In Chile, on 11 March last, a government led by the young Gabriel Boric took office, in which the left and progressives managed to converge in a political project as an alternative to neoliberalism, which exploded on 18 October 2019.

Humanism is present, as a current of thought in the government, through the political reference Humanist Action. From this movement, now on its way to becoming a legal political party, emerges the figure of Marilén Cabrera, who assumed the Undersecretary of National Assets.

We spoke to Marilen after two months in the post. This is what she told us.

Pressenza: A little more than two months after taking up the post, how do you evaluate your work and what is the main seal that you have tried to give it?

Marilén Cabrera: They have been intense weeks, of constant learning, a lot of reflection and action. We have been able to meet with dozens of social, cultural and human rights organisations, housing committees, those working for natural and urban heritage, among many others. With them we are moving forward in a new style of governance based on listening, on people’s participation, on moving forward together, which is the only way to achieve social progress.

We inherited a Ministry with an economic look, focused on results and little on the process. We, together with Minister Javiera Toro and her team, want to change that direction and that is where we are heading.

Pressenza: What things have you discovered that can be done for the benefit of the population from this Undersecretariat and Ministry? How does this differ from previous administrations?

MC: With Minister Javiera Toro, in two months we have managed to unblock the process that will lead to the handing over of land for a hospital that will benefit around 70,000 inhabitants of the province of BíoBío; we have managed to reach an agreement with the Roe family of Rapa Nui, together with the Ministry of the Interior, which allows progress to be made in the land claim; we have achieved the vacating of the Mataveri airport so that it can resume its operations; we annulled the revocation of the concession of the ‘ex Valparaíso Prison’ that the previous administration had initiated, strengthening the work with this cultural and memory centre; we set a six-month work schedule for the definitive transfer of 14,487 hectares to the indigenous community; and we have established a six-month work schedule for the definitive transfer of 14. 487 hectares to the Chusmiza-Usmagama indigenous community in Tarapacá.

That is to say, with a willingness to do things, generating areas of participation, opening the doors of the Ministry, innovative solutions have been found to problems that have been dragging on for a long time. That is what President Boric has instructed us to do.

Our administration is characterised by this: participation, openness and making progress in resolving the historic demands that have been raised by the people over the last few decades.

Pressenza: We have seen that you have given great relevance to the issue of heritage (urban, rural and also natural). What can be done from Bienes Nacionales to preserve these places in the face of the voracity of corporate business?

MC: The Ministry of National Assets does not only deal with issues of regularisation or the handing over of land, but also with sensitive issues such as sites of memory and various routes that enhance them; the rescue of the architectural and cultural heritage of our towns and cities, but also the natural heritage that protects our precious assets, landscapes, virgin areas, etc.

We have a lot to do in the environmental and cultural fields. For this we propose to work together with other Ministries and Under-Secretariats.

The same goes for the rescue of memory to combat the attempts of official amnesia that Chile has experienced for decades.

For all of this, inter-ministerial work, in accordance with the guidelines given by President Boric, is key.

On all these issues we aspire to leave behind any neoliberal or economist logic. Our north are the great transformations with a focus on the environment, gender and human rights.

Pressenza: Moving on to a more political level. The plebiscite on the proposed new Constitution that is being generated by the Constitutional Convention is coming up. What is your position on this referendum?

As a government authority it is not up to me to pronounce myself on one position or another. As a government, we have always been interested in ensuring that this plebiscite has the best and most complete information, and that there is broad popular participation. That is key. The people must understand that their vote marks a course for Chile for the next 30 years, it is not just any vote.

I certainly have a personal option that is no secret to anyone because I come from years of struggles and constructions from Humanism, when we raised the need for a new Constitution since the late 80s. At that time we were already advocating the importance of this taking place through a participatory process such as the Constitutional Convention.

I believe that the people have a tremendous decision in their hands and that is how we in the government understand it.

Pressenza: Why has having a new Constitution been seen as a real solution and response to the demands expressed by citizens in 2019?

MC: Well, because the demand for a new Magna Carta synthesised all those struggles and demands that were expressed in the streets during the spring of 2019. From an end to environmental destruction, to free education, to women’s and children’s rights. Everything came together in the constitutional issue and now this process has reached its culmination point, which involves approving or rejecting the proposal being put forward by the Convention.

I believe that what has happened in Chile has been an unprecedented process for the world, achieving a comprehensive proposal for a new Constitution based on a democratically elected body, with gender parity in which 50% of Convention members are women, with seats reserved for the First Nations, etc.

The parity of the Convention has been key for all feminist women.

The world is looking at us.

Pressenza: How is Chile and its new left-wing government contributing to this yearning that “another world is possible”?

MC: I don’t think Chile was a key player in everything that came afterwards after the protests in Seattle, Genoa, the World Social Forum and all that this wave of global criticism of the neoliberal system in the 2000s implied. But there were efforts from civil society, movements, campaigns. The students with their rebellions in 2006 and 2011, more environmental demonstrations in those same years, the sexual diversity marches; then the protests against the current pension system or the women’s movements such as the feminist May 2018 or the general feminist strikes. In short, all of this generated a current that became more and more public. That’s where we come from.

All these social movements influenced the agendas of previous governments, but it is only now, after the social outburst of 2019, that a further step is taken: progress is made in changing the Constitution and a government is elected that comes directly from these social struggles and from these new rupturist generations.

A government that achieved a historic increase in the minimum wage, that committed itself to signing the Escazú environmental treaty, that proposed a historic dialogue with the Mapuche people, that included workers’ representation on the board of the public TV channel, that generated an ambitious economic plan to help families, that installed a cabinet in which more than half are women ministers, that doubled resources for the purchase and sale of goods and services, and that created a new government that is now a woman minister, that doubles resources for the purchase and restitution of land for indigenous peoples, giving a relevance never seen before to CONADI, that promotes measures that seek to limit increases in paraffin, electricity and liquefied gas, that supports the development of the extreme areas of the country by creating a national fund for territorial equity, that promotes citizen participation in public policies such as tax reform, among other measures.

Today the government of Gabriel Boric is a hope for the region and for the world, in the sense that in order to confront the neo-fascism that is spreading, it is possible and necessary to do so from logics that differ from these decades of individualistic neo-liberalism; it is possible to bring about a generational change; it is possible to generate policies that aim at social protection based on a stronger and more responsible state; it is possible to transform feminist demands of millions into public policies that promote non-patriarchal and non-discriminatory dynamics.

In short, I believe that this government is the heir of social struggles in Chile and Latin America over the last 15 or 20 years. In this sense, I believe that my country is finally giving an important reference that another world is indeed possible.