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Bachelet’s Virtuous Facade

By: Malgorzata Lange - @MalgoLange - Feb 20, 2015, 2:42 pm
Bachelet's son, Sebastián Dávalos (left), was the government's sociocultural director before resigning over the Caval scandal. (Flickr)
Bachelet’s son, Sebastián Dávalos (left), was the government’s sociocultural director before resigning over the Caval scandal. (Flickr)

EspañolAccording to the Roman historian Plutarch, Julius Caesar divorced his young wife Pompeia after hearing of rumors of her infidelity. At the time, Caesar was already Pontifex Maximus, and Pompeia had an important role to play by his side. In the eyes of Roman society, her conduct had to remain beyond reproach. She not only had to be virtuous, she must appear that way too.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Penta scandal in Chile. The case has marred the moral character of politicians and businessmen alike, and put into question the rectitude and integrity of their conduct. But the revelations did not stop there. Just days later, and this time coming from the other end of the political spectrum, another scandal emerged involving a company owned by the president’s daughter-in-law: “Nueragate.” The die was cast.

When Bachelet was reelected, she appointed her son, Sebastián Dávalos, as the government’s sociocultural director — a post equivalent to the First Lady, historically held by a male president’s spouse. Allegations of influence-trafficking and the use of privileged information have undermined Dávalos’ credibility.

Justice will determine if Dávalos broke any laws, but like the Pentagate case, let’s not try to explain away moral responsibility by resorting to legalese. Justice may be blind, but people are not.

Journalist Tomás Mosciatti is right when he says that, like Julius Caesar, the Bachelet administration is more worried about appearances, the bad press, and the eventual political consequences, rather than the facts themselves.

Dávalos has since resigned — due to internal pressures, not moral reflection — but that didn’t prevent him from concluding his shady dealings. As the ruling coalition feared, polls now indicate a dip in support for President Bachelet’s reforms.

Crumbling down came the Bachelet administration’s talk of “unparalleled equality” and its promises to “level the playing field,” ensure equal opportunities, and distance itself from “politics as usual.”

The Chilean media’s portrayal of the story is worth noting. With the exception of a few outlets, the media has developed a communications policy of damage control. The country’s primary newspapers and television networks have been cautious and even modest in their presentation of the scandal.

Then again, it’s not so strange when we consider that the owners of these media outlets and the subjects of these scandals travel in the same circles.

What we see in both the Pentagate case and the Dávalos scandal is the same petty methods of the Chilean elite at work. It appears that in both the political and business world, the elite in Chile coexist in perfect harmony, at the expense of the public interest.

Translated by Daniel Duarte. Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.

Malgorzata Lange Malgorzata Lange

Malgorzata Lange is a native of Poland who lives in Santiago de Chile. She holds degrees in political science and international Relations, and is a PhD candidate at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. She is also a radio panelist on international politics issues. Follow @MalgoLange.