Irací Hassler: "Chile has a model of abuse and must put dignity at the center"
Irací Hassler, the elected mayor of the Santiago de Chile commune.Sofia yanjari

The Chilean economist Irací Hassler Jacob (Santiago de Chile, 30 years old), a communist activist, seized the municipality of Santiago from the right last Sunday, the one with the greatest political importance and symbolism in Chile. His victory was one of the great surprises of the day: it is the first time that his party will lead this commune, which for decades was a conservative and moderate bastion. An admirer of the American deputy Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of the management of the mayor of Barcelona, ​​Ada Colau, and of the late leader of Chilean communism, Gladys Marín, she was not a familiar face for much of Chile. The elected mayor belongs to a young generation of women who have burst onto the Chilean political scene in the weekend municipal, constituent and regional governor elections.

“It is tremendously significant in this historical moment that the left and the social and political unity of the neighborhoods have managed to conquer the municipality of Santiago,” analyzes Hassler. Regarding electoral participation, which barely reached 43% at the national level, he assures: “People want to believe, but politics, which has not given answers in many areas, disappoints.”

When he takes office on June 28, his office in the mayor’s office will be next to the Plaza de Armas and a few blocks from the Government Palace, La Moneda, where a colleague of his from a party ―Daniel Jadue, reelected mayor of the Recoleta municipality― He intends to arrive in March 2022, when Sebastián Piñera leaves power. Hassler’s triumph and the results of the Communist Party’s list in the conventional elections, which surpassed the center-left, represent a boost for the presidential candidacy of the communist candidate, who is now in an expectant situation.

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Hassler is of Swiss descent from his father (on the right) and Jewish-French and Brazilian from his mother (on the center-left). “Both are distant from politics,” says she, the youngest of the couple’s three children. His maternal family comes from Piauí, in the northeast of Brazil. “Tired of mixing,” he says, laughing at his diverse origins. Its name, in fact, comes from those lands: “Irací is a Brazilian indigenous name –tupí-guaraní– that means queen of the bees”, says the elected mayor, who is kind, smiling and with a sweet tone of voice that does not change when he gets serious with questions that seem to bother him, such as when asked about the opinion of regimes such as Venezuela, Cuba or Nicaragua.

His paternal grandfather “was an important businessman who lived through the crisis of 1970-1973 and lost his assets” in the government of Salvador Allende, according to the business leader, Juan Sutil, this week. His father and part of his paternal family are partners of Frutícola Olmué, according to Sutil, who reported that the future mayor is a 5% member of the company.

Today, Hassler’s father and grandfather are shareholders in Hortifrut, a fruit company. Her mother, meanwhile, is dedicated to the clothing trade. Hassler does not have among his relatives direct victims of the repression of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990). “I have read about the time and talked a lot with colleagues from a party especially marked by the civic-military dictatorship,” says the economist, who uses inclusive language.

A childhood in democracy

The new mayoress was born in Santiago de Chile in November 1990. That is, eight months after the dictatorship ended. Her childhood and adolescence, therefore, were spent in the first democratic governments, which she regards from a distance, as a good part of her generation that defines itself as the left.

“It was a very slow transition,” he says. “It was a largely agreed transition, excluding sectors that made it possible to end the dictatorship and, most importantly, with very little transformation of the extreme neoliberal model that commercialized all spheres of life.”

Hassler says that his generation “did not expect to experience the violation of human rights in a generalized way, as we have seen in Chile since October 18, 2019 [con las revueltas]”. “Nor do we live the curfew with the military in the streets, as we have experienced since the social explosion, where they detained people just for being on the street.” The economist talks about people with eye injuries in the framework of social protests (343 people, according to government figures). He concludes: “What has happened in Chile speaks of the transition that could not be completed. There was a never more that it was not rooted neither institutionally nor culturally ”.

Hassler compares Piñera with Pinochet, although the former was democratically elected with 54% and the latter came to power after a fierce coup: “There are important similarities regarding human rights violations.”

