Chile’s efforts to rewrite its Pinochet-era constitution have been shaken by the revelation that one of its most prominent members has been lying about his public battle against cancer.
Rodrigo Rojas Vade, 37, admitted that in fact he does not have leukemia, an important factor in his rise to prominence and eventual political career, after an investigation by the newspaper La Tercera revealed inconsistencies in his story.
When protests against inequality broke out in Chile in October 2019, Rojas Vade was a regular presence on the front lines in Santiago, with slogans scrawled across his bare chest and posters describing his struggle to pay for chemotherapy.
He wrote a blog called “Cancer Unfiltered Reality”, gave interviews to the media about the grueling treatments he had undergone and was even photographed at a demonstration with an exposed catheter in the abdomen.
But as his story unraveled, the committee that presides over the constitutional process has demanded a legal investigation.
In his official statement of assets, Rojas Vade had declared a debt of 27 million pesos (£ 25,300) with Scotiabank, stating that the loan had been obtained to cover his chemotherapy.
But on Saturday, Rojas Vade apologized in an Instagram post, saying that while he does not have leukemia, at age 29 he was diagnosed with a condition that carried a “great stigma,” prompting him to tell his friends and family that it was an unusual way. Of cancer.
“Trust in him [constitutional] undoubtedly the convention will fall now, ”said Claudio Fuentes, a political scientist at the Diego Portales University in Santiago.
“But if the other delegates can show that this was an isolated case and does not represent the convention as a whole, then they should be able to continue their important work.”
Having started work in early July, the 155 convention delegates have a maximum of 12 months to draft a new constitution to replace the current document, which was drafted without popular participation under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). and ratified in 1980.
When Rojas Vade first gained notoriety as a street protester, his story was seen as emblematic of the difficulties many Chileans faced in making ends meet.
But while his struggle resonated with many, the lie behind his candidacy has betrayed the trust of more than 19,000 Chileans who voted for him at the constitutional convention, the body in charge of drafting a new constitution.
Although Rojas Vade has indicated his intention to withdraw from the convention, there is no clear mechanism by which he can do so. Delegates are subject to the same rules as Chilean congressmen, which means that they cannot resign unless a serious illness inhibits their work.
The exclusion of Rojas Vade will not affect the supermajority of leftists and independents at the convention, where two-thirds must vote in favor of the legislation to pass, but it is unclear how an exit would be handled.
Unlike the members of the party who resign from their positions, he was chosen as an independent candidate and is therefore not eligible to be replaced directly.
The revelation also represents another unwanted milestone in a turbulent month for the People’s List, a loose alliance of independent leftists of which Rojas Vade was a founding member.
Several of its delegates have already distanced themselves from the group, prompting a name change within the convention, while its presidential candidate, Diego Ancalao, was disqualified from the November election and is now under investigation.
Two-thirds of the signatures Ancalao submitted to Chile’s electoral commission in August were found to be verified by a notary who, in fact, had died in February and had not worked since 2018.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism