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Cablegate: Chile's New Minister of Labor Hits the Ground Running

VZCZCXRO4783
PP RUEHHM RUEHJO RUEHPOD
DE RUEHSG #1144 3591615
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 241615Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4197
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEHXI/LABOR COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SANTIAGO 001144

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DOL FOR ILAB--CHANTENIA GAY
STATE FOR DRL/ILCSR--RIGGS, WHA/BSC, INR/B

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ELAB SOCI ECON CI
SUBJECT: CHILE'S NEW MINISTER OF LABOR HITS THE GROUND RUNNING

REF: SANTIAGO 174

1. Summary: Maintaining political equilibrium in her cabinet,
President Bachelet chose Claudia Serrano, a Socialist (PS) from the
"New Left" faction, as Chile's new Labor Minister. Former Minister
Osvaldo Andrade stepped down on December 10 to pursue a
parliamentary position in next year's elections. Serrano, who is
not well known in labor circles, is seen as a competent technocrat
more than an impassioned advocate for workers. End Summary.

NEW LABOR MINISTER GETS TO WORK
------------------------------

2. (U) In a brief swearing-in ceremony for new Labor Minister
Claudia Serrano on December 15, President Bachelet highlighted the
challenges Serrano faces in the coming months, such as continued
implementation of the pension reform and roll-out of the
unemployment insurance law (Reftel), as well as initiatives to
soften the potential impact of the worldwide economic crisis on
Chile's workers. (Note: Septel will describe these challenges in
greater detail. End Note.) Bachelet lauded outgoing Minister
Andrade, who stepped down to become a parliamentary hopeful, as
being a "fierce promoter of workers' rights and of new labor
legislation."

CIVIL SERVANTS CAUTIOUS ABOUT NEW MINISTER
------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Darko Tapia, National President of the Association of
Ministry of Labor Professionals (APU), told Poloff and Pol
Specialist December 22 that Serrano's selection was a surprise, and
that Serrano herself was not well known in labor circles. According
to other observers, Serrano is seen as a competent technocrat rather
than a passionate champion of the workers.

4. (SBU) Tapia seemed wary of Serrano, saying that her predecessor,
Osvaldo Andrade, was an excellent minister who strongly defended
workers and was renowned for his skill in negotiating with
businesses and other government entities. Tapia stated that Serrano
did not seem to be the best choice, particularly as there were other
front runners for the job--including former Ministry of Labor
officials Maria Ester Feres and Regina Clark--who seemed to have
more experience. Press articles report fears that business
interests will have Serrano's ear because of her close relationship
with Finance Minister Andres Velasco.

BIO DATA - CLAUDIA SERRANO
--------------------------

5. (U) Background: Minister of Labor Claudia Serrano (48), a
Socialist (PS), describes herself as "progressive, pragmatic, and
leftist." She hails from party President Camilo Escalona's New Left
faction as does her predecessor Osvaldo Andrade. Serrano previously
served as the Undersecretary for Regional Development, an office
which falls under Deputy Minister of Interior authority
(2006-present). She has worked as a consultant for the firm
Advisors for Development (1998-present) and as a researcher for the
centrist and economically oriented think tank, the Corporation for
Economic Research in Latin America - CIEPLAN (1983-1990 and
1996-97). She also served as Director of the Program Department of
the Solidarity and Social Investment Fund (FOSIS) (1994-1995).
Prior to that, she was the General Director of Social and Cultural
Policy for the Municipality of Santiago (1990-1994).

6. (U) Education: Serrano holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the
School for Advanced Social Science Studies in Paris and an
undergraduate degree in Sociology from the Catholic University of
Chile. Her academic experience includes having taught at both the
University of Chile and the Catholic University of Chile.

7. (U) Personal: Serrano is married to Patricio Tapia, General
Manager of the Chilean Postal Service. Her son, Miguel Crispi, is
the President of the Catholic University Student Federation. (Note:
Leadership in student federations at Chile's top universities is
often a stepping stone to a political career. End Note.) Other
family members in government positions include her two sisters:
Veronica is the National Director for Architecture at the Ministry
of Public Works and Alejandra is the Director of the Cultural Center
at La Moneda Presidential Palace.

URBAN

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