Spain has been the first European destination chosen by Chile’s Foreign Minister, Antonia Urrejola, since she took office last March in the government of leftist Gabriel Boric. And it is no coincidence, as she says in this interview with elDiario.es: “With Spain we have a cultural, commercial and historical closeness, of democratic values and human rights.” Urrejola, who has met in Madrid with her counterpart José Manuel Albares and has signed a cooperation agreement on feminist foreign policy, is proud of what her country’s new Executive has achieved in recent months: returning to international agenda, after a turbulent period marked by the social unrest of 2019 and the pandemic.
The management of street violence in Chile puts the Boric Government in trouble
These unprecedented massive demonstrations in the country paved the way for the constitutional path and in a few months Chile will have to decide in a plebiscite whether or not to approve the text of its new Constitution to definitively bury the one that was drafted during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
How have these months been for you as a minister since Gabriel Boric took office in March?
It has been a very demanding and challenging agenda, even more so with a government of transformations like the one represented by President Boric, especially after a period marked by a social unrest, the pandemic and a government (that of Sebastián Piñera) that abandoned the multilateral forums. One of the main challenges of these months has been to put Chile on the international agenda and the first thing we did was adhere to the Escazú Agreement, a regional environmental treaty, and its processing in Congress. Another example of Chile returning to multilateralism is that we are participating in the Global Pact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration – known as the Marrakesh Pact – and which Chile did not sign either at the time. Precisely migratory flows, especially with the arrival in the country of thousands of Venezuelans and Haitians seeking a better future, have generated a humanitarian crisis in Chile in recent years.
What is the objective of the new immigration law?
There is a new migration service and new powers also for the chancery itself. It is very recent and the regulations are being worked on, because there are some things that we want to improve. But beyond the law, the fundamental axis is the change in the view that we have as a government on the migration issue. We understand that the human rights approach must be present and transversal, without forgetting that there is a challenge for the local and host communities. We are working on that human rights approach that guarantees safe and orderly migration, but also respectful, taking into account that the majority of migrants do not leave their countries because they want to, but for economic reasons, for issues related to human rights violations, political persecution or the simple right to life for those who are being threatened.
He has used an expression that here in Spain has generated controversy when a politician has mentioned it: “safe and orderly migration”. What do you mean?
Irregular migration, migration without documentation, flows that enter through unauthorized steps, generate a disorder in terms of not knowing how much migrant population there is, and thus basic services such as education and health cannot be provided to them. Orderly migration requires, on the one hand, certain documentation, but it is not only to regularize it, but to be able to grant basic services, since when it is irregular, these people are excluded from social services and benefits. Orderly migration makes it possible, on the one hand, to put up barriers for those who sneak in and those who are involved in organized crime, but it also makes it possible to respond to social benefits and deal with the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women that we have seen, unfortunately, in the region.
The Constitutional Convention has recently concluded the drafting of a new Constitution. What does it mean for Chile, a country whose Magna Carta was drawn up during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet?
This July 4, President Boric receives that final text and in September we have a plebiscite (with a mandatory vote), where the population will be able to say whether they approve or reject the new text. Beyond the text, I believe that Chile has been an example, since this constituent process was proposed as a way out of a serious political, institutional and human rights crisis. The social outbreak of 2019 revealed that despite all the progress in terms of democracy, growth, and institutionality in the country, there was a set of problems that we had not seen, especially in terms of economic, social, and cultural rights. . Overnight there was an explosion that got out of control: Chilean society in all its diversity took to the streets to demand a very diverse agenda, forgive the redundancy. Those peaceful demonstrations later ended in acts of violence and looting, and I think that there the Chilean political class taught a fundamental lesson: that in the face of serious crises, it is not necessary to apply greater repression or authoritarianism, or to hide problems under the rug as has been Chile has done so many times, but to seek an institutional solution and that solution was this Constituent Convention that managed to channel these different demands. The Convention itself is a reflection of what the social explosion was, since it is the first parity in the world, with seats reserved for indigenous representatives, when the current Constitution does not even recognize the existence of indigenous peoples. Then LGBT and environmental activism appeared… it’s a reflection of the demands we saw on the street.
