SANTIAGO – After a short meeting with his cabinet today, President Piñera replaced four ministers amidst growing discontent in Chile over the achievements of the government. Remarkable is that three ministers are replaced by people who ran as minister during Piñera’s first term as president. Among others, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Economy have been forced to resign.
On the same day the Center for Public Studies (CEP) released the results of their National Survey of Public Opinion, showing how the approval of the president dropped 11% to 25%, President Piñera intervened and replaced four ministers.
Ampuero And Valente Out
An important minister who left was Minister of Economy José Ramón Valente. Chile is economically growing slower than expected and Valente is being held responsible. At the biggest copper mine in Chile, Chuquicamata in the north, a strike is ongoing, causing copper production to fall.
A surprising resignation is the one of Roberto Ampuero, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Ampuero received criticism over his role in the implementation of TPP-11 and his failure to explain Chileans why the trans-Pacific treaty would serve the country.
Another topic was the death of a Chilean tourist in Cancún, Mexico. She died of the complications of an amputated foot due to a tropical infection and could have been saved if the Chilean government had intervened and brought her home, according to the woman’s sons.
But the biggest failure of Ampuero was the sudden withdrawal from the UN migration pact last year. This caused damage to Chile’s foreign politics and the government’s approval rates.
The Minister of Health Emilio Santelices was also replaced. Santelices attributed the rise in HIV numbers in Chile to the influx of migrants and the ex-minister was held responsible for the controversy around the abortion law and the problems with the pension reform.
The Minister of Energy, Susana Jiménez, was replaced too.
Internal Shuffles And Familiar Faces
Two current ministers in the Piñera administration changed ministry. Juan Andrés Fontaine, who was Minister of Public Works, replaced Valente as Economy Minister.
Fontaine belongs to the “Chicago Boys” and was replaced by Minister of Social Development Alfredo Moreno.
Three of the new ministers already served in government during Piñera’s first term (2010 – 2014). The new Minister of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Ribera was Minister of Justice and the new Minister of Energy Juan Carlos Jobet was Minister of Labor. Both served stayed one year.
The new Minister of Health is Jaime Mañalich. He is the personal doctor of the president and was already Minister of Health in the first Piñera administration. He is also the only Minister of Health in Chilean history to complete the full four years.
The new Minister of Social Development is Sebastián Sichel, former head of development agency Corfo.
Expected was the resignation of Marcela Cubillos as Minister of Education, considering the crisis in the educational sector. Teachers of primary and secondary schools in Chile have been on strike for two weeks now, demanding better labor conditions, while the Aula Segura law and the critical situation at the Santiago National Institute – supposedly an elite institution – have been making negative headlines for months.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and made appearances on BBC World Services and ABC News during major events in Chile.