Three Episodes Tell the Story: Minister of Women Santelices Resigns After One Month

SANTIAGO – Macarena Santelices, Minister of Women and Gender Equality, announced her resignation on social media today, June 9. Although serving only one month, Santelices managed to anger those she was expected to serve from the very start. Chile Today looks back on her term, described best in three episodes.

Immediate Criticism After Assuming Position

Right after Macarena Santelices was appointed as the new Minister of Women and Gender Equality on May 5, a campaign started against her. Feminist groups and opposition sectors focused on two aspects. They argued that Santelices, with a degree in journalism, had no experience in gender studies or any relevant field. They also assailed her family ties with former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, under whose dictatorship women were abused and tortured.

The hashtag #NoTenemosMinistra (“We Don’t Have a Minister”) started trending on social media, often referring to an interview given in 2016 by Santalices, in which she downplayed the dictatorship. In the interview, she claimed there were good things about the reign of her granduncle.

Several days after taking the position, Santelices appeared on CNN Chile in an interview with journalist Matilde Burgos. After being asked what her experience with gender studies, Santelices answered “because I am a woman, and a mother.” When visiting a health center in Santiago several days later, protesters appeared at the scene, holding signs stating: “We Have No Minister.” Santelices had to leave under police protection.

Impunity is the Biggest Obstacle for Social Peace in Chile

Anti-Abuse Campaign

In early June, Santelices became the center of controversy again, this time over her ministry’s campaign which, according to critics, downplayed abuse of women by victimizing the abuser. In the video, an elderly man appeared who had assaulted his wife and was writing to his granddaughter, who was assaulted by her partner, asking for forgiveness.

Opposition sectors claimed the video was too focused on the experience of the aggressor, and within days the video was removed from the social networks of the ministry. Santelices was forced to speak out, and said she deeply regretted the campaign, which she said was made by an outside party.

Beauty Contest Organizer in the Research Department

The final episode in the short term of Santelices took place yesterday, one day before her resignation. She appointed Jorge Ruz as head of the research department of the ministry. Ruz organized the beauty contest of the Queen of the Viña del Mar festival for over 12 years and wrote several denigrating articles about women as editor of La Cuarta, an entertainment magazine.

Social organization Corporación Humanas said it was concerning that “once again someone without competence for the position takes such an important position.” The magazine where Ruz had worked was, according to the organization, “known for its macho, misogynistic approach,” while the competition led by Ruz served for nothing more than “the reproduction of stereotypes and the objectification of women.”

It was the last thing Santelices would do in her position as Minister of Women and Gender Equality. Today she resigned, and once again, the ministry, as the hashtag on social media says, “has no minister.”

Watch the criticized campaign video here:

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