Chile’s controversial Minister for Women: withdrawal after 34 days

Chile's controversial Minister for Women: withdrawal after 34 days

Minister of Women’s Affairs Macarena Santelices took office in Chile with protests. The successor is also criticized.
Macarena Santelices is no longer Chile’s Minister of Women. By order of President Sebastián Piñera, she resigned after only one month. “The day we understand that the women’s cause has no political color, it belongs to everyone and we are making progress,” she tweeted on Tuesday when she said goodbye. Out of loyalty to the president, she decided to step aside.

Santelices’ nomination had been criticized by various parties. As a great niece of Augusto Pinochet, she has always defended his military rule (1973-1990). In addition, after her first week in office, she said there were feminist movements “that seek chaos, destruction, and disqualification.” With this, the 42-year-old reacted to the women’s protests that accompanied each of her public appearances and to the over 22,000 tweets that had accumulated within a few hours of being sworn in under the hashtag #NoTenemosMinistra (we have no minister).
Protests rained again last week when her ministry released a video clip from a campaign against violence against women. In it, a violent offender is depicted as a supposed victim, women’s organizations criticized the excerpt. Santelices withdrew the video, but shifted responsibility to the director of the equality agency.
The fact that Santelices hired journalist Jorge Ruz, who is known for the sexist front pages of La Cuarta newspaper, for an important position in the ministry made the barrel overflow. “In just 34 days, she showed what we knew beforehand: that she will turn her back on women who have suffered violence,” commented Javiera Manzi, spokeswoman for the Coordinadora Feminista 8M alliance, Santelices’ departure.
With Mónica Zalaquett, President Piñera has already sworn in the successor. The 58-year-old was previously Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Tourism. Like her predecessor, Zalaquett is a member of the right-wing and pinochet-friendly Independent Democratic Union (UDI). With her, Piñera upheld the Proporz in his three-party coalition government. “We know that the rights are never represented, but especially in the context of the curfew due to the Covid-19 pandemic, women and LGBTIQ people need an institution that responds to and acts against gender-based violence,” commented Camila Aguayo, spokeswoman for the Asamblea Feminista Plurinacional, the swearing in of the new minister. So far, she hasn’t fired Jorge Ruz either.

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