The government of Gabriel Boric is going through very difficult times. He has been in La Moneda for 10 months, in March he celebrates his first year in power, but the disapproval of the leftist president reaches 70%. On 4 September, the political project defended by this administration suffered a heavy defeat in the elections: 62% of Chileans rejected the proposal for a new constitution prepared by a constitutional convention. It was a text that profoundly changed the country’s institutional design, and the government was betting on its approval as a fundamental part of the transformation it plans to undertake by 2026. The result represented a change in the political climate and its correlation of forces, where authority was strengthened and the government, according to some analysts, in the midst of an existential vacuum.
Socialist Ana Lia Uriarte, Minister of the General Secretariat of the Presidency, is part of the team of ministers that made its debut after the referendum to face the new phase. A veteran politician who is part of the close-knit center of Michelle Bachelet (who ruled Chile on two occasions), the lawyer, a specialist in environmental issues, has ties to parliament, where the government lacks a majority. But, although the new formula showed a change – she pairs the interior minister, Carolina Toha, with another weighty politician – it is not enough to control the political agenda and avoid mistakes.
On 30 December, the President decided to pardon 13 convicts, 12 of them for crimes committed in the 2019 social outbreak, amid the biggest public safety crisis the country has ever faced. Borik maintained that they were innocent, but some of those released later had long criminal records. The crisis led to the departure of the justice minister and chief of staff to the president a week earlier in what he believed was a messed up process. As a result, the government’s spokeswoman, Camila Vallejo, assured on Monday that the president had not taken all elements into account before making a decision. The opposition is not ready to demolish the dam.
These have been difficult days for the political committee of La Moneda, which integrates as a fundamental piece Uriarte, a mother at the age of 13, which has marked her personal and political character: “a mother Being so young strengthened my character and strength”, she tells EL Pais in La Moneda, sitting at the head of a long table, where she has a jar with documents, notes and nuts.
Question. Is the government worried about the 70% disapproval of the President?
answer. The status has an effect on the levels of approval and disapproval of the government, the president, political forces, institutions. We are deeply concerned about the complex political moment we are living through. There is an atmosphere of political tension which is manifested in the two constitutional charges [que busca el castigo por las 13 liberaciones de condenados contra Marcela Ríos, que era ministra de Justicia, y la destitución por otro caso del ministro de Desarrollo Social, Giorgio Jackson, cercano al presidente], an investigative commission in Congress for pardons and information requirements by the Comptroller for the same case. This moment forces us to take charge and respond.
Q. Why was the decision taken to pardon 13 people?
R. Regarding the powers of the President reserved for the President of the Republic, it is always too complicated for his ministers or for any person to interpret everything that is in the mind of the President, because it is an exclusive and exclusive . I would just like to point out that the President exercised the power provided in the Constitution. Together with the new Justice Minister Luis Cordero, with all the information, we will be able to generate the relevant legal responses. And I will not add more to it.
Q. What does this episode reveal about the government, which includes lists in which the names of pardon recipients come and go and the president himself has not declared himself long-term?
A. As Minister of the General Secretariat of the Presidency, I will await the expert opinion of the Minister of Justice regarding the process of clemency. What I cannot ignore is that this has been a complex process, with significant difficulties.
Q. As a minister on the Political Committee, did you warn the President about the risks of the pardon?
R. The only contribution I can really make to take away at this moment is to refrain from providing any kind of background information regarding this process, whether it happened or not. Concentrate everything in the hands of the Minister of Justice.
Q. What has happened in Chilean politics since the referendum held four months ago?
A. September 4th was a shocking day for all of us who were supposed to accept the text, because the option to reject was actually put up by a significant percentage. The outcome of this coercion undoubtedly marks not only a change in the way government is approached, but also the beginning of a complex and deep political reflection. We thought we could win or lose, but by a few points. The result shakes up the referendum process as well as the content of the rejected constitution project.
Q. This week, political forces in Parliament agreed on a new constitutional path…
R. After 4 September, there was admirable clarity in President Borić who, although rejecting the draft constitution prepared by this conference, could not read the result as an expression that the citizens did not want a new Magna Carta. . We forcefully understand that 78% of Chileans who held a referendum in October 2020 were in favor of a new constitution that supersedes Pinochet’s 1980 constitution. In this framework, the President asks Congress to accept the expression of a great political agreement. Which brings us back to a component process, of a different character than unsuccessful.
Q. Did the government bet so much for any one option in the previous process, was it a mistake?
R. President Boric won the presidency of the republic, being a leftist with a transformative program and it was entirely inevitable that the new government followed the constituent process that had taken place in Chile the previous year. I don’t consider it a mistake, but an unavoidable reality considering who we are.
Q. What is the new approach of the government since September that you are referring to?
R. After a very significant percentage rejected the draft of the new constitution in September, a cycle was closed. Because it is no longer a question of implementing a new fundamental charter, but of putting the machine at full capacity and power to respond to the urgency of Chilean men and women. This is a new time which we have taken up with strength and determination. We introduced tax reform, then pension reform and we are legislating with a number of initiatives. Between March and the end of 2022, we have 18 projects that have come into this government and that have become law.
Q. Is this new time, as you call it, more realistic and moderate?
R. I would describe it in a different way: after the referendum, we devoted ourselves with all our might to carrying out the program that has the transformative stamp that all parties supporting this administration wish to see materialize. Let’s keep it so that it can change the life of Chileans. The transformational seal was, is and will remain the significance of the existence of this government. But in tax reform, for example, three packages of signals have already been filed with about 80 changes which contribute to moving the project forward and for this reason this more tax does not eliminate the sense of justice, which we are to pursue.
Q. How are dialogues progressing in a Congress where they do not have a majority and have high fragmentation?
R. With great strength, but also with the ability to negotiate and open to democratic deliberation, we have made progress. We want to assure democratically, not impose. Because to pass any law we need to go beyond the ruling party. We look for sources that allow us to meet the objectives we have set for ourselves, but while acknowledging different perspectives, points of view and perspectives.
> You have been part of two governments of Michelle Bachelet and in the second as Chief of Staff. How do you get out of this difficult moment for the Borik government?
You already know, because you actually have experience with previous governments, and because history says so: Sometime, governments have to go through very difficult times and the important thing is to have the courage to overcome them. And it should be quiet. The fact that we are living through a complex political moment does not mean that there is government paralysis.
Q. Carlos Ruiz, an analyst with Boric’s Broad Front, said a few days ago that “the future of the government is at stake and a direction and a story must be defined soon.”
R. I do not share a view of that nature and especially so soon as we have arrived at La Moneda. We are over 300 days old now and we still have three years to go.
Q. The president of a government party, Flavia Torrealba, wrote a few days ago that “the rightists are surrounding the president in such a suspicious and dangerous way that they are leading the country to an institutional crisis.” Is this what is happening in Chile?
R. I do not share this dramatic and somewhat destructive vision. We are passing through a complex political phase, but everything is happening within the institutional framework.
P. The Boric government will celebrate its first year in March. What is your balance?
R. Having had such an intense year and with so many elements that other governments have not been able to – such as a referendum to opt out of a constitution, and this process has failed – this government managed to maintain governance, normality and stability in one year. Has been able to keep certainty in people’s lives.