Daniel Jadue, the Communist mayor of Recoleta in Chile, is victim of ‘lawfare’
Recoleta Mayor Daniel Jadue, at a 2022 May Day march in Chile. | People's World

“After more than ten years of corruption, crimes, and destroying the Rocoleta commune, finally the justice system begins to act and will make arrangements for the Communist mayor Daniel Jadue. I hope he goes to jail soon.”

That was Richard Kast, speaking in April. Kast was the right-wing presidential candidate defeated by Chile’s President Gabriel Boric in December 2021. The food manufacturing magnate is the son of a World War II German Army officer.

On June 3 Judge Paulina Moya ruled that Jadue would be imprisoned “preventively” on charges of bribery, maladministration, tax fraud, and bankruptcy. Moya declared that “for Jadue to go free would endanger the safety of society.” The police in April had prevented him from boarding a flight to Caracas. She decreed “120 days of investigation” prior to Jadue’s appearance before an appeals court.

Jadue, a former professor of architecture and urban sociology, has been mayor of Recoleta municipality in the northern part of Santiago since 2012. Responding on social media, he insisted that, “They are judging me for our transformative government. I don’t have a peso in my pocket, but they are handing out the maximum restriction.”

The court’s decision had to do with the “people’s pharmacy” that Jadue devised for Recoleta in 2015. It also involves the spread of people’s pharmacies throughout Chile. Jadue is a national figure, and his legal troubles take on added significance on that account.

Jadue is renowned for the reforms he inspired in Recoleta. In addition to the consumer-cooperative pharmacy project, Recoleta offers an “optician program,” a people’s dentistry program, an “open university,” and a “people’s bookstore.” The municipality invests $500,000 a year in ten public libraries. It recruited physicians and constructed two medical office buildings. It builds architecturally sophisticated apartment buildings with low-cost rentals.

Jadue is the unusual Communist Party leader who participated in national elections at the highest level. As the presidential candidate of a left-leaning coalition in 2021, he almost defeated current president Gabriel Boric, head of a center-left coalition competing in the primary elections.

Jadue provokes the wrath of apologists of Israel. He has participated in pro-Palestine demonstrations outside Israel’s embassy and made public statements that supporters of Israel claimed were anti-Semitic. The grandson of Palestinian immigrants, he was president of Chile’s General Union of Palestinian Students and a top organizer for Latin America’s Palestinian Youth Organization.

Jadue’s bookPalestine: Chronicle of a Siege, appeared in 2013. HispanTV recently presented his 12-part documentary presentation “Window on Palestine.” Chile is home to half a million Palestinians, the largest concentration outside of the Middle East.

The prosecutor announced criminal charges against Jadue in November 2023. The people’s pharmacies, on which the prosecution of Jadue is based, are a phenomenon. There are now 212 of them in 170 localities, with their savings for individuals’ drug purchases averaging between “64% and 68%.”

Recoleta and several other municipalities together formed a purchasing cooperative known as the Chilean Association of Municipalities with People’s Pharmacies (Spanish initials are ACHIFARP). Jadue has been its head. At the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, ACHIFARP was under pressure to distribute healthcare supplies reliably and inexpensively.

In 2021, the Best Quality supply company complained to national authorities that it was approaching bankruptcy and that ACHIFARP had neither used nor paid for large quantities of supplies it had ordered. A Best Quality salesman alleged that Jadue had solicited a bribe.

The terms were: Donate to the Communist Party headquarters in Recoleta and ACHIFARP would give assurances that Best Quality would be called upon to restock the people’s supermarkets, initiated by the government.

Barbara Figueroa, secretary general of the Communist Party, released a statement saying merely that, “The ‘precautionary’ measure against comrade Daniel Jadue is regrettable and disproportionate, and we believe that it should be appealed. … We respect the Courts of Justice, and we hope that this public stage of the investigation and trial will end up proving Daniel’s innocence.”

Some 1000 Chileans signed a letter of support for Jadue. They were “national prize winners, legislators, trade unions leaders, heads of social organizations, academics, human rights leaders, political party leaders, city councilors, jurists, and cultural personalities.”

According to the letter, “This case represents not only a political and judicial persecution of a public figure but also a potential threat to the fundamental principles of the rule of law in Chile.”

As explained by analyst Ricardo Candia Cares, “The people’s pharmacies represent a real contribution to the health of the dispossessed who now have an alternative to the infamous pharmacy chains that collude in gouging the people…. [They] have caused the big pharmacies, or really the powerful forces powerful behind these deals, to lose huge amounts of money.”

Latin American political leaders, Daniel Jadue among them, have long known they can be removed from office or barred from electoral participation through judicial processes by right-wing opponents who can’t beat them in elections.

In that regard, he joins Presidents Fernando Lugo in Paraguay (2012), Lula da Silva in Brazil (2017), Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina (2022), Rafael Correa in Ecuador (2018), Evo Morales in Bolivia (2019), and Peru’s Pedro Castillo (2022).

They are victims of lawfare, described by Le Monde diplomatique in Spanish asa new format of persecution and repression, but executed through the perverted use of the norm, mainly by using judges and prosecutors against opponents.”

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W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.