the election, the entire Dalmatia region, where his family originates from, will celebrate.

Croatian media first reported on Boric in 2012, when he was the leader of one of large student protests in Chile. Then Croatian newspaper Vecernji List reported how every Sunday as a child, Boric used to go with his family to lunch at the Yugoslav club in Lima until 1991, when the name of the club changed as Croatia declared independence. As he did not understand all the political changes happening at the time, young Boric told his grandmother that he was Yugoslavian, which made her angry, the newspaper claimed.

Boric visited Ugljan in 2010, his cousin Domagoj Kombura told Croatian media.

“He wanted to see the old family house his great-grandfather left when he went to Chile. Then they came here, we talked to him. He’s a bit shy. He doesn’t know a word of Croatian, but speaks perfect English. But he was interested in everything, a completely normal guy,” Kombura told Dnevnik.hr.

Asked if he wanted Boric to win the presidential contest in Chile, Kombura said: “Of course I would be glad. Everyone here from Ugljan would be glad if he became president.”

According to the Chilean Foreign Ministry, it is estimated that there are about 200,000 people of Croatian origin living in Chile. There are more people with the surname Boric in Chile than in Ugljan, Zadarski.hr reported. The first Croatians arrived in Chile in the 19th Century amid what was known as ‘gold fever’ after the discovery of gold on the island of Lenox.

Boric has been a member of Chile’s Chamber of Deputies since 2014 and in July, he beat a Communist Party rival for the nomination as the left’s presidential candidate.

“We come from social movements [and] were shaped politically by the struggles which have been building throughout history… If Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave,” he said at the time.

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The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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