The Chilean president, Gabriel Boric, has made his second major change of Cabinet this Friday. He has done it within hours of commemorating his first year at La Moneda tomorrow. He has decapitated the Foreign Ministry, which was in the hands of the socialist Antonia Urrejola and, incidentally, has made changes in four other ministers, all sectorial. The leftist president seeks to renew his commitment to the citizenry for his second year in power, after one of the most complex installations that Chile has seen in recent governments. After last September’s constitutional referendum, which demolished a proposal for a new constitution that the Chilean Executive supported, La Moneda was weakened and had to make strong changes, such as incorporating moderate sectors in key positions such as the Interior, where Carolina Tohá landed. This renewal of the team finds the Government in a dark moment: the deputies demolished this week the tax reform proposal, with which the financing of part of its program is in question.
“We have had difficulties, there is no doubt about it,” Boric said from La Moneda, after announcing the changes in his government team, in a speech where he recounted his main achievements this year. “What motivates me to make these changes are not political pressures or minor compensation, but to improve the response and management capacity, in the face of the emergencies of our Homeland,” added the president.
Boric today has not changed the fundamental pieces of his team of political ministers. The heart of the Government will continue in the hands of the socialists, of the moderate left: the Interior, the Treasury and the General Secretariat of the Presidency, which manages relations with Parliament. But for this new period he needs to streamline the management of fundamental portfolios for people’s lives such as Public Works, Sports, Culture and Science, where he has made the changes. He needs the team that accompanies him in this stage to have a better connection with the people: a government that is more concerned with management and generating concrete results for citizens. Less promises and announcements, more achievements and actions. According to the latest Criteria survey, only four of the 24 ministers of him had greater than 60% knowledge. Citizens, therefore, wanted a reformulation of the Government. According to this week’s survey by the Data Influye polling company, 79% of people supported the idea of a transformation in Boric’s team.
With this change of pieces, the two government coalitions are left with an equivalent representation in the Cabinet, as until now. Both the Democratic Socialism led by the Socialist Party, and I Approve Dignity, Boric’s Broad Front alliance with the Communist Party, are similar in number of ministers. It is in the sub-secretaries, the seconds on board in each portfolio, where a rebalancing of both forces would take place.
It is the second cabinet change in the first year of the 37-year-old leftist president. After the defeat of the proposal for a new Constitution on September 4, which the Government openly supported, Boric carried out a profound transformation. He removed two of his fellow political travelers from the first ring of power. The doctor Izkia Siches was replaced by Tohá, a member of the center-left PPD party with extensive political experience in the administrations that governed Chile in the transition, between 1990 and 2010. The engineer Giorgio Jackson, one of Boric’s main allies, part of the Front Broad as the president himself and his companion on the road, he was appointed to a relevant portfolio, but with less prominence, the Ministry of Social Development. He was replaced by a socialist close to Michelle Bachelet, the lawyer Ana Lya Uriarte. One of the main doubts of today’s change was whether Jackson would finally leave the Cabinet, but Boric has chosen to keep it.
Regarding parity, the Cabinet with which he debuted a year ago had 14 women and 10 men. With this change, the first line of the Chilean Executive will have 12 women and 12 men.
In the Foreign Ministry, replacing Urrejola, comes Alberto Van Klaveren, from the moderate left of the PPD, with a broad diplomatic career. In Public Works, Juan Carlos García, an independent, leaves and Jessica López, a socialist, enters, the first woman to preside over Banco Estado, a position she held until today. In the Sports portfolio, Claudio Pizarro, a popular ex-soccer player, will assume the position held by Alexandra Benado, an independent. In Culture, the renowned television executive Jaime de Aguirre replaces Julieta Brodsky, from Convergencia Social, the president’s party. In Sciences, Aisén Etcheverry, an independent, takes the position of Silvia Díaz, close to the PPD.
The president seeks to improve the perception of his Government with a very relevant date on the horizon, May 7. In two months, citizens will return to the polls after 2020, 2021 and 2022 with an intense electoral agenda, but to elect the 50 members of the constitutional council that will draft a new Constitution proposal. It is a relevant election due to the constituent process itself, but it hides a fundamental issue: it will be an election with compulsory voting, the first since this system was restored, with which the results will show the strength of the ruling party and the opposition and , in turn, of the hegemonies within each alliance. Although La Moneda has made the decision not to get involved openly in this process, in order not to repeat the previous fiasco, Boric needs a team of ministers that is better valued by the people, that does not make mistakes of incompetence and carelessness as has been seen in these 12 months. . In May, the election will probably not be a trial of the Government, as happened in some way in the September plebiscite, but a defeat for the ruling party would be challenged by La Moneda.
This change of Cabinet finds Boric and his Government wounded, after the deputies on Wednesday demolished the tax reform project, which he was facing in his first legislative process. The proposal intended to collect 3.6% of GDP to finance the government program and a way out does not seem evident. In an interview with EL PAÍS, the Minister of Finance, Mario Marcel, explained the reasons that, in his opinion, caused the great legislative defeat: “What was behind the vote was much more than the tax reform. It is a more complex political moment, in which the Government has been strengthening public opinion, the economy is improving and where, at the same time, emblematic projects such as the pension reform are being discussed”.
Marcel was referring to the good air that was breathed in La Moneda until a few days ago. After a presidential support that has reached a floor of 25% in January, according to the Cadem poll that measures it week by week, his popularity is now at 35%, according to the same pollster. Other polls show something similar. Analysts attribute it to daring security measures, especially for a left-wing government, such as the militarization of the north of the country to control irregular immigration and public security in an area of the territory with serious crime problems.
But there is a second important issue: the economy. Inflation fell by 0.1% in February, which surprised the market, which projects inflation to fall in 2023. Unemployment is in less than two digits and the price of the dollar with respect to the Chilean price has been controlled. In addition, despite the forecasts, the Chilean economy registered growth of 0.4% in January, according to the latest figures. The Minister of Finance, who attributes this scenario to local factors, has assured that they are the advance of a solid trend. “It is undeniable that the set of things that have been observed is positive,” Marcel assured EL PAÍS.
Boric is expected to meet with his new Cabinet tomorrow, in commemoration of the first year of government, where a new story would be inaugurated for the three years that lie ahead, which are not projected easy.
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