Question. But during the dictatorship what there were were systematic violations of human rights from the State …

Answer. The violation of human rights in this government has been at least generalized and the organizations have a legal discussion regarding what is systematic. But what we have seen is that, repeatedly, with impunity, human rights have been violated in our country since October 18, 2019.

P. Today in Chile the rule of law governs and the courts function …

R. From my perspective, a rule of law is not a state that violates human rights in a generalized way.

As a child she lived in the Peñalolén area, in eastern Santiago, in the foothills of the Andes, and she always studied at the Swiss School (private), given her ancestry. From this place he observed with interest the mobilizations of the secondary schools of public establishments in 2006, the first great crisis of the Government of Michelle Bachelet, known as penguin revolution. In 2009 he entered the University of Chile and, from there, he became a leader in wide spaces of the left. It was the same year that he voted for the first time in the presidential election, for Jorge Arrate, a candidate from the extra-parliamentary left. Hassler remembers that the applicant had a slogan: “If this is your first time, do it for love.” And she gave him the vote.

Then he was part of the student movement of 2011, which put the first government of Sebastián Piñera on the ropes. At the end of that year, Hassler joined the ranks of the Communist Youth, along with other students, where two of the main female figures of that movement were active: the current deputies Camila Vallejo and Karol Cariola: “Both have opened spaces for women in political participation and they have been very pioneers ”, Hassler tells about her colleagues.

Irací Hassler receives and welcomes comments from citizens while walking through a traditional fair in his city.
Irací Hassler receives and welcomes comments from citizens while walking through a traditional fair in his city.
Sofia yanjari

P. Why did a doctrinaire party like the PC join and not the Broad Front, which brought together many of its generation?

R. Mainly, regarding the role of the PC in the social movement. I saw in the Communist Youth a possibility of impact on all levels and the ability to transform society as a whole. Because the commercialization that occurs in education is also observed in health, pensions and in many other spaces. Chile is rooted in injustice and inequality. In addition, I was interested in the approaches of communism in the economic-political discussion. I understood what surplus value is and how the owners of capital and land appropriate the work of others.

At university, Hassler did his thesis with economist Oscar Landerretche, a socialist activist and former president of the board of directors of the state copper company Codelco (2014-2018). “But a reference within the faculty was Ricardo French-Davis, who, even being a Christian Democrat, has had an important opening,” he says about the academic who was educated in Chicago and has been one of the main critics of the economic reforms promoted by the dictatorship by his own university companions, the chicago boys.

It was in college that Hassler read Capital and developed a critical view “on the way in which economics is taught.” Participated in alternative courses on the so-called economists banned and workshops with communist experts, such as Manuel Riesco or Andrés Varela, now deceased. Currently, she says, she is interested in Thomas Piketty and Mariana Mazzucato, although she mostly reads about feminist theories. Judith Butler, Virginie Despentes or Aleksándra Kolontái are some of the authors who have studied in the master’s degree in Gender and Culture Studies that almost ends at the University of Chile. In narrative, he declares himself a fan of Argentine Mariana Enríquez.

Since 2016 he has been a councilor in the municipality of Santiago under the administration of Felipe Alessandri, the current right-wing mayor whom he defeated and criticized for “endorsing a repressive and violent policy.”

P. And you, how will you control public order?

R. The mayor’s office does not have the task of controlling public order, but the current mayor confused his role regarding the relationship with social mobilization and with the police. The democratization that our country is undergoing represents a hope to end these problems in our neighborhoods. But to end it not with repression, because it is useless.

P. Would you return to its place the monument of General Baquedano, which had to be removed from the epicenter of the protests?

R. You have to ask people, although my personal opinion is that no.

How do you explain that Santiago, with a right-wing mayor, has become a communist in four years? Hassler responds: “It is not that Santiago has become a communist, but rather that we have a communist elected mayor,” says the CP activist, who is handed papers in the middle of the conversation and WhatsApp enters, as a sign that she is waiting for her. a day with a busy schedule. “Citizens have a conscience regarding the damage that the right wing has done in our country. Chile has a model of abuse and must put dignity at the center ”, says Hassler, who will govern Santiago supported by a group of women councilors, in a demonstration of the power of feminism in social movements in Chile.

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