Chile’s Women minister resigns after 34 days in office

Macarena Santelices

SANTIAGO – Macarena Santelices has stepped down as Chile’s Minister of Women and Gender Equality, after just over a month in office.

“The day it is understood that the cause of women has no political color, it belongs to all and for all, we can move forward,” she said in a tweet on Tuesday morning.

“For my loyalty to President Sebastián Piñera, to the country and to the Chileans, today I decide to step aside. My commitment will always be with public service,” the tweet read.

Santelices had assumed the portfolio after resigning her position as mayor of Olmué, to present herself as a UDI candidate for the regional government of Valparaíso. However, she had chosen to assume ownership of the Secretary of State.

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Her journey to becoming the minister was complex from the beginning. Since taking office on May 6, she has been reminded of past episodes. One of them was related to an interview given a few years ago in which he had stated that “the military regime had good things.”

Santelices is the great-niece of General Augusto Pinochet, who ruled the South American country for nearly two decades. During the 1973-90 military dictatorship, more than 3,000 people were murdered or disappeared by security forces and many thousands more imprisoned and tortured.

On the day of assuming office, at a press conference, she stated that she had “never endorsed or justified the violation of Human Rights”, and that “I regret that situations are distorted because having a political position in no case it means justifying the violation of human rights.”

However, another controversy was related to her statements as minister. In a television interview, in which she pointed out that “women’s rights are a wonderful cause. And the marches we have seen have to do with many historical demands that our country has for women. But feminist movements are absolutely different, especially those seeking chaos, destruction and disqualification.”

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Last June 1, the Ministry of Women released a campaign video on their social networks in aid of women, given the increase in numbers of violence against women due to confinement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the video showing the story of an older adult, writing to his granddaughter worried about the situation of violence in the pololeo that she suffered, made a mea culpa for proceeding with his wife, the young woman’s grandmother, indicating how very sorry he felt. This generated controversy, for which the SernamEG had to withdraw the social media campaign.

After a series of criticisms, that same day and just hours after making the video public, SernamEG released a public statement on the withdrawal of the campaign.

The last controversy that Santelices faced in his position was for the appointment of Jorge Ruz as head of the Studies Division of the ministry, a fact that was harshly questioned in the last hours by parliamentarians and opposition representatives.