Evelyn Matthei, the best evaluated political figure in Chile and the main presidential card of the traditional right with a view to 2025, is not a phenomenon. The economist has spent months holding the highest positive rating among the authorities and for a generation she has spent a lifetime in the political arena. From the “prehistory” of the current Chile Vamos coalition, as she cataloged the time when she, together with Sebastián Piñera, starred in one of the first political scandals at the beginning of the democratic transition. In 1992, both belonged to the “youth patrol” of Renovación Nacional, a center-right formation that tried to shake off the Pinochet dictatorship. Both she, a representative, and he, a senator, aspired to reach La Moneda. During the campaign to become the bet of her sector, a telephone recording was leaked in which Piñera plotted to have her then party partner, a woman who was making her way in a predominantly male world, publicly weakened in a television program.
“The funny thing is that he elegantly tries to leave her as a small, clueless goat, who is blindly struggling, without any solidity,” Piñera was heard saying. The scandal destroyed the businessman’s presidential pre-campaign. The person ultimately responsible for the telephone spying was an Army captain. And Matthei was the one who received the tape and gave it to a television channel, despite the fact that for two months she said she was unaware of the existence of the recording before its publication. The deputy apologized to Piñera, her former teacher, former employer at the Bancard investment company and her friend. He renounced Renovación Nacional and his presidential aspirations. As in politics, sometimes, there is no room for grudges, Matthei was Minister of Labor in the first Government of Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014).
Evelyn Rose Matthei Fornet (69 years old, Santiago) is a politician of race, demanding and frontal. She is also spontaneous. Before coming to power, she said, she was somewhat shy and kind. But her macho environment changed her. “If these guys aren’t afraid of me, they’re going to run over me again and again. “I learned to be annoying,” she said in the program Pero con Respect, “and now it comes naturally to me,” she added with a laugh. Her character has sometimes earned her the pseudonym “Iron Lady.” But in the same way that she can be seen fiercely defending her positions, it is not unusual to see her playing a joke.
When Shakira released her song with Bizarrap, for example, the current mayor of the municipality of Providencia, a traditional neighborhood in the eastern sector of Santiago, published a photo where she was wearing a blouse practically identical to that of the Colombian. “When I saw that Shakira copied my blouse I piqued (angry Chileanism),” she wrote. Matthei’s, yes, she made it. Because she has that too. She’s handy with her hands, she studied piano—she at one point thought of dedicating her life to it—and she can spend hours doing yard work.
She is the daughter of the late General Fernando Matthei, who was a great friend of Air Force General Alberto Bachelet, father of Michelle Bachelet. When both were members of the institution, at the end of the fifties, they were assigned to the Cerro Moreno Air Base, in the north. The two daughters of generals lived opposite each other. During the dictatorship, Fernando Matthei served as Pinochet’s Minister of Health and then as a representative of Aviation in the Military Junta. He was the first member of the regime to publicly acknowledge Pinochet’s defeat in the 1988 plebiscite. Evelyn Matthei then voted to keep the dictator in power. And when Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998, she protested outside the embassies of England and Spain.
Evelyn Matthei during the traditional Cueca dance in an image from her social networks.Press Evelyn Matthei
After leaving Renovación Nacional in the early 1990s, the Independent Democratic Union (UDI), the party that at that time represented the hardest right, invited her to its ranks. Her speech and some of her votes in Congress revealed that she had a more liberal vision of values - in favor of divorce, of the morning-after contraceptive pill, of abortion on three grounds. She warned them, as she has said, that she would continue on that path and that she would not accept pressure. Already being a senator, in 1999, she began her activism in the UDI, a party that she has bothered on more than one occasion and that, as she has revealed, she does not plan to leave.
The freedom and cunning with which she has played different political roles – deputy, senator, minister, mayor – has caused hives in her sector, but also adhesion. Now, supported by citizen support, she is preparing to be the candidate of the Chile Vamos coalition, the traditional right. It would be the second time that she appears on the ballot, after a failed attempt in 2013 against socialist Michelle Bachelet, her neighbor when she was little. On that occasion she was appointed four months before the elections, after two UDI candidates dropped out of the race. In 2021 she again showed her interest in reaching La Moneda, but in a hard blow the party preferred to support Joaquín Lavín, another historic member of the formation, who was later defeated in the coalition primaries.
The political scenario is different from the previous ones. The Republican Party, from the hardest right, which in its declaration of guiding principles says it believes in God, in social justice and in the social market economy, is the first political force since last May it obtained 35% of the votes. votes in the elections for councilors of the second constituent process. Also, according to the survey by the Center for Public Studies, CEP, it is the formation with which Chileans represent themselves the most (10%, while 60% do not identify with any party). The leader and founder of the community in 2019, José Antonio Kast, who lost in the last presidential elections against Gabriel Boric, presents himself as a solid card, with a strong speech around crime and immigration.
Kast’s popularity, however, has been declining (43%) as the project to replace the Constitution inherited from the dictatorship and reformed some 60 times in democracy advances and has even been losing ground in voting intention polls in Matthei’s favor. Although Kast was never about to change the Fundamental Charter, he has been forced to get fully involved in the process – aware that the almost absolute predominance of his party in the constituent body means a test of governability before the citizens -, in which has approved a battery of measures described as “extreme” by the left and an important group in the center.
In the five months of operation of the constitutional process, Matthei had only intervened on one occasion, to warn that he would not accept “any step back” on abortion on three grounds. An approved article that refers to the right to life of “the unborn” may open the door to putting current legislation at risk. This has been harshly questioned by the ruling parties, where a “regression in women’s rights” is accused and even the government has broken its promise not to get involved this time in the constituent process, adding to the criticism. Last week, however, the mayor hit the board. “If the process continues like this, I am not going to put my political capital to approve the Constitution” and “what has already been drafted is more like a Government program than a Constitution,” were some of the statements he gave to El Mercurio and that They set off alarms on the right, dominant in the Constitutional Council. Several analysts considered that, officially, the presidential race had begun.
Matthei has a team working on his eventual Government program, which has four axes: security, housing, health and climate change. In a CNN program he winked at the new center formations, in particular to Amarillos – a movement that was born from the flight of militants from the Christian Democracy and the Party for Democracy, once two pillars of the former Concertación -, leaving expressed his intention to embody a moderate project, without neglecting the bases of the right. In the situation of what to do in the face of the expansion of the toughest wing, Matthei goes out to score. Regarding irregular immigrants who commit crimes, he has said that “he would expel them and their families as well” and in relation to the threats from organized crime to authorities, that it may be “necessary to talk about the death penalty for these cases.”
Regarding whether she would include Republicans if she became president, the mayor said that she would “love” to say “nooo.” “But politics is practical, I do not exclude anything,” explaining that it will depend on how Congress is configured in the next parliamentary elections, which will be held in November 2025, the same day as the presidential elections.
Although there are those in the UDI who take it for granted that Matthei will be their representative on the ballot, she has not yet made her candidacy official, although she has given clear signals: “I am preparing for the responsibility that may fall upon me,” she told the newspaper La Tercera. at the beginning of August. It would be the fourth time that she entertained the idea of reaching La Moneda: 1992 -when she abdicated from competing for the recording case-; 2013, when she accepted the request at the last minute; 2021, when her party left her out of the primaries; and those that will be carried out in just under 14 months.
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