President said that the State would pay the debt in force since the dictatorship; new minister linked to the category has been in government for 1 month
The president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, is accused by teachers for not having yet fulfilled a promise made when he took office on March 11, 2022. During his campaign, the president stated that he would pay the “historical debt” of the State with the category, inherited since the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990). Boric’s bet is Nicolás Cataldo, Chile’s first communist minister since Salvador Allende (1908-1973) and close to teachers’ organizations.
The debt corresponds to the devaluation of the salaries of thousands of public school teachers during the military regime. At the time, the government transferred the administration of national schools to city halls, which resulted in pay cuts.
The Chilean National Education Council estimates that salary losses are at least 14.3 trillion Chilean pesos (around R$78.5 billion, at current prices).
The president of the National Council of Teachers, Carlos Díaz Marchant, said during a demonstration in August that “this government dared to make a promise that previous ones did not, but it also needs to show that it can fulfill its commitments, or it will be like the others”.
On August 16, President Boric removed Marco Antonio Ávila from the Ministry of Education and replaced him with Nicolás Cataldo, the first avowedly communist Chilean minister since Allende.
Upon taking office, Cataldo, 39, faces criticism from both allies and opponents. A week after taking office, the College of Teachers called a national strike after 53.6% of members rejected the ministry’s proposal for salary adjustments and better working conditions.
The Executive’s bet is that the proximity of the new minister, who joined the College of Teachers, will be able to manage teachers’ demands regarding financing for the sector, school violence, the payment of historic debt and other points.
On the other hand, the Boric government also believes that Cataldo will be able to regain control of the sector, which is currently facing a crisis resulting from structural problems in the system and the consequences of the pandemic. In the last national learning test – such as the Enem in Brazil –, all average grades decreased compared to the exam administered in 2018, especially among students in the 2nd year of high school.
WHO IS NICOLÁS CATALDO
On September 11, 1973, the day of Augusto Pinochet’s military coup, Nicolás Cataldo’s father, Héctor Cataldo, was arrested by marines. Héctor was a member of Mapu (Unitarian Popular Action Movement, in Portuguese), one of the groups that made up the UP (Popular Unity), which was led by the former Chilean president deposed by Pinochet, Salvador Allende.
Héctor Cataldo was imprisoned for 2 years, was tortured and today his testimony appears in the files of the Valech Commission, created by the Chilean government in 2003 to record the military violence committed against thousands of citizens during the dictatorship.
At the age of 27, Nicolás, who is a history teacher, joined the Communist Party and took over the Education and Improvement Department of the Chilean College of Teachers, at the time led by the current Chilean ambassador to Argentina, Bárbara Figueroa.
From then on, Minister Cataldo was editor of the magazine teaching, from the College of Teachers, and met Guillermo Scherping, director of the publication, who the Secretary of State mentioned as his main mentor. According to Cataldo, the magazine was his beginning in public policies linked to education.