By Satyaki Chakraborty
The Communist Party of Chile, a coalition partner of the left wing government of the country headed by President Gabriel Boric took a major step in rejuvenating the party at its meeting on Sunday by electing the fire brand trade union leader Barbara Figueroa as the new general secretary of the Party replacing Lautaro Carmona who has been made as president of the Party.
The meeting of the central committee took place at a crucial time in the political life of Chile when the citizen of the country would be going for a new referendum on the constitution on December 17 this year. The victory of the left coalition in this referendum against the combined forces of the right is of crucial importance since the promised programmes of the Boric government will not be possible for implementation if the changes as proposed by the Left are not incorporated. Though Boric is the elected president, the national assembly is still dominated by the ant-left parties and the country is vertically split between the left and the right.
After her election as the new general secretary Barbara said that she was looking forward to the challenges of the job during the difficult times facing her country. She told her supporters that she was proud to become the party general secretary adding that the role brings with it a lot of responsibilities because of the current challenges facing the nation. Barbara was the Chilean ambassador to Argentina before this election. She resigned the post after her selection by the party leadership for the post of general secretary.
Figueroa was born in Santiago in April 1979 and joined the Communist Youth at the age of 15. She attended the Metropolitan University of Educational Sciences and became a leader in the College of Teachers. Following her graduation, she went on to become a high school teacher while pursuing her own graduate studies.
As a leader of the teachers’ union, she was involved in coordinating with protesting students during the mass mobilizations against neoliberalism in 2011—the demonstrations in which current Chilean President Gabriel Boric got his political start.
In 2012, she became the first woman elected as president of the Unitary Confederation of Workers (CUT), Chile’s main trade union federation. She was also the first woman to head a major union organization in all of Latin America.
In March 2022, Boric appointed her to become Chile’s ambassador to Argentina. At the time, he noted that it was “invaluable to have a union leader as our representative, the first woman in the history of our country to represent Chile in Argentina.”
Her appointment marked the first time since the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende that the Communist Party had been asked to take on such an important diplomatic mission. At that time, famed artist and party member Pablo Neruda was sent to the embassy in Paris, France.
Barbara has taken over as the CPC general secretary at a time when the country is observing programmes on the fifty years of the September 11 coup organized by the army led by General Pinochet. Over thirty years after the end of the Pinochet dictatorship in 1990, the government of Chile has formally admitted this year responsibility for the disappearance, and presumed deaths, of over two thousand individuals at the hands of the Chilean military and associated paramilitary groups. The government has also committed to searching for and identifying those whose fates remain officially unknown, numbering over a thousand.
This move marks a major shift for the government, which until now has either ignored the fate of the disappeared or treated them like events from a tragic — and hopefully forgotten — past. Acknowledging the disappeared will go some way toward bringing these victims and their families some closure and justice. The Boric government decision has been welcomed by the families of thousands of Chileans whose family members are still not traceable. The issue has emerged as assort of big movement. Simultaneously, some fr right organisations are also campaigning in favour of the dictator Pinochet. So an atmosphere of confrontation is there in the present Chile. Barbara as the new CPC head will have to help in giving proper direction to the coalition. President Boric has big confidence in her expertise.
For Boric and his Apruebo Dignidad coalition, this is the completion of a long-standing promise to the victims of the dictatorship, fulfilling a commitment to begin to reconcile the legacy of the military government with Chile’s democratic present. But that task will not be an easy one to complete. Barbara is expected to use her oratorical power and organizing skills in popularizing the programmes of the Boric government. The other members of the left coalition are also happy that they have an able leader now who can help in navigating the coalition through this difficult period. (IPA Service)