Ennio Vivaldi (Concepción, 71 years old), rector of the University of Chile, wants to convey a message of tranquility before the second round of the Chilean presidential elections on the 19th, in which the ultra-conservative José Antonio Kast and the leftist Gabriel Boric face off . In the midst of polarization, this doctor who specializes in sleep disorders, who displays a great sense of humor and is obliged to be neutral due to his public position, assures that “in Chile there will be no social fracture” during an interview held in a central hotel in Madrid.
Answer. In Chile there was a totally unprecedented phenomenon. A very fanatical group of professors who blindly followed the Chicago School of Economics convinced a dictator to implement their plans and the military obeyed those orders. They installed unusual ideas such as that public education had to be, by definition, inferior in quality to private because otherwise no one would pay for a better education. With the dictatorship, Chile not only liberalized the economy, but also became a case of extreme neoliberal society, an apology for neoliberalism. From that we start and thus in the pension system, in health, in everything. Hence came the social outbreak and the need to replace a model of society with a new Constitution, in which in a referendum 80% voted against a model of society based on the Chicago boys.
P. What is your reading of the results of the first electoral round?
R. That it was something predictable. In Chile there was a decoupling between politics and society. The second government of Michelle Bachelet was able to give 60% free university education with fewer resources and no one was grateful for not capitalizing on that electorally … It is very interesting that this first round has left the two conglomerates out [el centroizquierda y el centroderecha], who have participated in the construction of the country in the last 30 years. It is also true that he intends to project a right that seemed to have no continuity. Furthermore, it is worth asking whether the views of the current right have changed compared to those of 40 years ago and make the same comparison for the left.
P. The political center has disappeared …
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R. Yes, but if those center groups, who are heirs to the work that has been done for many years in Chile, support [en la segunda vuelta] to one of the candidates, and the citizens perceive that this support determines the outcome of the election, so that fact cannot be subsequently ignored.
P. Is there a risk of social fracture in Chile?
R. No, I think not. No one would want to be Cassandra.
P. Could the second round endanger the Constituent Assembly?
R. I do not think so. Of course, one would have to suppose that whatever Government is elected, whose president will also be the patron of the University, there could be a better or worse relationship between the Constitutional Commission and the Government, but one should expect that both parties are smart enough to prevent that from happening.
P. What role does the University of Chile play in the new Constitution?
R. There was an administrative vacuum, the Constitutional Commission turned to the University of Chile and, given our status as a public university, we decided to offer our facilities. The University will never play a role even remotely associated with a certain arrogance, a kind of pedagogical spirit, but it is understood that the authority is the Constitutional Convention and we must all be at its service. Among the many issues that are discussed, there are some that surprise because they have been dragging on for a long time and that finally it seems that the country wants to address. I quote three: the equal rights of women, the recognition of indigenous peoples and the decentralization of Chile.
P. Universities are among the most appreciated institutions in Chile according to polls and you appear as the second most valued public figure, according to the Cadem survey, What would you like to leave as a legacy?
R. One, that the theme of a university with much more sense of joint work, less fragmented in its disciplines, and another, as president of the state universities, rebuild the climate of solidarity between them to replace that absurd idea that universities they are better when they compete. An achievement inextricably linked to the theme of rebuilding public space, of revaluing what belongs to all of us as opposed to the idea that it is natural for everyone to defend their own interest.
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