A top aide of Chilean President Sebastian Piñera resigned after lawmakers censured him for allowing police abuses during social protests. Victor Perez quit on Tuesday shortly after the lower house voted 80 to 74 to temporarily suspend him from his duties, becoming Piñera's third Interior Minister to leave his post since 2018.
The move complicates things for the government as the president tries to navigate a path forward after Chileans overwhelmingly voted to rewrite their constitution. Juan Francisco Galli, the ministry’s undersecretary and a member of a ruling coalition party, will become the interim minister, according to a statement from the presidency
“I don’t want to become an obstacle for the government,” Perez said after the vote. “I resign so that the government can keep working as it has, without having to worry about pointless political accusations,” he said.
Perez had only been in his post since July, and his appointment was seen at the time as a change of strategy by the government to try to restore order amid protests. He was also tasked with improving coordination within the ruling coalition after congress passed in July a bill that allowed early pensions withdrawals, in a harsh defeat for the president.
Piñera has faced resurgent demonstrations and uncertainty over a rewrite of the country’s constitution. Chileans backed a new drafting in an October referendum agreed upon by the government and political parties in a bid to quell social unrest that sparked late last year. Tensions are running high as citizens demand better public services and a more equitable society.
Opposition lawmakers also accused Perez of applying a double standard when he didn’t impose security measures during a trucker strike in August that disrupted supply chains in southern Chile. He, “without any explanation, refused to apply his own law when it came to dealing with these truckers,” said opposition lower house member Gabriel Ascensio.
The unrest has stirred other issues. Last month a police officer was detained for attempted murder after allegedly pushing a teenage boy from a bridge during a demonstration. And former Interior Minister Andres Chadwick was banned last year from public office for five years over failure to halt human rights violations during the protests.