Teatinos 180 has yet another chief. Andrés Allamand, of President Sebastián Piñera’s Renovación Nacional (RN) party, took over as foreign minister from Teodoro Ribera. The change resulted from internal party dynamics and Allamand’s ambitions, which threaten to bleed into the ministry.
Chile’s recently sworn-in foreign minister, Andrés Allamand, is a lawyer and free market ideologue. In the late 1990s he led the think tank lobby group Instituto Libertad. So he’ll easily fit in a ministry whose main focus has become economic policy.
One of his first statements as foreign minister made that clear. He said, “we’re starting a new phase that will bring positive achievements for the country. In that sense, from the international perspective it falls on me to try and find all these opportunities, all these spaces that could contribute to a speedier economic recovery.”
Allamand was a consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington and visiting professor at Georgetown University, a US foreign policy elite institution. And between 2002 and 2007, he led the School of Government at Universidad Adolfo Ibañez, a Chilean elite institution.
Such a path is typical for Chile’s homogeneous elite: Strong links to the private sector and/or financial institutions, education at elite schools, and a commitment to ‘free market’ capitalism.
But Cuba occupies a special place for him. Chile’s right blames Cuba for everything bad. It’s either commandos Havana sent to Chile to sabotage the state, naive citizens taking up Cuban ‘ideology,’ or some other nonsense. Allamand, however, told broadcaster 24horas in 2016 that Fidel Castro called him up in the early 1990s to offer help in the treatment of Allamand’s boy, who suffered an accident and permanent neurological damage.
During 10 years, Allamand and his then-wife, also a hard-right ideologue, flew regularly to Cuba to get his son the treatment Chile’s system couldn’t provide. Allamand recalled fondly that Fidel personally got involved and talked to the family regularly. Unfortunately, their son passed away in 2003, and as a sign of appreciation the Allamands buried his ashes in Cuba.
If protests return after the pandemic, Allamand will face tough choices as the personal will become political. Largely unnoticed by its European partners, the Chilean state is sliding toward authoritarianism and it won’t consider Allamand’s history when it comes to apportion blame.
Unlike his predecessors, Roberto Ampuero and Teodoro Ribera, Allamand has also a sprawling political career. He was representative for Santiago’s upscale neighborhoods in the early 1990s, and between 2006 and 2011 for Valdivia, Puerto Montt and Quellón. That means he support presidential whims like the disastrous trip to Cúcuta. While not opposed to authoritarianism and technocracy, Allamand can always turn quarrels with the president into political capital.
Defense Ministry Stint
His time as defense minister from January 2011 till November 2012 figures as the most relevant qualification for his current role. During that time, Allamand participated in international defense forums and reached out to his Chinese counterpart.
This was Piñera’s first term, when he was the first right-winger to helm a Chilean government after the return to democracy. Back then, Piñera was more centrist and eager to prove that he was a ‘good’ right-winger, notwithstanding his party’s nostalgia for the dictatorship.
Hence, the emphasis on multilateralism, which now is being reduced in all areas except trade, amid talk of sovereignty and increasing worldwide acceptance of exclusionary visions of nationhood – and which Allamand has always supported.
The Road to Teatinos 180
Allamand’s arrival at Teatinos 180 doesn’t bode well. For him, foreign relations are a means to an end.
Ruthlessly sharpening his profile, he became Piñera’s fiercest critic, suggesting he was soft on protesters. But this stance met criticism from former RN chief and now Defense Minister Mario Desbordes, who wants to broaden the party’s appeal, like Angela Merkel did with her Christian Democrats.
The spats Allamand started and fueled threatened to tear the president’s party apart and undermined the government. As political analyst and Chile Today columnist Germán Silva observed, by moving him into the government, Piñera could stabilize his authority, at least for now.
But ambitions don’t just disappear. Hence, the president and the foreign minister will face off once Allamand settles in and manages the upheavals that come with rapid and technically unnecessary changes at the ministry’s top. And in contrast to his predecessors, Allamand has the will and the means to create an antipode to government palace La Moneda.
Allamand: The Right Guy?
So far, Allamand has kept his head down though. The move to support the postponement of the elections on the Inter-American Development Bank’s leadership has been decided before his arrival. It’s also not necessarily an anti-US move, since the incompetence and corruption of any of Trump’s candidates anywhere are legendary.
Allamand also refrained from commenting on the apparent US-China tensions that affect Chile’s 5G connectivity and arms acquisition.
To deal with these challenges, however, somebody with a vision of Chile’s place in the world is needed. Not somebody who wants to be president or a hardline hero.
More about the previous Foreign Affairs Minister:
Christian is Managing Editor at Chile Today, where he curates the foreign policy blog Teatinos One/Eighty. Christian is also Lead Editor of E-International Relations, co-editor of an open access textbook on International Relations Theory and Director at the Chilean Association of International Specialists (ACHEI).