The Chilean political class taught a fundamental lesson: that in the face of serious crises there is no need to apply greater repression or authoritarianism, or to sweep problems under the rug as Chile has done so many times.
What points would you highlight from this new Constitution?
We have to see the final text, but it makes an effort to include in the new Constitution the fundamental economic, social and cultural rights, and a new State, a democratic and social State against a neoliberal State, which is clearly a model that does not response to what Chile requires today. I would also highlight parity democracy, the involvement of women in all spheres.
A total of 14 women and 10 men make up the current cabinet and have defined themselves as a feminist government. What does that entail and how will you apply a gender perspective to your own portfolio?
One of our axes is feminist foreign policy. In fact, on this visit we have signed a cooperation agreement with the Government of Spain on feminist foreign policy. Spain is much more advanced than us and we want to look at the path it has traveled on this issue. From the perspective of the Foreign Ministry, feminist foreign policy has two axes. One, the Foreign Ministry itself, which has to catch up in terms of diplomatic representation of women, because we have 21% of female ambassadors and the rest are all men. There is a whole issue with the diplomatic career and it will take time, but we have to work on it and see how we are involving women in decision-making spaces within the Foreign Ministry. The other axis of feminist foreign policy also has to do with how we carry out foreign policy in general and the transversality of the gender and sexual diversity approach in bilateral relations, in free trade agreements, in the different memorandums of understanding and in multilateral forums. Another central axis of the new government in terms of foreign policy has been to face the serious climate and water crisis, and for this we have the so-called “turquoise” policy, which is to mix biodiversity -green- with the blue of the oceans and there our priority in multilateral forums is how we work together to combat these crises.
We have signed a cooperation agreement with the Government of Spain on feminist foreign policy. Spain is much more advanced than us and we want to look at the path it has traveled on this issue
Boric has brought the left to power, something unthinkable in Chile a few years ago. How is this new Chilean left? How would you define it?
President Boric represents a fresh vision, not only because of his youth, but also because of his leadership style, which is very empathetic and permanently open to dialogue. He represents a democratic left with a hallmark on human rights.
Chile is not the only example. In Latin America there is a new wave of leftist governments, as has recently happened with Gustavo Petro in Colombia, although Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and Honduras are also led by progressive governments. How is this new left different from the old one led by Hugo Chávez, Néstor Kirchner or Lula da Silva during the first decade of the century?
I don’t like to compare those leaderships because they are understood in the political contexts that occurred. In the 2000s, the region was not the same as it is today, and I believe that leaders must respond to the challenges they face at the time. President Boric himself has said that he has looked closely at these leaderships and has learned from their successes and mistakes, and that is where, for example, he rescues the issue of human rights. He always speaks of a hallmark of human rights without bias. And another of the things that the president has highlighted is that Latin America must have a single voice and must do so through a dialogue with the different rulers, regardless of ideologies. Latin American governments must dialogue and seek solutions, beyond ideological differences, because we face a set of urgent challenges and we must seek a common agenda in the region.
Why is it so difficult for a certain Latin American left to admit that in countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua or Cuba human rights are not respected and the freedoms of the population are restricted?
When there is an over-ideologization, one ends up being a prisoner of his own ideology and feels that if he says that human rights are violated in a government with certain ideological affinities, it is that he is betraying his ideology. I think it is a mistake and it is what has weakened the left in this case, but it is not the exclusive patrimony of the left, the right-wing governments have not accepted their own human rights violations either. It is the over-ideologization and that is where President Boric differs today, beyond the fact that he has a very clear ideological commitment to transformations in Chile, which are transformations towards a social state that the country does not have.
When there is an over-ideologization, one ends up being a prisoner of his own ideology and feels that if he says that human rights are violated in a government with certain ideological affinities, it is that he is betraying his ideology, I think it is a mistake