Santiago, Sep 6 (EFE).- Chilean President Gabriel Boric on Tuesday dismissed two of his closest cabinet ministers – Izkia Siches and Giorgio Jackson – both of whom have been strongly criticized by the political opposition, thus making a swerve from the left to the center-left with the first adjustment to his administration in the first six months of his time in office.
The restructuring came after the voting public overwhelmingly rejected the new constitutional draft in Sunday’s plebiscite and was marked by controversy after Boric had to withdraw – within just one hour – the name of a former communist party student leader as his pick for deputy interior secretary amid criticism from the right.
The president said he was seeking to be “more effective … in governing” and to respond to the challenges and strife within society, including a growing sense among the public of a lack of security and the country’s acute economic crisis.
The departure of Siches from the top spot in the Interior Ministry had been repeatedly demanded by the opposition almost from the moment she was appointed, and this clamor grew over the past six months as a result of mistakes she committed, the apparent rise in crime and increased violence in the “southern macro-zone,” the scene of a longstanding conflict among tenant farmers, the state, Mapuche indigenous communities and agricultural and lumbering multinationals.
A physician by profession and a close friend of the president, Siches was also blamed for the management of the immigration crisis that the country was handed by the previous administration.
In her place, Boric appointed another woman, Carolina Toha, a member of the moderate Party for Democracy (PPD), a politico who has also sparked controversy among the opposition for her political and family past.
Toha is the daughter of Jose Toha, the first interior minister under the late socialist President Salvador Allende, who was toppled and died in the 1973 coup that ushered in the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
The first woman to be elected mayor of Santiago by popular vote, serving from 2012-2016, became instantly mired in controversy when news of her appointment hit the social networks and it was noted that she has been facing legal proceedings by the Comptroller’s Office since 2019 for alleged inappropriate and baseless expenditures dating from her tenure as the capital mayor.
Another of the controversial figures in Boric’s cabinet was Giorgio Jackson, tasked with managing relations between the executive and legislative branches and who had been criticized both by the opposition as well as by some of the members of the governing coalition.
Having, just like Boric, been involved in the 2011 student protests and a close friend of the president, Jackson has been shifted to head the Family and Social Development Ministry, and he will also leave the influential Political Committee of the Democratic Revolution party, the political grouping with great weight in the Apruebo Dignidad coalition.
To replace Jackson, Boric selected Ana Lya Uriarte, 60, a militant with the Socialist Party, who had been serving as the chief of staff for Siches in the Interior Ministry, a post she moved into after the controversial and failed trip the former minister made to the “southern macrozone.”
Uriarte, an attorney with the University of Chile and a long career in public service, had previously served in her new post during the second administration (2014-2018) of former socialist President Michelle Bachelet.
The cabinet shuffle also changes the balance within the Political Committee, the entity headed by the president and in which his administration’s strategies and most important decisions are developed and finalized, and it means a swing toward the center by increasing the number of members close to the Concertacion of parties that managed the transition.
Uriarte, Toha and Finance Minister Mario Marcel, who will retain his post, are all so-called democratic socialists, while the inclusion of Labor Minister Janette Jara, with the Communist Party, and the continuity of her colleague and spokesperson Camila Vallejo and Women’s Minister Antonia Orellana maintains the influence of Apruebo Dignidad within the committee.
Aside from the controversy arising from the fleeting nomination of the deputy interior minister, the opposition criticized the remodeling by saying that it wasn’t “thorough enough.”
The conservative National Renewal party even said that it will not attend the meeting called by the president with all the parties to analyze how to proceed with the project to draft a new constitution.
Boric “has not understood the tremendous defeat of his ideas because he dug himself in in his speech,” extreme rightist Sen. Rojo Edwards said.
Meanwhile, his colleague in the “Chile Vamos” rightist coalition of parties, Juan Antonio Coloma, was more cautious and warned that “We have to see whether what changes is the recipe or the cook. And I hope that it’s the former because the government had dedicated itself to winning the plebiscite and not to resolving the problems of people regarding security, crime and inflation.”