The organisers of “Democracia Viva”, members of Revolución Democrática (RD) committed a grave sin in their attempt to take advantage of state funds for political or personal gain. This is corruption and is unacceptable for those who ethically and politically challenged the right wing and the Concertación.
The decisions of the current government, including the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Comptroller’s Office, and of the RD leadership itself, to condemn those responsible for using public money fraudulently, have not stopped the offensive of the right-wing and some senators of the Socialist Party. An attempt is being made to turn the reprehensible act into a larger phenomenon, which seeks to compromise the DR as a whole and even the Frente Amplio (FA).
The political opposition to the government, and some pro-government senators, have multiplied voices of hatred, which had not been heard in the past, when the Penta, SQM and Corpesca cases took place. Nor have similar questionings been heard in the recent and brazen embezzlement of the municipality of Vitacura, such as those deployed against “Democracia Viva” (Living Democracy).
It has been a feast for the right-wing media. Even the mayor of Providencia, and potential UDI presidential candidate, Evelyn Matthei, has said that “Jackson is burnt out and that his RD party has shown itself to be disgusting”. These expressions are somewhat disproportionate for someone who was not disgusted by hugging Pinochet.
The right-wing media also widely publicised the hateful discourse of the socialist senator, Fidel Espinoza, against the RD and, in peculiarity, against Giorgio Jackson. Persistent aggressions. Espinoza seems like those young people in love and scorned. He gives no respite to Jackson, neither when he was Minister of the Presidency, nor now: “Giorgio Jackson founded this party of corruption and he is silent”.
Like Matthei, the socialist senator extends the corruption of “Democracia Viva” to the DR. Curiously, he did not do the same when he chaired the parliamentary commission to review the Penta and SQM cases: he was more rigorous on that occasion in pinpointing the culprits, because he did not generalise the corruption to the Concertación parties.
Finally, Sebastián Dávalos, who, as always, gets it wrong, puts his foot in his mouth. He claims that the “Democracia Viva” case is worse than CAVAL. But it is not. His case is more serious because, as the son of President Bachelet, by requesting a privileged deal with the owner of Banco Chile, Andrónico Luksic, he opens doors for politics to give special concessions to economic groups, as has been the case with Penta, SQM and Corpesca and, furthermore, his behaviour seriously affected the government of his mother, President Bachelet.
With “Democracia Viva” we return to the bad old days, when corruption was on the national agenda. In the second decade of the 2000s, the perverse links between politics and business were exposed.
The manipulated fishing law, the favouritism in salt concessions in favour of Ponce Lerou and the Penta case, with executives trying to protect their Isapres and AFPs by paying parliamentarians, were extremely serious for national interests. Even more serious was the transversal political agreement to conceal or mediatise these facts, with the weakening of the Internal Revenue Service and the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Now, as the days go by, the irregular transfer of funds uncovered with “Democracia Viva” is becoming a widespread phenomenon, both territorially and politically (the case of the governor of Araucanía supported by Evopoli, who transferred funds directly to the foundation of his friends, has just come to light).
Unlike the corruption of past years, in the emblematic case of “Democracia Viva”, there is a substantive oversight, either deliberately or through ignorance. It is the ineffable 1980 Constitution, the foundation of the free market and the minimisation of the state. It is undeniable that the subsidiarity of the public sector is the structural basis for private companies and foundations to replace the state in its own tasks.
The foundations and private companies subcontracted by the state would not exist if the state did not outsource its own activities. This is characteristic of the neoliberal system installed in the country, which relies on the market for its economic and social functioning. The state’s role is thus reduced and its hands are tied in its work.
Outsourcing, a marginal practice before the dictatorship, began to take its first steps in the period 1974-1990, to be consolidated during the transition to democracy. The subsidiary state was established with the neoliberal reforms implemented from 1975 onwards, formalised with the 1980 Constitution, and then consolidated over the last three decades.
The subsidiarity of the state was strengthened with José Piñera’s Labour Code, which served to eliminate the legal barriers to subcontracting and to outsource functions that were part of the permanent activities of companies and the state. As a result, many activities that are the responsibility of ministries are transferred to foundations or private companies.
Piñera’s invention, instead of being eliminated by the Concertación, was formalised by the 2006 law on subcontracting (Law 20.123). However, this law is very lax and does not incorporate requirements for equal working conditions between permanent and outsourced workers, nor does it specify the functions to be outsourced, nor does it ensure oversight of outsourced workers.
Thus, the outsourcing regime is widespread in the country and abundantly deployed in the private sector and state institutions.
In this system, the “direct deal” in purchasing goods and services by the public sector acquires preponderance to avoid tenders. There are emblematic cases, such as the company Sonda with its technology services for Transantiago and the Civil Register, among others. It has also been used at will by municipalities, the Armed Forces, the Carabineros and the PDI.
Outsourcing is a difficult issue to confront and will not have an effective solution as long as the subsidiary state persists.
Senator Huenchumilla is also clear in pointing out the responsibilities of the state itself, which facilitates corrupt acts: “There is an original capital sin on the part of the Treasury, DIPRES and Congress because in the budget law authorisations are given with open glosses, without clarifying the type of transfer or the respective regulation” (El Mercurio, 11.07.2023).
Consequently, the breach of ethics by the DR activists in Antofagasta requires unavoidable legal condemnation; but it also reveals the need to review the role of the state in the economy. It is necessary to return to the public sector the direct management that corresponds to it and, when outsourcing is necessary, to establish strict regulations for the provision of resources to foundations or private companies. In reality, it is the pig’s fault, but it is also the fault of those who feed it.