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Chile Appoints Dictator Pinochet’s Great-Niece for Head of Women’s Department

Chile’s conservative President Sebastian Piñera has hired the great-niece of dictator Augusto Pinochet to be the new minister for women’s rights and gender equality.

The appointment of Macarena Santelices has sparked controversy as statements she made in an interview in 2016 have come to light. In the interview, Santelices said of her great-uncle’s reign of Chile from 1973-1990 that there was a “good side” to his dictatorship, even though thousands were imprisoned or tortured, about 3,000 were killed or disappeared and 300 women were raped while tortured, 11 of whom were pregnant.

Activists do not accept Santelices as their new minister and are calling on her to resign. “We will not allow a person who embodies everything we stand against to lead this ministry, and as such demand her immediate removal from the role,” said Javiera Manzi. a spokeswoman for the Coordinadora Feminista 8M organization.

On the one hand, Santelices says she has never “endorsed or justified” human rights violations. On the other hand, she ran for the governorship of Valparaíso under the right-wing Independent Democratic Union, which was founded in 1983 to preserve the policies that defined the dictatorship.

Co-founder of the feminist group Baila Capucha Baila Romina Parada said of the government’s decision to appoint Santelices, “This appointment is a flagrant provocation and demonstrates the government’s total disdain for what the Chilean feminist movement is demanding.”

Isabel Pla, who preceded Santelices, resigned after being deemed unqualified and ineffectual. Santelices said she wants to be judged on what she does from now on.

The Realist Woman’s take:

Hmm...not sure where to start on this one.

To me, and maybe this is just me, appointing the insensitive, insincere, and tone-deaf great-niece of a man who terrorized a country for nearly two decades and praises the "good side" of his dictatorship is maybe not the best option for a high profile government job dedicated to elevating the lives of women. 

And what exactly defines the "good side" of a dictatorship? The words good and dictatorship cannot coincide. It's not a thing. Good for who? This woman and the country's President are out of line. No woman is going to trust Santelices or anything she says. She obviously sees nothing wrong with her words or her record and that lack of self-awareness is troubling. Activists are calling for her resignation and I can't blame them for doing so.