The Chilean Deputy Who Spoke For 15 Hours To Achieve The Impeachment Against Piñera: "It Was Worth It"

The last hours of Chilean politics have been intense, a kind of reality that citizens have followed closely and that it has been broadcast on all channels, stations and social networks. The outcome has been the approval of the impeachment (impeachment to remove him) against the president, Sebastián Piñera, following the revelations published in the Pandora Papers that link him to alleged irregularities for the sale of a mining project in the British Virgin Islands in 2010.

After a 22-hour day, the Chamber of Deputies validated the accusation – the second that Piñera faces in his term – which for the first time will lead a Chilean president to be tried by the Senate. The extension of the debate, in which only the socialist deputy Jaime Naranjo -as accuser- and Piñera’s lawyer -as defense- intervened, was part of the strategy adopted by the center-left and left-wing parties. The opposition needed to buy time to have the key vote, necessary to reach the majority, of Congressman Giorgio Jackson, who was confined, and thus achieve that the vote was materialized in his favor.

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“We had two paths: accept defeat because there were parliamentarians who could not participate in the vote or apply what I call ‘Lazaro Law’, which implied that whoever did the defense spoke ‘until the sick walk’, that is, until The deputy will be quarantined, “Naranjo, a 70-year veteran of politics, tells elDiario.es.

In a 1,300-page speech that he read for nearly 15 hours, he demonstrated his speaking skills until after one in the morning. He prepared himself thinking that “he was doing a fast” – he says – as he had done so many times during the Pinochet dictatorship, and with the support of several parliamentarians who encouraged him throughout the exhibition: “We all understood that it was an action of political solidarity” .

He accused the ruler of “seriously compromising the honor of the nation”, but the final part of his speech was the most outstanding: “I hope this Chamber approves the accusation, otherwise the country will judge those parliamentarians who opposed or voted against Chile will judge and the people of Chile will judge those who are allowing this impunity, “he said.

During his lecture, Naranjo drank water, ate raisins, stopped a couple of times for 15 minutes to go to the bathroom, and even had a medical check-up. The strategy also involved several delaying maneuvers such as complaining about the malfunction of the computer system, reading lengthy court decisions or rereading parts of the text several times.

One of the most controversial moments was when he interrupted his speech to allege the lack of a quorum in the room and ask that the session be suspended: “I would tell the secretary who is being a minister of faith to count the deputies because they don’t give me 57, “he said. Then it was heard through the open microphone how he said to his peers: “Come out, come out so that there will not be 57”.

At 12 o’clock at night, while Naranjo continued his musings, all the attention shifted to Santiago, where Congressman Giorgio Jackson, of the left-wing Frente Amplio coalition, left his home on his way to Congress in Valparaíso, 100 kilometers away. From the capital.

At that time the confinement imposed by the health authority ended after declaring him close contact with Gabriel Boric, deputy and candidate for the presidency of the Frenteamplismo and the Communist Party, infected with COVID-19 the previous week. Jackson live-streamed part of his trip on a connection that at one point was followed by more than 20,000 people.

Jackson was the 78th vote that the opposition needed (having lost Boric’s) to carry out the impeachment and his presence in the room was essential. As soon as he entered the hemicycle, Naranjo ended his speech amid applause and ovations from the opposition parliamentarians. Then both embraced in a gesture that was interpreted as a sign of opposition unity: “It was like saying that the forces of the center-left and the left come together to face the challenges that the country needs,” says Naranjo.

For him, demonstrating the unity of the opposition has been one of the relevant points of his intervention: “Many political actions have failed due to this lack of generosity and agreement.”

Shortly before midnight, the Christian Democratic deputy Jorge Sabag also arrived, another of the indispensable votes. Although in the morning he had reported the difficulties to go to the vote because he was in the south of the country, his area, where he was waiting for the result of a PCR that had been carried out to rule out COVID-19, ended up attending under pressure from his party and without paying attention to the health authorities who reminded him that he had to isolate himself until he knew the result of the test. Now he faces a sanitary summary for allegedly failing to comply with sanitary regulations.

The final vote took place at almost eight in the morning the next day, with Naranjo as the undisputed protagonist of the session. For some it was an epic day and they turned the socialist into a kind of national “hero”. For others, on the other hand, it was an “embarrassing spectacle” of the opposition.

As it transpired In the pressPiñera followed the session attentively and felt “frustrated” by the final result. His version has always insisted that the sale of the Dominga mining company is a fact already known and investigated in 2017. But now the case has been reopened and for the first time a Chilean president is being investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office for his public function.

This Wednesday, for the first time, the president referred to the vote in the Chamber of Deputies: “It obeys a rarefied climate that we are experiencing in Chilean politics” and has a clear and unjustified electoral interest, “he said. “confident” that the Senate, which will act as judge next Tuesday, “will totally reject this accusation.” Meanwhile, the president will be able to continue exercising his functions, but will not be able to leave the country.

The process of processing the accusation against the president cannot be separated from the elections. The first round of the elections is on Sunday, November 21, and the Government is attentive to the impact that this may have on the campaign of the right-wing candidate, Sebastián Sichel, its standard-bearer, who has lost support in favor of the leader of the Chilean extreme right , José Antonio Kast.

The campaign is very polarized between Kast and Boric, to whom the polls give the pass to the second round, and the constitutional rejection process is strongly marking the final stretch. The opposition’s efforts to vote the impeachment Before the elections they have paid off: the final Senate vote will take place next Tuesday, just five days before the elections. An eventual dismissal of the president could sink his political group. It would also be the first time since the return to democracy that a Chilean president ends his term early. The last time it happened was with the military coup against Salvador Allende in 1973.

At the moment, there are not enough votes in the Upper House to remove the president: 29 are needed and the opposition has 24 senators. “It is almost impossible,” says Naranjo. “The important thing is not the result, but the process and the process that we have been going through since we launched the accusation until now has been very educational and enriching.”

He considers that what has been done has been worthwhile for several reasons: “The powerful signal that was given to the country that, no matter how high the position held by a public figure, cannot remain in impunity and also to demonstrate to the new generations who believe that everything is achieved through violence that, through extreme action, through active non-violence, objectives can be achieved “.

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