In announcing his cabinet on Friday, the president-elect of Chile, Gabriel Boric, appointed lawyer Antonia Urrejola as his foreign minister. Urrejola is the former president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and former Rapporteur for Nicaragua. She will assume her position on March 11.
The Chilean lawyer has a strong bond with the people of Nicaragua, following her working visit in May 2018 and for maintaining a close monitoring of the country’s human rights crisis. For her work, Urrejola won the respect of many Nicaraguans who have turned to the IACHR, seeking support in the face of repression by Daniel Ortega’s dictatorship.
She could not attend the officialization of Boric’s Cabinet, held at the Museum of Natural History in Santiago de Chile. In this regard, the president-elect said: “I briefly allow myself to break the script, Antonia is not with us today. She is with her family in the far south of the country. We told her to stay there. That such is important; we are very interested that the ministers can enjoy their families. She is not even seeing us because there are many places where we still do not have connectivity, but to the south, I send you a big hug, Antonia.”
Her affection for Nicaragua
After being proposed by the Chilean mission to the Organization of American States (OAS), Urrejola was not reelected as president and commissioner of the IACHR last November. But her work left a mark among Nicaraguan human rights defenders.
“I really want to thank you, in personal terms, for the trust and affection you have given me. Thank you for your resilience. If I have spoken, If I have raised my voice, it is precisely because of the work of independent journalists, the work of those who today are arbitrarily deprived of their freedom, the work of male and female human rights defenders. Of people like Vilma Nunez, who I cannot fail to mention, because I think she represents what it means to be a human rights defender under all circumstances, her whole life story,” were some of Urrejola’s words during the last hearing on Nicaragua that she conducted on December 14.
The lawyer arrived in the country in May 2018 with the IACHR mission headed by Paulo Abrao, former executive secretary of the IACHR, during the social outbreak and the beginning of a deep socio-political crisis, due to the murders caused by the regime of Daniel Ortega in that year.
Marked by a dictatorship
Urrejola’s family history has also been marked by a dictatorship. Her father, Carlos Urrejola, was imprisoned after Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’état in Chile in 1973, and when he was released, she and her family had to go into exile in England.
That episode marked her interest in the defense of human rights, which later led her to occupy important positions, such as advisor to the Chilean presidency on Human Rights, and in organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank and even the presidency of the IACHR.
“I have no doubts that this personal experience marks me, for me at least, it was a very important experience. Not only because of my father’s experience, who was a victim of political imprisonment and torture, although he never spoke about it, he never talked about what happened to him when he was detained; but also the exile, that although I was small and at that age what one likes is to be with her parents, I remember the repeated conversations of my parents about when they could return to Chile,” Urrejola told Confidencial.
Cabinet with a majority of women
This is the first cabinet in Chilean history with more women than men, with an average age of 42 years, with the presence of independents and with the inclusion of other parties outside the Apruebo Dignidad coalition with which Boric won the December 19 elections, integrated by the Frente Amplio and the Communist Party.
“We have formed this working team with qualified people, with knowledge and experience, committed to the agenda of changes that the country needs and with the ability to add viewpoints, different perspectives and new visions,” said Boric.
At 36 years of age, Boric will become on March 11 the youngest president in the history of Chile and the first to reach La Moneda (seat of Government) who is not part of the traditional blocs that led the country since the return to democracy in 1990, the Concertación (center left) and the Alianza (center right).
With the hope to have the ability to govern with a highly fragmented Parliament and without majorities, the future leader included in his cabinet parties of the former Concertación that did not support him in the first round, such as the Socialist Party (PS), the Party for Democracy (PPD), the Liberal Party and the Radical Party (PR).
That is the case of Maya Fernandez, granddaughter Salvador Allende and future Minister of National Defense; of the Socialist Senator Carlos Montes (Housing and Urbanism); of the PPD Jeanette del Rosario Vega (Social…