The cabinet reshuffle just implemented by President Gabriel Boric was one of the most embarrassing ceremonies in our institutional system in living memory. The lack of tidiness of some of his collaborators led the Head of State to appoint a Communist Party minister for barely 40 minutes and then dismiss him and make the country wait more than an hour and a half to meet his new ministers, as well as to find out who would be removed from their posts before the six months were up.
It seems that the president’s advisors omitted what is now a rule everywhere before appointing a new political authority, which is to check his twitter history and verify that in this case he had registered seriously offensive messages against the uniformed police. This should certainly disqualify him from assuming, among others, the delicate functions of security and coordination of the entities in charge of public order. For the same reason, the newly-appointed Secretary of State provoked an immediate reaction from the right-wing opposition, which bluntly warned the government that it would not even accept a Secretary of State like him in the legislative chambers.
The incident, of course, left the CP very irritated and some of its members deplored the attitude of a President of the Republic to appoint someone only to remove him immediately, giving in to the opposition’s demand. In a clear sign of weakness but also of the fact that anti-communism is still very much alive and well in Chilean politics. One of the indignant communists even dared to point out that if in the future the Executive renounced its most important reforms, this party could “move to the other side of the street”.
This marked the first serious disagreement between the pro-government sectors, to which the following day was added the annoyance of Revolución Democrática and Boric’s own group when it was realised that two members of the Socialist Party had been appointed to the portfolios of its Interior and the Presidency to replace their own militants. That is, two women linked to the Concertación Democrática and the Nueva Mayoría, until recently government coalitions highly questioned by the parties and movements of the left that cemented Boric’s electoral triumph.
What was clear to everyone is that the President made a shift towards the political centre at the risk of disintegrating the unity of the large number of groups that until now trusted in the possibility that the new administration would carry out the major changes demanded by the country. The disappointment of these sectors is exacerbated by the tenacious stance of the main right-wing parties, eager to deepen the crisis in the ruling party and, above all, to prevent the possibility that Parliament will give course to the Moneda’s bills on tax, social security, health and other matters. In the midst of their opposition to the appointed and dismissed minister, leaders of the UDI, Renovación Nacional and Evópoli publicly and insolently reminded the government that the ruling party was in the minority in both legislative chambers…
All this happened within hours of the resounding vote against the constitutional text submitted to plebiscite, in an electoral victory that is undoubtedly not only of the right, but of vast sectors reluctant to approve a Magna Carta branded as maximalist, extremist and dissonant with the constitutional history of our country. More than 20 percentage points separated Rejection from Approval, in a result that is also interpreted as a massive repudiation of the government’s administration. Even though Boric himself strongly committed his support to the defeated version.
What is now undeniable is that the Government has been weakened by the last week, while it is feared that the Right will not fulfil its commitment to support the convening of a new Constitutional Convention, which in its second version will have fewer members and, in less time, will be able to propose a new Magna Carta to Chile.
In press commentaries, social networks, as well as in the street itself, it is agreed that nobody would want to be in Gabriel Boric’s shoes. For some, the imminent disarmament of the governing political coalition seems imminent, just as for others it is undeniable that the Right is already encouraging a process of conspiracy, especially if the Government really intends to fulfil the Programme. One member of parliament blatantly proclaimed that the right-wing coalition Chile Vamos should be seen as the “defender of the Carabineros de Chile” and of all those in uniform, which also raises fears that the Executive could face many stumbling blocks when it comes to implementing the reform of the questioned police forces.
In any case, the President must be aware that in politics more centripetal forces than centrifugal ones are at work in public office. Especially if one considers that in Chile the so-called “public servants” receive even higher stipends than those in rich countries.
What is clear, beyond any analysis or prediction, is that the government team, with the President himself at the head, has shown serious hesitation and inexperience in these and other events. This would have led the head of state to dismiss Izquia Siches, a minister close to him and of his own generation, to end up handing over its interior portfolio to Carolina Tohá, who is supposed to be more experienced and empathetic to the political centre and to the right itself. This was, moreover, so explicit in the approval given to her and her comrade Ana Lía Iriarte, the new head of the ministry in charge of relations with the legislative branch. Both were greeted with cheers and applause at their first meeting with parliamentarians.
It is also very unfortunate that the politics of the elite has been re-inaugurated, with such stridency that issues of much greater interest to the people, battered by a raging economic crisis, galloping inflation and the severe deterioration of purchasing power, are being left on the back burner. Certainly, the need for a “new and good Constitution” is important, but never as important as the urgent solution to the problems of security and drug trafficking, for example.
It is not surprising that, at the same time as the new appointments were taking place in La Moneda, the students were protesting in the streets just a few steps away from government headquarters. Meanwhile, in Araucanía, the Mapuche rebels’ confrontation with the state continues to be rampant. This also discourages support for the government from a large part of the left and human rights organisations. As well as the right, of course, which would like the authorities to step up repression in the area.