Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Doing the cabinet shuffle

President Bachelet has shuffled her cabinet for the second time in her year in office. Her approval rating is now down to 47 percent. First the student protests and now Transantiago, the major transportation plan that is screwed up so badly that everyone is mad.

The moves included sacking Vivianne Blanlot in Defense and replacing her with José Goñi. I don’t know for sure, but I am guessing she had been wanting to get rid of Blanlot (her son had been prosecuted for burglary, so maybe she became a liability) and this offered an opportunity to include her in a package of firings. Goñi, who is ambassador to Mexico and from what I can tell is a career diplomat, follows the general pattern (broken only with the appointment of Bachelet herself) of naming Defense Ministers who know nothing about the military or defense.

I find it interesting that despite the president’s current implosion, the Chilean right remains too divided to take advantage. UDI criticized her, while RN offered a good-natured “good luck to your new cabinet” statement.


Anonymous,  11:27 AM  

For what most political analysts are saying here in Chile, changing Blanlot for Goñi reponds to the same logic as other changes in the cabinet.
The old guard is back... If you ask me, it doesn´t make much logical sense given that the current crisis (Transantiago) is at least in part Lagos´ people responsibility. Of course politics doesn´t follow logic arguments very well, even in Chile.
Bachelet has lately been slammed from all directions, including most of the Concertación. This current shuffle responds to two main strategies that go hand in hand. First, by bringing back the old guard (both in terms of age and in terms of clear affiliation and loyalty to the parties that make the concertación) Bachelet is "buying" some good will from the PS, PPD, DC and PRSD. Now these guys feel like this gov. is a little more theirs and maybe they'll give Bachelet a break every now and then.
Second, Bachelet's gov. was having problems dealing with other actors (congress, the military, the supreme court, and the opposition). She changed the main people in charge of all these relations, bringing in people like Viera-Gallo (a guy close to Insulza), who has deep linkages to the opposition. Goñi, in that sense, will get along a little better with the military folks than Blanlot did. I liked Blanlot and her defiant attitudes towards the military. But I think Bachelet thought that in a time in which things aren´t going your way, you´d better try to get along even with people you don´t particularly like.

Greg Weeks 1:02 PM  

That sounds reasonable enough, but is Goñi "old guard"? I hadn't heard of him so I'm not in a position to say. Viera-Gallo is indeed the very definition of old guard.

Anonymous,  8:48 PM  

Well... he is PPD, and he is not Blanlot, who was very close to Bachelet. But you are right, she could have named 20 other guys (or gals) with more experience in the area and more aligned with the old guard.

BTW, today was an absolutely crazy day in Santiago. Moving around the city has not been easy lately thanks to Transantiago (which I think will eventually work very well). But today was particularly bad given the manifestations for "el día del combatiente." The city went nuts...
In general, these are interesting times here in Chile, lots of stuff going on. There's a general climate of tension that I was not expecting.

Anonymous,  1:02 PM  

I didn't follow the situation too closely, but I'd say that decision to wear an all-white suit to a military funeral (a fairly high profile military funeral last December) might have exasperated her already strained relations with the military. It was not respectful to the institutions she was supposedly representing.

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