A few months ago, we published an interview with the mayor of Recoleta, Santiago de Chile, Daniel Jadue. In November this year, he will end his third and final term in office, having implemented social programs with a broad impact, as a result of a major intervention in the social, health, and cultural sectors of the community. The popular pharmacies, together with the popular optician, the popular bookshop, the popular housing, and the open university, are the result of a management that values and promotes services, knowledge, and public spaces. Active and participatory citizenship is encouraged at all levels, and programs are implemented that have a real impact on the lives of the community’s residents, regardless of nationality or migration status. This is exemplified by the administration of the municipality of Recoleta by Mayor Daniel Jadue, a former presidential candidate in the 2021 left-wing primaries.

However, those who promote actions that demonstrate the possibility of alternatives to the dominant interests often end up in the eyes of the political and de facto powers that be. As his lawyer mentions, “Jadue has had to face many cases in which he has been acquitted or exonerated”. The most recent was the formalization of charges of bribery, maladministration, tax fraud, and fraud in the case of the Chilean Association of Popular Pharmacies (ACHIFAR).

Between 2009 and March 2023, the State Defence Council (Consejo de Defensa del Estado, CDE) accused almost 40% of municipalities of serious irregularities in the management of funds, according to Ciper Chile. However, the media coverage of Mayor Daniel Jadue’s appointment has been almost non-existent and has been marred by statements from far-right figures such as José Antonio Kast, a former presidential candidate, another former presidential candidate, who accused the “communist mayor” of corruption and hoped to see him “soon in jail”, a statement that could certainly be challenged as defamation.

We are living in a media dictatorship where the Fourth Estate has no doubt which side it is on.

Daniel Jadue himself has voluntarily disclosed all the means of communication he uses, such as e-mail and mobile phones, since the beginning of the investigation. In response to repeated calls from the right to suspend the mayor from the party, the PC has responded with a clear “no”, because the investigation is still ongoing.

The truth is that the media have missed a great opportunity: to do serious work and provide good information that could have focused on the sustainability of initiatives such as the community pharmacies, and promoted reflection on responsibility not only at the judicial level but also at the level of society, to find a solution to a health problem that is real in Chile today, where ordinary people go into debt to cope with illness and have to invent bingos and solidarity raffles to have access to treatment.

On the contrary, once again the mass and popular media, which are often not part of the hegemonic powers, are proving incapable of getting out of the fundamental debate, which is designed to feed the legal persecution of those who try to make things work differently, often under “friendly fire”. Is the left incapable of recognizing the right’s maneuvers to divide it?

The lawsuit against ACHIFAR is based on a sum of around 900,000,000 pesos that the municipality allegedly failed to pay for the purchase of protective medical equipment during the first months of the COVID-19 emergency. The mayor allegedly promised the company that sold the supplies more purchases in the future, for a popular supermarket initiative (not yet realized), to increase the number of supermarkets in the city.
initiative (not yet implemented), in order not to pay for the request. The defense says this theory is unfounded and has opened the accounts to full transparency.

But these are minor details. The real motive of this trial is to tarnish the image of the Communist Party in a municipality where it has a large majority and to divide the left at the national level. This is the opinion of many informed citizens who have seen how things are done in Recoleta and who believe in the good faith with which initiatives such as the community pharmacies in question are carried out.

This legal persecution is not only putting a mayor and others allegedly involved on trial; it is destroying a concrete and alternative path toward the democratization of health. This is extremely worrying.