The tone of the trumpet sounds in front of the Palacio de La Moneda. President Gabriel Boric, with a solemn expression, stands alone at the door of the Palace and pays honors to the deceased president Sebastian Piñera. The image is moving and also, sadly, a rarity.
The weight of democracy falls on the shoulders of imperfect and worldly men and women. Leaders who have accepted to carry the burden of commanding the destinies of a country. And in Chile, that weight has been borne with a greatness that, although obvious, produces enormous astonishment amid the signs of the times that afflict our nations.
One of the most questioned phrases of the late President Piñera was when he referred to Chile as an oasis. He did it long before the country literally exploded in a process of popular demands that ended in violent and insurrectionary degradation.
Piñera was surely referring to economic progress and material well-being as the reflecting pool of that oasis. However, crossed by a inequality which was decreasing much more slowly than income was growing, citizens were unable to feel in their reality the pleasant shade and vital water in the middle of the desert.
The thing is, let me say it, Chile stands out among mediocrity, not among those who stand out. The country has problems, like everyone else, and faces challenges typical of modernity, including autocratic and populist impulses.
Honor guards transport the coffin with the body of former Chilean president Sebastián Piñera to the Cathedral of Santiago. Photo: XINHUA
Far from political gain
However, Piñera's oasis is vindicated today. It is not an oasis of material progress as he wanted to tell the world. It is, instead, an oasis of democratic and republican conviction. Chile soberly witnessed, during the last three days, a series of rituals that people accompanied with respect for their own or others' pain. The slightest hint of a statement that sought political gain immediately generated criticism and rejection for its timing.
The state funeral of Sebastián Piñera, although it could also be said of Patricio Aylwin in 2016, was not a mundane festival of slogans and bravas. Quite the contrary, It was the very presence of the State in its nature, that which superimposes it on the government in power and unbreakably links it to the sovereignty of the people.
Michelle Bachelet (socialist), Eduardo Frei (Christian Democrat) and Gabriel Boric (autonomist) spoke. Men and women whose shoulders held or hold the destinies of the nation and who respond to it with the fortitude of one who looks beyond his supporters.
Don't get me wrong, in Chile there are chicanes and grandiloquent phrases. Speeches in Congress have also become a way to viralize content on Instagram or Tik Tok. The tenor of the disqualifications, at times, has also been lost. But the death of Piñera, or the voracious fires last Saturday showed that, when it comes to what is important, the accessory is discarded. It is a country that specializes in silencing noise when necessary.
The farewell to Sebastián Piñera, in front of the Palacio de la Moneda, this Friday. Photo: AFP
There is no protocol that would force President Boric to go to any funeral activity. The protocol only indicates that he cannot deny her. There was no obligation for him to go to the airport when the remains of the deceased president arrived from Valdivia, but he did it. In that instance he also gave perhaps the most moving image of recent days, when he heartfeltly hugs Cecilia Morel, the former first lady.
A good part of Latin America, sadly, sees everything strangely. With the disbelief that the unattainable produces and the resignation that distrust generates. However, there is nothing genetic or preconceived in Chile that would make it impossible to apply the same republican and democratic culture in other corners. It is a question of will.
It is a matter of will not to let the extremes drag everyone into the trenches. It is a matter of will to understand that the State is over whoever governs and it is a matter of will to always defend democracy, no matter how hard the blow of losing a vote in Congress or of not getting the desired re-election.
All this challenges us voters, those of us who are not politicians. The people who come to apply this will are not born from nothing, but are put in those positions by our own responsibility. I dare say that, in that, the Chilean voter has earned his space in the oasis, for now.
Ultimately, it is about placing democracy on the shoulders of imperfect men and women, but well-intentioned and great enough to understand that power is exercised but does not belong to them.