The elected president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, has cleared up one of the big questions of recent weeks: who will make up his ministerial cabinet. This Friday, outside the National Museum of History, in the Quinta Normal Park in the center of Santiago, the 24 future ministers were appointed one by one: “I ask you to assume with the greatest responsibility […] We need them to dialogue, to listen a lot, to listen twice as much as they talk, to prepare their agendas with dedication, to visit neighborhoods and regions, to be in the streets and build solutions together with the people of Chile.”
In addition to being a young cabinet, with an average age of 42 years, it also highlights that it is made up of a majority of 14 women and 10 men, so that the parity of the future Executive, which was one of his promises after winning the elections, is long exceeded. With this composition, Chile will become, as of March 11, the country on the American continent with the most women in its government, most of them also feminist activists.
Siches and Vallejo, two protagonists
Among the most relevant names are those of the communist Camila Vallejo, who will take over as government spokesperson, and Giorgio Jackson, who will be in charge of the General Secretariat of the Presidency (Segpres, in charge of relations with Parliament). Both shared a trajectory with Boric as student leaders on the street during the 2011 student protests and then in the Chamber of Deputies, starting in 2014, where they arrived together. Another of the most prominent names is that of Dr. Izkia Siches, who will be in charge of the Ministry of the Interior and Security, which for the first time will be led by a woman.
Siches, a 35-year-old independent, gained a lot of popularity during her time as president of the Medical Association, in the first part of the pandemic. She is a former member of the Communist Party and was the head of Boric’s campaign for the second round, in which she led a national tour to gather support for her candidacy. “It is a very strong signal that a minister is in the Interior. Despite the inclusion of women in politics, we still have to break this sexual division of labor that stereotypes certain issues as soft and feminine, and others as key strategic and masculine Interior is the epitome of a strategic position, a place of neuralgic power,” says Julieta Suárez-Cao, an academic at the Catholic University and a member of the Network of Political Scientists.
Siches and Vallejo will be the strong names of the political committee, which make up the key cabinet ministries, along with Finance and Segpres, and have a much closer relationship with La Moneda by working directly with the president. It will be the first time since the return to democracy that the Communist Party is part of this body. Also for the first time, the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity, led by journalist Antonia Orellana, 32, will join the political committee. “This is something that has been discussed in the transition team and was also raised by the president-elect with great conviction,” said future spokeswoman Camila Vallejo. “It is required that the Ministry of Women have political empowerment in the corresponding instances.”
For Suárez-Cao, this “is an important step for the next government to be feminist, for the mainstreaming of the gender perspective, of women and of dissidence in all public policies.” Mariela Infante, director of the Human Corporation, one of the feminist organizations with the longest history in the country, describes the measure as “very relevant to remove women from a ‘sectoral’ or specific place.” And he adds: “Discrimination and gender inequality will no longer be a particular issue and will become a transversal axis in the different interventions of the Government”.
Parity in government and gender mainstreaming were among the first announcements about the design of the president-elect’s cabinet. Although former president Michelle Bachelet appointed the country’s first parity government in her first term (2006-2010), it ceased to be an issue for power until feminist organizations fought to promote a parity law for the election of the 155 members of the Constitutional Convention: “The Convention represents the institutionalization of parity through the creation of the first body with these characteristics, which has played a fundamental role in changing the social imaginary and eradicating prejudices that ‘the best people’ or ‘the most prepared'”, says Infante, whose organization was one of the promoters of the initiative.
In addition, Boric has also appointed two ministers who represent sexual diversity in society: the Spanish teacher Marco Antonio Ávila, who will take over as Minister of Education, and the Physical Education teacher Alexandra Benado, who will come to Sports.
Another of the pending doubts was whether the design of the new Executive would be extended to the entire center-left sector or if it would only have the symbolic representation of the Socialist Party, the first to give its support “unconditionally” to Boric for the second round. . The president opted for the former and appointed a broad cabinet that includes eight independent ministers and five from the traditional centre-left coalition (except the Christian-Democrats). The rest belong to the Approve Dignity bloc, made up of the Broad Front and the Communist Party. In his final words he reflected this purpose and recognized the work of his center-left predecessors: “We did not start from scratch, we know that there is a story that elevates and inspires us.”
Among the names that have given rise to talk about this sector is the current president of the Central Bank, Mario Marcel, independent but close to the Socialist Party, who will direct the Treasury. With strong influence in the economic and business sector, he is an old acquaintance of Chilean men and women: he was Director of Budgets in the Government of Ricardo Lagos (2000-2006) and one of the creators of the structural deficit fiscal rule, which establishes the limits for the country’s public debt. Faced with doubts as to whether his appointment could hinder the fulfillment of the Frente Amplio’s program, which precisely requires a lot of public investment, Vallejo has responded: “This is a team with a high commitment to the program.”
The first meeting between the future president and his ministerial team will take place on January 28 and the change of government will take place on March 11, after the southern summer.