This article first appeared in La Tercera on March 30, 2021.
A new electoral process is approaching, a rather atypical one, which will be held in an unprecedented manner in two days and in which we will also elect for the first time regional governors and constituents, as well as mayors and councilmen. It will be a long ballot, in which we will surely not know all the names of those who appear therein, and precisely in view of this reality, it is essential that we vote informed.
We constantly complain about the authorities because they do not meet our expectations, because political operators take spaces where experts are needed, because there is nepotism, corruption and lack of transparency, among other issues. However, citizens have the power to choose and it is in our hands to vote consciously and informed for candidates who stand out for their probity, who do not have convictions or pending court cases, because memory is fragile and can play a trick on us.
A few years ago we learned about the scandals surrounding the illegal financing of politics, which marked a before and after in the perception of Chileans regarding corruption. If before it was thought that these were only isolated events, the blindfold fell from our eyes when we saw a series of cases in the media, which made front pages and headlines, but which eventually were forgotten. And so, little by little we got used to see new cases, being Itelecom the last big scandal, in which 22 municipalities are being investigated and which shows us that there are no limits to defraud and commit illicit acts. This case is under investigation and we continue to learn of new cases involving mayors and councilors of different municipalities in the country who were elected by ourselves.
These already emblematic cases that occurred some years ago undermined the confidence of Chileans, especially because they saw that no major penalties were imposed on their protagonists, further marking the inequality that afflicts us as a country. And this, in turn, was one of the factors that helped to discourage voting, with the prevailing idea that voting is a waste of time, because “why am I going to vote if they are all the same” or “the same people always win”. But the truth is that there is no way to make changes if we do not vote and, even better, if we do it responsibly.
Thus, today we see how Gustavo Hasbún is a candidate for mayor of Estación Central, even though he is still being investigated by the Public Prosecutor’s Office as an accused for the crimes of bribery and influence peddling in the case of bribes in the MOP of La Araucanía. Although the investigation is ongoing, the least we can do is to wait to know what the justice system decides.
The same happens with the former deputy Hugo Gutiérrez, who is trying to reach a seat in the Constitutional Convention, when he was not able to attend the formalization hearing for the crimes of threats to the authority and omission of public cooperation when he confronted the Navy during an inspection in Iquique, and who, aware of the situation, excused himself for not having been notified.
The case of San Ramón is much more serious and involves drug trafficking, where even the current councilman and candidate for mayor of that commune, Gustavo Toro, denounced death threats from the circle close to the mayor Miguel Ángel Aguilera, who is running for reelection. It is important to know what the Prosecutor’s Office says about this fact, because in a full democracy this type of intimidation cannot be allowed.
These examples show us the importance of informing ourselves before choosing, because voting is a citizen responsibility, a contribution to democracy and an opportunity to regain confidence even in ourselves.
If we are already aware that corruption exists in Chile, let us be part of the solution, and just as it is important to denounce when irregularities are known, it is important to avoid that popularly elected positions are occupied by people who have been involved in these or who have pending cases. Today we need to believe and for that we need representatives who not only raise the flags that identify us, but also act in accordance with the law and with minimum standards of ethics and transparency.
By: Susana Sierra