The Chilean government is looking against the clock for a way to resume dialogue with the opposition, after the departure of Giorgio Jackson, the main ally of President Gabriel Boric, from the Cabinet last Friday. The fall of Jackson was the condition for part of the right -especially the traditional right-wing party UDI- to resume talks with the Executive, which is trying to agree on a tax and pension reform, the cornerstones of the program. The Minister of the Interior, Carolina Tohá, reported a possible way of understanding: on Thursday, the parties of the historical right, grouped in the Chile Vamos coalition, are summoned to La Moneda by the president to once again sit at the table. “In recent days, contact has been made with the opposition forces in search of resuming a climate of greater dialogue, of greater openness, to unlock issues that the population has been waiting for a long time,” Tohá said Thursday, referring to the pact. tax, pension reform and bills related to probity and public safety that will be presented in Congress.
The reestablishment of dialogue with part of the opposition does not guarantee, however, that Congress will approve the reforms in the terms sought by the Government. In a gesture of political realism, Senator Ricardo Lagos Weber, a member of the ruling party of the moderate left PPD, assured that the opposition has the almost unique opportunity to define the final design of the reforms. Along the same lines, his party partner, Minister Tohá, has not hidden that La Moneda is willing to compromise: “For this dialogue to bear fruit, it will require that we all be open to giving in. As a government we have that opening. We are fully aware that with our votes alone we cannot and we also have flexibility. We require that willingness from the other party to build that understanding that the citizens demand so much of us,” said the Minister of the Interior, aware that the ruling party does not have enough votes in the Chamber of Deputies or in the Senate.
Jackson’s resignation last Friday, a strong political and human blow for Boric, was not an immediate pain reliever to improve the relationship between the government and the opposition. In consecutive days, La Moneda has made innumerable public calls for the right to keep its word to resume talks without Jackson in government, not to make excuses for not talking and to take charge of citizen demands, especially in relation to better pensions. The traditional and extreme right, of the Republican Party, have said through different spokespersons that the reforms are bad and that they not only require changing faces – like Jackson’s – but also a strategic change in the government. The president of the UDI, Javier Macaya, assured that the Executive must transform “ideas and ways of governing.”
Sebastián Piñera, who governed between 2010 and 2014 and between 2018 and 2022, has had a new role in public discussion in recent weeks, after the survey by the Center for Public Studies (CEP) showed a revaluation of his management. Since the trip to Paraguay made this Tuesday together with President Boric to the change of command -in an unprecedented act of closeness between the two, always and especially since the social outbreak of October 2019-, Piñera called for dialogues, for agreements and unity in “security, probity, development and pensions”. The former president, however, described the original tax and pension reform projects as “very bad”.
A change of Cabinet in sight
Jackson’s resignation would have messed up Boric’s internal change schedule, which would have contemplated a new Cabinet change, the third in 17 months. The main question lies in the date: whether before or after next September 11, when the 50th anniversary of the coup in Chile will be commemorated, a crucial date for the government, the ruling party and the left. “It is very unfortunate, but this anniversary will leave Chile more confronted not only with respect to the past, but also about the present and the future,” political analyst Max Colodro told EL PAÍS a few days ago.
Meanwhile, in another lane, the Prosecutor’s Office is investigating foundations linked to the Convenios case in most regions of the country. It is a plot to transfer State resources to foundations linked mainly to the ruling party and that has had a strong impact on the RD party, Boric’s Broad Front party of which Jackson was the founder and leader. The case broke out on June 16 and, since then, the pressure for Jackson’s departure has been daily, so the government was trapped in this matter. The immobility was resented, even by pro-government forces, who asked to unlock the talks with his departure.
After the robbery that affected the offices of the Ministry of Social Development on the night of July 19 – the thieves took 23 computers and a safe, among other items – the UDI froze the dialogue with the Government, while the president did not decide to remove Jackson from the Cabinet. The Chamber of Deputies approved an unprecedented appeal to the president to remove him – it was led by the far-right Republican Party, but had votes from the ruling party – and the pressure even came from the leader of one of the main unions of the businessmen, the CPC, Ricardo Mewes. Jackson’s departure has therefore somewhat calmed Chilean political waters, which was acknowledged by the president of the right-wing liberal Evópoli party, Gloria Hutt.
Those who seem least willing to talk are the Republicans, because strategically they are not in favor of the agreements and consensus with the Government at this time when the ruling party –especially in the Broad Front– is hard hit by the Agreements case. The president of the Republicans, Arturo Squella, assured over the weekend that “not because a bad minister comes out, bad reforms are going to be transformed into positive ones.” In any case, at least this Thursday they are not summoned to La Moneda along with the rest of the parties on the right.
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