Today, Wednesday, January 25, the former Minister of Justice Marcela Ríos is facing the most complex chapter in her short political career in the Government of President Gabriel Boric. On this day, the deputies will directly learn the merits of the constitutional accusation against them and vote accordingly, since the ex-minister’s defense –represented by José Antonio Viera-Gallo– will not invoke the previous question, a mechanism usually used to liquidate the matter, giving the accusation as not presented. Although, for some observers, the strategy is read as a sign of confidence by La Moneda that it has the votes to reject the libel, for others, however -and beyond the result-, fully enter into discussing the fund implies a much greater risk for the Executive, since the argumentation of the defense rests on taking away administrative responsibility from the former head of Justice, thus leaving the door open for a part of the opposition to seek to reach the heart of the Government: the Leader.
In his response to the accusation presented by Chile Vamos, Viera-Gallo –a socialist lawyer and former minister of one of the Concertación governments– left precisely that door open by stating the following: “Obviously, when Minister Marcela Ríos signed the pardons did not do so against her will, she did so by sharing the responsibility of the President, but it is not an autonomous act of hers.”
Yesterday, in the decision of the review commission of the constitutional accusation – made up of two parliamentarians from the ruling party and three from the opposition – to reject the libel, due to the lack of a quorum due to the absence of one of the official deputies, the vote against the Deputy of the Republican Party Benjamín Moreno was the foretaste of what, later, the community of José Antonio Kast would officially communicate: that the objective is not the ex-minister but President Boric.
In a public statement, the Republican parliamentarians indicated that “after carrying out an in-depth study of the accusation’s background, we have defined that we will not be complicit in the decision that the President has made to expose former minister Ríos as a scapegoat, with in order to close the chapter on pardons and thus delegate their guilt to the now former head of the Justice portfolio.
“A possible constitutional accusation against the President of the Republic is an option that is being evaluated by our bench,” the Republicans pointed out, pointing in the same direction that Renovación Nacional did a few weeks ago, when their deputies Miguel Mellado and Frank Sauerbaum confirmed that they contacted two experts to assess whether it was possible to file an accusation against the President.
Congressional sources admit that, from this point of view, the constitutional accusation against the ex-minister of Justice would be nothing more than a vehicle to try to reach the Head of State, something in which the arguments deployed today could be very helpful. defense made by Viera-Gallo.
A constitutional accusation against the President
Cristóbal Bellolio –PhD in Political Philosophy and academic at the School of Government of the U. Adolfo Ibáñez– assures that, from the narrative that Viera-Gallo develops before Congress, phrases or data could emerge from which some could rely “to say that President Boric should be accused” and that, from that perspective, the accusation against Ríos could perfectly be used to “go further.”
“Obviously, the ex-minister is interested in getting out, but I don’t think that her defense will necessarily place all the responsibility on the President, in such a way that the path for an accusation is paved. But, obviously, part of the right is going to act surprised and could try to occupy some things that are said to say that we must continue higher still ”, he adds.
For his part, the director of the School of Government and Communications of the Central University, Marco Moreno, maintains that “Viera-Gallo’s line of argument to save the former minister leaves the Presidency and La Moneda in an uncomfortable position.” According to the academic, the defense argument that granting private pardons is “a discretionary power of the President of the Republic”, leaves the President “with the responsibility”.
Moreno, however, doubts that the opposition is in a position to materialize an accusation against the Head of State. He has that impression – he explains – because, since the idea slipped and it was reported that there was a legal team reviewing the possibilities (on January 9 from RN), they have not insisted on the issue again.
According to Axel Callís, sociologist and director of Tú Influyes, “defenses in constitutional prosecution processes, especially if they are unrelated to the Government, as is the case of Marcela Ríos, can provide more details and joint responsibilities.”
The sociologist adds that the pardon episode has affected the Head of State and his political committee in terms of approval. “When you have almost three weeks of a conflict, it is because it is still open, and that is exhausting for a government, since it has no control over the agenda,” he points out.
Keep current crisis
With an election for constitutional councilors just around the corner, on May 7 of this year, Cristóbal Bellolio proposes that a second reading is that the right could be trying to maintain the government crisis, which arose from the announcement of pardons. “When governments do worse, it is the opposition that reaps electorally. Let’s not forget how badly the right wing did for the conventional elections”, he explains, recalling the effect that Piñera’s low popularity had then in 2021, and in this sense he points out that now the final objective would be “to give him a defeat policy to the Government” for electoral purposes.
Coinciding with this analysis, Marco Moreno adds that, with the objective being “to erode the image of the Government”, what would be sought would be to install the idea that the government decision-making process is improvised, in order to put the focus back on the episode of pardons.
He describes that, surely, in the opposition they are aware that the constitutional accusation that the Republican Party promoted – last week – against the minister Giorgio Jackson “diverted a little attention” from the issue of pardons and, therefore, from the essential focus for the opposition: “The political responsibility that La Moneda would have had in this decision. Above all, after the President himself installed the idea of untidiness in the Ministry of Justice. Something that was later endorsed by the government spokesperson in that wedge in which she said that the President did not have all the elements, ”says Moreno.