NATIONAL POLITICS Presidential Elections

Paula Narváez’s Proposals for a ‘New Chile’

Presidential hopeful Paula Narváez has provided some details on her government plans. In conversation with Paulina Astroza, Narváez emphasized the importance of female empowerment. On foreign policy, she has promised to focus on the environment and migration, rather than geopolitics and free trade.

Paula Narváez has only recently entered the presidential race. A protégé of Michelle Bachelet, she plans to run for the Socialist Party if she can head off a primary challenge from the Party for Democracy’s chief Heraldo Muñoz.

Narváez, who holds a psychology and an economics degree from Chilean universities and a master’s from Georgetown University, was chief-of-staff and government spokesperson during Bachelet’s second government. Last year, she left Chile to work under Bachelet at UN Women.

On Monday, Narváez talked to Paulina Astroza, an international law professor at Universidad de Concepción. The conversation, titled “Paula and the New Chile that’s Emerging,” remained friendly throughout. Astroza had endorsed Narváez days before the livestream.

Narváez could even use the conversation to make two high-profile foreign policy announcements.

Life Quality over High Politics

While she didn’t mention trade, Narváez promoted multilateralism and diplomatic engagement since Chile can’t detach itself from the international context. “Globalization is evident,” she said. Chile should forge cooperation globally and especially among Latin American countries. Multilateralism, she said, will be even more important in the post-pandemic world.

Narváez took the opportunity to announce her government would sign the UN migration pact and the Escazú treaty.

The Piñera administration did not accede to either, even though Chile was deeply involved in drafting both.

Contrary to claims with conspiratorial tinge, the UN migration pact doesn’t force signatories to accept refugees. Rather, it aims to stipulate cooperation and generate data to better understand and manage migratory flows.

The Escazú treaty is not just concerned with the environmental protection, but also strengthens the rights of locals to decide on whether polluting and otherwise destructive industries should operate near their homes. Signing the treaty would be the beginning of the end of Chile’s sacrifice zones, where profit-making in the name of development trumps health and life quality.

For the State, Rejecting Escazú is the Right Decision

While these announcements should appeal to a young urban electorate and citizens fed up with being poisoned, Narváez suggested they are more than electoral maneuvers. She said the announcements are part of “confronting current reality.”

In this view, reality is marked not so much by US-China tensions and free trade agreements; it’s about advancing democracy and life quality.

Female Power

Most of the conversation, however, revolved around the cataclysm created by the social uprising. The time for deep social change has come. She wants to facilitate that change by creating a bottom-up citizen dialog to replace top-down governance. The dialog should include all sectors of society and unfold on a level-playing field where ethnic and sexual minorities equally participate.

To confront the endemic violence against women in the country, Narváez plans special female empowerment policies. Women, she said, should not just rise to high-level positions in companies or in politics; they should wield real power at every level and be engaged in decision-making.

Narváez also talked about increasing transparency and state accountability to fight corruption and impose real equality before the law.

While many of her proposals lacked details, they suggest a departure from the primacy of economic policy. And that is quite a radical proposal in Chile.

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