The compensation to 'El Clarín' puts Boric in front of the mirror

The long march of the Spanish owners of the Chilean newspaper El Clarín, which was confiscated by Augusto Pinochet on the same day of the coup d'état against Salvador Allende in 1973 to restore his place in the press due to the outrage suffered, has been supported at some point in his odyssey through the European Parliament, the Spanish Government, the main parties in the Cortes -the PP, the PSOE and IU- and even the current president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, when he was an opposition deputy. Boric's predecessor, the right-wing Sebastián Piñera, fought in his two terms to avoid any compensation, but solemnly promised before the European Parliament to comply with the ICSID award, the World Bank's arbitration body on investment matters, and assume the payment that will eventually be fixed, a promise that has been broken by endorsing the dossier to the new left-wing Administration.

In 2012, during his first term as president, Piñera went to the European Parliament and the PSOE deputy Andrés Perelló asked him about repairing El Clarín, which, with an average of 250,000 daily copies sold, was the newspaper in Chile with the highest heritage when it was confiscated without its owner, the Spanish businessman Víctor Pey, exiled after the Civil War, ever receiving compensation. Piñera answered very emphatically: "Indeed, the newspaper El Clarín was expropriated by the military government. (...) Chile respects international law and international courts. Therefore, if the court determines that Chile must do something, Chile is going to comply with what the Court says (...) It is what corresponds to a civilized country, respectful of the law and that respects the rules of the rule of law."

The competent court, the ICSID, whose awards are mandatory for the 155 countries that have ratified the agreement -among them, Spain and Chile- and can also be enforced in any of these countries, settled in 2020, and without the possibility of appeal, the longest international arbitration in the history of Chile and the World Bank, initiated in 1997: this country must compensate the shareholders of the publishing companies of El Clarín. Víctor Pey did not live to see it -he had died in 2018, at the age of 103-, but he had transferred his shares to the Spanish President Allende Foundation (90%) and his daughter, Coral Pey Grebe (10%), owners of the header, that at the moment edits only a digital version.

After the final decision of the ICSID of 2020, the lawyer Joan Garcés, a Spanish jurist who was an advisor to Salvador Allende, went to the Spanish courts to continue the enforcement of the award in Court 101 of Madrid that had incurred the costs of the initial phase. arbitration: more than 3 million euros, which Chile has already paid. A car from last December orders Chile to pay 551 million dollars (about 520 million euros): 429.797 million dollars as compensation and another 121.972 million for default interest. The award sets late-payment interest at 5% annually, compounded until full payment of the compensation, so that the longer the procedure lasts, the higher the amount to be paid will end up being.

Despite Piñera's solemn promise in the European Parliament, in his two terms as president he was postponing compensation. And last December the representation of the Chilean State in Madrid, which still responded to the Piñera Administration, refused to receive the formal communication of the order, requested to send it to Santiago and has been delaying the response long enough for the hot potato to have It must now be assumed by the new president, the leftist Gabriel Boric. Boric's Communications Office has not answered the repeated questions made by about what the intentions of the new Administration are regarding the ICSID award and the order of the Spanish court.

Chile's new president was a prominent supporter of El Clarín's cause when he was an opposition deputy. On September 20, 2017, with Victor Pey still alive, Boric passionately sponsored an interpellation in the Chilean Congress in which he showed his indignation at the continuous delays of Chile instead of compensating. "Many years have passed and the Government of Chile chose to consolidate the monopoly of the press in a single sector and, therefore, has made strenuous efforts to prevent the compensation that corresponds to the legitimate owners of the newspaper El Clarín. One wonders why," said today's president. And he added: "I wonder what has motivated the State of Chile to make so much effort to avoid repairing the illegal usurpation of the newspaper El Clarín."

Today's president also expressed his discomfort that Chile was putting off repairing "the legitimate owners of this newspaper" and even ended his speech with an emotional tribute to Víctor Pey, who "at over a hundred years, continues to put up a worthy fight for recover the plurality of journalism in Chile, which is essential in any democracy".

For its part, Spain has always watched the procedure from afar, in an attitude that contrasts with the enthusiastic support it usually gives to the demands of Spanish multinationals abroad. But when the procedure began, in 1997, the Spanish government of José María Aznar formally expressed its support for Pey's claim in parliament through the then Secretary of State for Foreign Policy and the European Union, Ramón de Miguel.

In response to the deputy Rafael Estrella (PSOE) in the Congressional Foreign Commission, De Miguel stressed that it is "a clear issue of defending Spanish interests abroad" and stressed that the Aznar Executive "deplores the continuation of this situation without there having been the corresponding compensation.” “The Government's will is to protect the interests of a compatriot of ours, Mr. Víctor Pey,” stressed Aznar's Secretary of State.

The European Parliament also formally endorsed Pey's claim in 1997 unanimously in the framework agreement on relations with Chile approved in the European Parliament, which cited "as an unacceptable residue of the dictatorship the case of the newspaper El Clarín, expropriated and still occupied by the military and without its legitimate owners having received any compensation to date". The report, for which the PSOE MEP Ana Miranda de Lage was the rapporteur, was expressly supported by the spokespersons for the PP José Manuel García Margallo -who years later was Mariano Rajoy's Foreign Minister-, for the PSOE, Enrique Barón, and IU, Alonso Gate.

A quarter of a century later, the Chilean military continue to occupy the buildings and presses of El Clarín. And its Spanish owners have not yet been compensated, despite the obligatory final resolution of the international binding arbitration body for both Chile and Spain.

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