Designer Susana Herrera in a photo from her social media.Courtesy
The Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced this morning the “voluntary resignation” of architect and furniture designer Susana Herrera, who was Chilean Ambassador to the United Kingdom for ten months, for being involved in a project she submitted to the government of Biobío, the southern part of the Landes to raise $5 million in public and private funding. “He submitted his voluntary resignation to the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was accepted. The Department of State recognizes the work of Susana Herrera. “The mission in the UK will continue to function as usual in accordance with current regulations and will temporarily take over the leadership of the chargé d’affaires,” read the brief statement from the department led by Minister Alberto van Klaveren, who expressed his happiness last night leave. Are defined. Herrera’s permanence in office became untenable in the wake of the Convenios case, a corruption plot that has left the ruling party in trouble, due to the transfer of public funds to foundations primarily linked to the Broad Front, the president’s original coalition. If he waited until today, it would only be to refine the terms of his resignation, as Herrera was not available to resign yesterday and asked for a cooling off period.
According to a Sunday report by Chilean newspaper La Tercera, the foreign ministry has halted a Herrera-sponsored project without following regular procedures or informing its superiors. The report, which ended with Herrera’s departure 48 hours later, said the ambassador initially received a strong warning from the State Department that she would not take any steps to gather resources from the Concepción government in front of other foreign ministries, without prior approval of the ministry and without the department acting as an intermediary.
Herrera’s project aimed to restore the land affected by last summer’s fires, based on the “circular bioeconomy and timber infrastructure to build sustainable local capacity in the Biobío region,” La Tercera reported. Herrera himself put it at five million dollars and included, among other things, a lumber market in the city of Santa Juana. Herrera on June 13 — three days before the first wave of the deal case exploded in northern Chile — sent a letter to Governor Rodrigo Díaz, who is in the crosshairs of the Court of Auditors and prosecutors over the multimillion-dollar transfer of public funds to other foundations. In the statement, Herrera requested that funding be provided. The ambassador reported that it is an initiative being launched in collaboration with the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (CBA), one of King Carlos III. founded foundation, and the renowned architecture office Zaha Hadid. He did so without consulting anyone from the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, bypassing all the regular channels of a highly professional ministry independent of the government on duty.
Herrera’s letter was on the embassy’s letterhead and was signed by her as representing Chile in the UK. “This project can represent a milestone in the relationship between our countries as it represents a new style of diplomacy that emphasizes territories, shared benefits and working together to directly support communities.” “This approach has been at the core of my work as Chilean Ambassador to the United Kingdom,” Herrera notes in the letter, reproduced by the Chilean newspaper. “I understand that a project of this magnitude and impact requires the collaboration of numerous public and private actors, but above all regional authorities. For this reason, allow me to ask you for your direct support in finding the necessary funding to make this great opportunity for our region a reality,” adds Herrera in the text addressed to Díaz.
The project named Living Lab Biobío was designed by Herrera himself together with the marine biologist and environmental consultant Alberto Fuentes Larenas, which caught the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, since the ambassadors are usually the ones who transmit the initiatives prepared by various organizations related to Chile to diplomatic missions asking for help . Not the other way around, as was the case on this occasion. It was Herrera and Fuentes Larenas who appreciated the different phases of the project and then took steps with the CBA, the Architectural Office and the Government of Concepción.
His resignation was even demanded by the ruling party. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there were different reactions this Tuesday, such as that of the socialist senator, foreign minister and secretary general of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza: “I regret this whole incident.” Hopefully someone will be named who has international experience and understands the reality of the United Kingdom up close.”
10 months in office
Since taking office last October, Herrera has had a controversial leadership in a venue important to Chilean foreign policy like London, characterized by a lack of diplomatic experience and training in international relations. Among those who have worked with her over the past ten months, she is described as a genuine, enthusiastic person, but with no understanding of politics.
Her appointment, like all others, is the exclusive prerogative of the current President, who would have taken into account the fact that she is a woman, of a specific region – she is from Concepción, more precisely in the Biobío region – and that she is not a militant It is affiliated with the Social Green Regionalist Federation (FRVS), a small governing party.
The pressure to repeal it came from the ruling party itself. Socialist Party leader Paulina Vodanovic was categorical: “He must resign.” , in the midst of the Agreements case, a case being investigated by prosecutors that has led to the departure of seven government officials. Among them Giorgio Jackson, the president’s main ally, who resigned as Minister for Social Development two Fridays ago. Socialist MP Tomás de Rementería, chairman of the Chamber’s Committee on External Relations, expressed the same opinion.
Herrera was defended only by the FRVS, a small faction of the Chilean ruling party, which nominated Herrera for the post of ambassador.
The architect and designer of wooden furniture has no known public career in Chile. In 2021, she ran for a first-constituency post for the Non-Neutral Independents movement, but was not elected. Even when he wanted to move into parliament for the FRVS at the end of the same year, he did not get a seat, as he received 1.72% of the votes.
Today, ahead of the news of his departure, Chilean newspaper El Mercurio published his own defense: “I say with the utmost determination that the allegations made against me are unfounded and absolutely false.” which indicates illegal behavior or harms the interests of our country and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Herrera told the Chilean newspaper.