Before the arrival of March, the month in which the academic year in Chile formally begins and when a reactivation of social protests is expected, The lawyer linked to the Independent Democratic Union (UDI) party Marcela Cubillos has resigned from her position as Minister of Education of Sebastian Piñera. Rejected by teachers and student organizations, Cubillos was the minister of the doctrinal right with the greatest visibility that the president maintained in his cabinet, after the profound change of equipment that he had to carry out a few days after the outbreak of October 18. She will be replaced by Raúl Figueroa, also a lawyer, who until this Friday served as her second in the Ministry.
As confirmed by the president of the UDI, Jacqueline Van Rysselberghe, Cubillos will assume a relevant role in the campaign for the rejection of a new Constitution, with a view to plebiscite of next April 26 to be held in Chile. “It will be a great contribution to convince Chileans that the way to improve the country is not a new Constitution or a blank page,” wrote the senator and leader of the right-wing party.
Despite President Piñera’s intention to ensure the government’s disregard for the constitutional change process – which will define whether to replace the 1980 Pinochet Constitution and the mechanism for drafting it – Cubillos herself had publicly revealed her position at the beginning of the month , moving away from the official instruction: “I am not neutral in the face of the challenges that come,” he told the Chilean newspaper Third.
The Education portfolio has historically been conflictive since the return to democracy in 1990, so the level of rotation of its ministers is higher than that of the rest of the cabinet. There have been student explosions in 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2018 in demand for a quality public education, but although various reforms have been made, state investment in the area remains the lowest of the countries of the OECD.
Cubillos –considered a policy of strong right-wing convictions– had a complex task: it carried out the controversial Safe Classroom law, which allows students who carry any type of weapon, commit any type of aggression or cause “damage to the infrastructure” . In 2019, he faced indictments in Parliament seeking his resignation. It was the symbol of the doctrinal right in the Government and it continued to be so – even with greater force – since the October rebellion. With his unexpected departure, it is not clear if President Piñera will decide to make a new cabinet change to face the second half of his Administration (2018-2022), whose anniversary is March 11.
According to the latest Cadem poll – a Chilean public opinion platform – Cubillos was the penultimate worst evaluated minister in the current cabinet, only surpassed by the head of Health, Jaime Mañalich. While he remained in office, which he assumed in August 2018, his figure was the subject of strong resistance. When his departure was known today, the president of the College of Teachers, Mario Aguilar, said: “During all this time it was more of an obstacle than a contribution to advance in educational matters.”
#cubillos resignation, expected when all the actors of education demanded his departure months ago! But do you know who the new minister is? “Lawyer of the univ. Catholic and Master in Business Law from Univ. The Andes.
Judge you, we continue preparing March✊🏻🔥
— ACES – CHILE (@AcesChile) February 28, 2020
The Coordinating Assembly of Secondary Students of Chile (ACES), who starred in the sabotage of the university selectivity exams in the first days of 2020, also celebrated his resignation: all of them Education actors demanded his departure months ago, “they said in a message on their Twitter account, in which they took the opportunity to reiterate their calls for protests for the next few weeks. “Us we are continuing to prepare March, ”wrote ACES.
The road to a new Constitution
As a way of institutionally conducting citizen discontent, last November almost all of the political forces agreed with the Piñera government to open the constitutional discussion after 40 years. Eight weeks before the plebiscite, however, it is not clear to anyone what will happen in March, when the year formally begins in Chile, after the summer months of January and February.
There is practically no day next month in which there are no calls and protests for various reasons: from marches for the environment to mobilizations by the Mapuche people. But, although the massiveness and success of the appeals is unknown, it seems highly probable that Sunday, March 8, when International Women’s Day is commemorated, It is the first major rally of 2020. By the 9th, meanwhile, the women’s movements have followed the global calls for the feminist general strike.
According to official figures, 2,781 serious events of public disorder have occurred in the country since October and 24,343 people have been arrested, with 1,615 preventive prisons. Various international organizations, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), have denounced the human rights violations that have occurred by police and military forces in the framework of the protests. March will be a litmus test for the Executive a few weeks before a plebiscite with uncertain participation.