Why Chile’s president moved into a high-crime Santiago suburb


Elsewhere, social unrest, sparked initially by a rise in metro fares, morphed into protests against the country’s economic model, low pensions and failing government services. Then came the global coronavirus pandemic. All of these factors help explain Boric’s rise to prominence and his win over more traditional political parties.

End of day at a street market in Yungay, Santiago.Credit:Bloomberg

For years, Yungay residents have complained of abandoned lots infested with garbage, overcrowded homes with migrants living in precarious conditions and traffickers peddling drugs on various corners. Walking down the street, you’ll see graffiti-covered buildings interspersed with hip restaurants and museums, and likely some stray dogs.

Crime has gotten worse in recent years, according to Alexis Godoy, whose family owns a store at the border of the neighbourhood. He says that before he would close at 9pm but had to start closing at 7.30pm as things got riskier at night.

“We hope that the improved security spills over” from Boric’s presence in Yungay, Godoy says.

After only a couple of weeks in the suburb, that spillover is happening, according to Rosario Carvajal, a member of Santiago’s municipal council and who lives in Yungay. “The local economy got a shot in the arm,” Carvajal said. “You see activity picking up at the local bakeries, stores and restaurants.”

Police patrols have become more common after Chilean President Gabriel Boric moved into Yungay.

Police patrols have become more common after Chilean President Gabriel Boric moved into Yungay.Credit:Bloomberg

Carvajal has run into Boric several times because her house is on the same street as the president’s. He sometimes visits a nearby coffee shop, and Carvajal had to actively tell friends not to bother when he was getting a haircut at the local barber shop around the corner. Police cars are seen more frequently on the streets, and drug traffickers, who until recently would do their business at her home’s entrance, are moving shop.


“It’s not good for business when security is asking for identification or you can’t drive around in unmarked cars,” she says.

The improved security is having an effect on real estate prices too. Neo Rincon, who works at real estate broker RE/MAX Gold, says that calls for a home in Yungay listed for sale jumped after the announcement. “One of the first questions people were asking was ‘how close is it to the president?’,” Rincon said

Rental prices in Yungay had been trending lower in recent years but have gained about 15 per cent from before the announcement, Rincon said. Houm.cl, a local real estate listings website, says that searches in the suburb doubled.

But Boric’s term only lasts four years and some fear that the boost from his presence may fade when his lease ends. Carvajal, the city councillor, has discussed with other neighbours a proposal to turn the house into an official residence for future presidents. “But I don’t think that they’ll be as brave,” she said.


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