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The opposition of Chile corners the Government of Sebastián Piñera for the management of the covid-19

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera during a press conference last Tuesday.Presidency of Chile / EFE

Although the first wave of covid-19 in Chile has not been controlled – 1,131 new infections were reported this Wednesday – the Chilean opposition attacks the Government of Sebastián Piñera from different fronts to pursue possible political responsibilities for the management and deaths of the pandemic, which has left 13,090 confirmed deaths in the country since March. In Congress, the deputies will vote on Tuesday a constitutional indictment against former Minister of Health Jaime Mañalich, who was in charge of the health crisis until June 13. In addition, two leftist leaders filed complaints before the Justice against different Executive authorities, including the president himself, for crimes such as homicide, denial of assistance or reckless dissemination of pathogenic germs. The judicial investigation has produced a delicate controversy between La Moneda and the Public Ministry.

The Prosecutor’s Office wants to access the emails of the Ministry of Health, in the framework of the investigation into the deaths related to covid-19. Prosecutors obtained judicial authorization to seize the emails of Mañalich, his former chief of staff and the Undersecretary of Public Health, Paula Daza. The current Minister of Health, Enrique Paris, however, has refused to facilitate them. The doctor argued for reasons of “national security”, so the Public Ministry went to the Supreme Court to resolve the differences. The highest court in the country asked the minister to report his reasons for not delivering the emails and Paris reiterated the reasons of national security and a second issue: “If medical records or patient records are requested, that also contravenes the law rights and duties of patients ”.

It was President Piñera’s own lawyer, Samuel Donoso, who, along with other defenses of the authorities, joined in the criticism against the Prosecutor’s Office. In an official document addressed to the Supreme Court, which the highest court had not requested, the diligence of seizing the emails is described as “unusual, unfounded and hasty.” Along with the other defenses, Donoso indicated in the text that it was an “ideological persecution and a lack of objectivity”, referring to the fact that the Public Ministry investigation began with the complaints of the left-wing senator Alejandro Navarro and the mayor of the municipality Recoleta’s capital, the communist Daniel Jadue (the best positioned opposition figure with a view to the 2021 presidential election).

Jadue’s complaint is related to 62 deaths from covid-19 in the commune he directs and points, in parallel, to an alleged misrepresentation of the data on the part of the Ministry of Health and other health agencies: “Or else the the truth or information was withheld, ”said the mayor in his brief expanding the complaint on September 30. According to the former head of the Epidemiology Department, the official Johana Acevedo, a “parallel system” to the official was created in the Ministry of Health to report cases of covid-19, according to her statement to prosecutors.

The communication of the lawyers of the Government authorities to the Supreme Court was criticized from different fronts. “It is of absolute gravity and an unacceptable interference by the Executive Power in an ongoing judicial investigation,” said Carlos Margotta, president of the Chilean Human Rights Commission. According to the government spokesman, Minister Jaime Bellolio, La Moneda will collaborate with the Justice in everything that is needed, but criticized the methods of the Prosecutor’s Office: “What cannot happen is that there is an attempt to do a kind of fishing drag ”.

With 474,440 infected with covid-19 confirmed in Chile, the Chamber of Deputies is preparing to vote on the constitutional accusation against Mañalich next Tuesday. It is based, fundamentally, on two issues: on having allegedly infringed the Constitution “by putting the life and health of the population at risk” and on “concealment of data and lack of administrative integrity.” As Mañalich no longer holds positions in the State, if approved, he would be disqualified for five years from holding public office. It is not clear, however, whether the opposition will get the votes against Piñera’s trusted doctor, although the left and center-left have a majority in both houses. The constitutional accusation, in fact, was presented without the signatures of parliamentarians of important parties in the sector, such as the Christian Democrats and the Socialist Party.

In the context of the constitutional accusation, Parliament has heard both the version of Mañalich and other health authorities. According to the former Minister of Health, who declared last Friday, there was never concealment of death figures, although in the midst of the worst weeks of the pandemic the Executive changed its accounting method on several occasions, after public pressure. “We never hide any number,” Mañalich told the deputies. In the opinion of the president of the Medical College, Izkia Siches – one of the most highly valued figures in the framework of the health crisis – “there were serious and avoidable errors and omissions, contradicting the opinion of experts and established procedures,” as indicated yesterday before the parliamentarians who study the constitutional accusation.