Claudio Fuentes, The Guardian
- Conservatives to join Sebastian Piñera, who campaigned as centrist
- New interior minister was vocal supporter of Pinochet’s dictatorship
Chile’s president-elect, the billionaire businessman Sebastian Piñera, has unveiled a new hardline cabinet, including prominent conservative figures and some politicians once closely aligned with the Pinochet dictatorship.
The new interior minister, Andrés Chadwick, was a vocal supporter of Augusto Pinochet during his 1973-1990 regime, which named him president of the Catholic University Students Federation.
Chadwick and the new justice minister, Hernán Larraín, were also supporters and defenders of the secretive German enclave Colonia Dignidad, which was established by the fugitive Nazi officer and paedophile Paul Shäfer in the early 60s. It later emerged that the enclave was used by security officials to torture and murder opponents of the regime.
Both Chadwick and Larraín later made statements distancing themselves from Pinochet’s regime.
Piñera’s victory in December’s runoff ended eight years of government by a centre-left coalition under Michelle Bachelet (two non-consecutive four-year terms), and marked the latest in a string of electoral gains for the right in Latin America.
Although Piñera campaigned on a centrist platform, many analysts predicted that he would tack to the right upon election. On the night of the election, one group of Piñera supporters celebrated by hoisting aloft a bust of Pinochet.
The new ministerial lineup is dominated by men in their 60s. None of the most senior positions will go to women, who will head just seven out of the 23 ministries.
Many of the newly nominated ministers had previously served in Piñera’s previous government, between 2010 and 2014.
“They definitely want to change the course the country is taking,” he told the Guardian.
A key part of Bachelet’s legacy was an effort to roll back Chile’s draconian abortion laws, but the lineup of Pinera’s government suggests that too may soon be threatened.
The new minister for women and gender equality, Isabel Plá, and the incoming health minister, Emilio Santelices, were both vocal opponents of a landmark ruling last year to legalise abortion under certain circumstances.
The political commentator Claudio Fuentes said that most of the appointees were close allies of Piñera. “This isn’t a government of innovation,” he said. “There are few new faces and no signs of a more liberal approach by Piñera. Ideologically this is simply a very traditional and conservative, pro-business government.”
Alfredo Moreno, a businessman and former foreign minister in Piñera’s previous government, will leave his post at one of Chile’s leading business organisations to become minister of social development, an area in which he has no previous experience.
“But he’s very close to Piñera, who’s clearly marking him out as a future presidential candidate,” said Fuentes.