On Tuesday, September 11, 1973, Beatriz Allende, known as Tati, arrived shortly before 9:00 in the morning at La Moneda Palace. The personal guard of her father, then President Salvador Allende, had called before her to alert her and her husband, Cuban diplomat Luis Fernández Oña, of a coup in the making. Her father had also asked her to stay at home, but, according to Fernández in the book Beatriz Allende: A revolutionary Life in Cold War Latin America of the British historian Tanya Harmer – “it was impossible to hold her”.
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Beatriz resisted with her father in La Moneda until Allende himself, just before the bombing, ordered her to leave along with the other six women who were still in the place, including her sister Isabel. Tati Allende was then 30 years old, she was seven months pregnant and had a two-year-old daughter, Maya, whom she left at the house of a friend of hers.
That girl, granddaughter of Salvador Allende, whom her mother protected from the coup that September 11, will take office on March 11 as Minister of Defense of the future Government of Gabriel Boric. Her appointment has been interpreted as a symbolic event, meaning that the heir to the legacy of former President Allende, overthrown in 1973 by Augusto Pinochet, will lead the Chilean Armed Forces.
Maya Fernández Allende (Santiago, 1971) is the daughter of Beatriz Allende, the second of the three that the former president had, very close to him and considered the most political, and Luis Fernández, who, in addition to being a diplomat, was a member of the intelligence service. Cuban. Although Maya has no memories of the coup d’état or of her grandfather, her figure has marked her trajectory. “I admire him. For me it is a pride to be her granddaughter and also a responsibility. But I am a different person. I am Maya,” she said in one of the first interviews he gave when he entered politics The country.
exile in Cuba
After the coup, the Fernández Allende family went into exile in Cuba. Maya and her brother Alejandro de ella spent their entire childhood and adolescence on the island, with which her mother had maintained close ties before. “She was a close collaborator and a fervent supporter of her revolutionary project and she believed that the Cuban authorities could help the Chilean left to regroup and resist the military dictatorship,” Harmer explained.
At the age of 34 and after a depression, Beatriz Allende committed suicide in Havana. Maya was six years old and her brother, three. “She was very energetic, politically demanding, with a lot of dedication and loyalty. The Tati issue has always hurt me. I would have liked her to have been there. But my pain has made me believe in life,” Maya said of her mother in the same interview.
The two brothers grew up in Havana. She studied at the Solidarity with Chile Primary School, a public center created in 1974 for the children of families exiled from the Pinochet dictatorship. “I was just another girl from the neighborhood. It was never a burden to be recognized as Allende’s granddaughter.”
To the left of the Socialist Party
In 1992, already in democracy, Maya and Alejandro returned to Chile. She began studying Biology and Veterinary Medicine and registered as a member of the Socialist Party (PS), her political party to this day. “Maya Fernández represents an important part of the PS embodied in the figure of former president Salvador Allende, who is one of these symbols that make up important traditions within the parties. Today she still occupies a fundamental place and there is a nostalgia for her figure,” says Marco Moreno, dean of the Faculty of Political Science of the Central University.
The socialist came to the institutions in 2008 as a City Councilor for the Ñuñoa district, where she lives to this day, one of the most central and well-off in Santiago. She tried to become mayor in 2012, but was not elected and two years later she made the leap to the Chamber of Deputies, in which she was re-elected in 2017. During this last term, in 2018, she assumed the presidency of the institution.
Within the party, he has led the opposition to the current leadership. He has defended the rapprochement with the Broad Front coalition – to which Boric belongs – and the position of turning to the left that, until now, has practically not occurred. “The PS has to go back to being a party capable of being there leading the changes, the transformations”, he said during the pre-election.
“His orientation has been to place the PS on the axis furthest to the left as a way of responding to the demands of the social outbreak and, like Boric, he has shown a territorial imprint and closeness to social and neighborhood organizations,” says María Pía Martin, academic from the University of Chile and doctor in Public Policies and Social Transformation.
In the midst of the primary campaign, even before the first presidential round, and while the Socialists were betting on the Christian Democrat candidate Yasna Provoste, Maya Fernández was the first important figure in her party to publicly support Gabriel Boric. “After a period of reflection, I have decided to support Boric (…). I personally have the best opinion of the candidate Yasna Provoste, but the center project that she heads does not bring me together regarding the ideas and vision of the country.”
Her decision sparked controversy within the party, but she stood her ground and even appeared in her electoral propaganda space for the first round. “This generated greater sympathy for her on the part of the Broad Front and Boric himself, while the party’s leadership has acted in a more institutional manner and has chosen, despite the difficulties, to continue maintaining a privileged relationship with the center-left parties. “Moreno says. For the second round, her role was also active and she participated in the “A million doors for Boric” campaign, in which she toured the south of the country looking for votes to win the extreme right of José Antonio Kast in the elections.
break with the past
As of March, Maya Fernández will lead the Air Force, the Navy and the Army. She will be the third woman to hold this position, the second socialist, after former president Michelle Bachelet, who did so in 2002. “She has been part of the Defense Commission of the Chamber of Deputies and has a track record in this field,” she says. Martin. This Thursday, together with Boric, she held the first formal meeting with the commanders in chief of the Armed Forces, but did not comment on the priorities of her agenda.
For Marco Moreno, Fernández “can contribute to improving transparency and establishing mechanisms for greater accountability.” In his opinion, in the most technical aspects, “he will have to seek advice because they are not part of his powers”, but he can “open the black box” of the Ministry of Defense, especially in the way in which resources are managed in this briefcase.
If he remains in office until September 2023, he will have to lead the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the coup d’état from the Ministry of Defense. “The arrival at this ministry has a tremendous symbolic load because the same Pinochet troops, some still present, were the ones who removed Salvador Allende from the government and along with it came the dictatorship,” says Martin. “It represents a break with the legacy of the military dictatorship and a tremendous opportunity to change the relationship between citizens and the Armed Forces.”