Sebastian Piñera in cabinet council of ministers of Chile. / Photo: Chilean Presidency
LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez
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Leer en español: Este es el nuevo gabinete en Chile
Protests in Chile have led to a political crisis that has put President Piñera cornered against the wall, which led him to change his cabinet
As a result of the requests of the Chilean people, which became mass demonstrations in all cities, President Sebastián Piñera decided to change his cabinet in an attempt to lower the tension that has surrounded the country in recent weeks.
The requests of Chileans arise from disagreements from issues of transport, health, education and, the one that has grown the most since the protests began, pensions. Due to these requests, Piñera announced 8 new members in his presidential cabinet.
Days before the announcement, on Saturday, October 26, the Chilean president asked his ministers to resign their positions and finally the new members met at the beginning of the week.
Political and social crisis in Chile
It all started with blockages in the subway stations: the criticism of that was due to the rise in the prices of public transport tickets. The young people who began this manifestation of insurance did not think about the impact that this act would have on the demands that are being seen today from the Chilean people towards the government.
After days of violent demonstrations, that President Piñera decided to decree a curfew and that the streets were filled with soldiers with the order to remain calm, but that they ended up in abuses of authority, Chile found itself looking at the past and remembering the dark era of the Pinochet military dictatorship.
In response, the Chilean people returned to the streets.
Although the protests began by the rise in the price of the subway, the crisis escalated to much higher and to underlying issues. After the first demonstrations, Piñera decided to eliminate the transport decree, but it was too late and the Chileans did not stop until they were heard.
On Friday, October 25, to the sound of the Prisoners, the Chileans sang the dance of those left over, a song reminiscent of the time of the Pinochet dictatorship, at which time it was written. More than 1.3 million people mobilized in Santiago, the capital, showing the government that they were not afraid of repression and that they would fight for their rights.
On the other hand, during the week the protests went back on and the events ended in strong riots. While the citizens were heading towards the Palacio de la Moneda (place of the Executive), they were militarily repressed a few meters from their destination, which ended in clashes of the civilian population and the militarized police. This happened even after Piñera announced that there would be a change of cabinet, which was precisely looking to calm the environment. As a result, looting, injuries and city facilities burned down.
The change of cabinet
President Piñera said the changes were given to privilege citizenship over a "political agenda" and peace over violence. He also affirmed that he would pick up the requests of the population and that would be the main interest in the near future of his government.
Estas prioridades significan privilegiar hoy una agenda ciudadana x sobre una agenda política, el estado de derecho sobre el caos, la paz sobre la violencia y la justicia sobre la Impunidad. Y un férreo compromiso con defensa de los DD.HH de todos y en todo tiempo y circunstancia— Sebastian Piñera (@sebastianpinera) October 30, 2019
One of the changes in the cabinet, perhaps the most important considering the complaints and requests of the Chileans, was the Minister of Interior and Public Security, Andrés Chadwick, who apologized "if he had failed." Chadwick's withdrawal was being sued even before by opposition parties.
Gonzalo Blumel comes to his replacement, who served as minister of the General Secretariat of the Presidency (Segpres), managing the relationship between the government and parliament. According to the BBC, Blumel "was one of the best-regarded ministers in the cabinet," which is why Piñera decided to take that important new role for the critical moment in the country.
Felipe Larraín, who was the finance minister, department that manages the country's finances (another major criticism of citizens), was also removed from his post. Larraín also accepted responsibility and became a "self-criticism", stating that they could not interpret what was happening. The new finance minister is Ignacio Briones Rojas.
The General Secretariat of Government and Presidency, the Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism, Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, Ministry of National Assets and Ministry of Sports also changed.
The Chilean president spoke of the change of cabinet as an opportunity to engage in dialogue with the citizens. In the changes, he stressed that the new members make up a young team, which aims to give closeness to the requests of the Chileans, since the young people have manifested the most.
Este #CambiodeGabinete significa el inicio de una nueva etapa de mayor diálogo con los ciudadanos y de mayor unidad nacional y tb para impulsar con un equipo joven y con nuevos bríos la Agenda Social. Agradezco gran compromiso y vocación de los ministros q hoy dejan el Gabinete. pic.twitter.com/c30xx6HnAS— Sebastian Piñera (@sebastianpinera) October 28, 2019
Although the Chilean people's response was not as expected, the new cabinet promises a National Unit to solve the problems that afflict citizens.