Meet Daniel Jadue: The Chilean communist whose Palestinian heritage has inspired his presidential candidacy

6 min read
06 July, 2021

Daniel Jadue intends to stand in Chile's presidential elections this year. A communist with Palestinian heritage, he is a longstanding opponent of American policy and Zionism.

Labelled 'America’s backyard', Latin America has borne the brunt of repeated US interventions carried out against the will of its peoples, where the US has long used its military might and influence as the world's greatest superpower to subdue and dominate the region.

When this is raised, Jadue gives a big smile "I’m looking to the future, and I am on the people's side against oppression, colonialism, and capitalism: these are ideas which are not compatible with life - because they oppose the values of justice and equality".

Immigrants from Beit Jala

Jadue was born to Palestinian parents, his grandparents having emigrated to Chile from Beit Jala in Bethlehem in 1920. The day Daniel was born was a day the family would never forget. It was 28 June 1967 – the day Israel annexed occupied East Jerusalem.

"That day was bittersweet – my family were saddened by the news but at the same time overjoyed at my birth".

"I'm looking to the future, and I am on the people's side against oppression, colonialism, and capitalism: these are ideas which don’t accept life - because they oppose the values of justice and equality"

When he was three, Jadue's parents split up, and he lived from then on with his mother, Magaly Jadue, who owned a small clothes shop in the 'Patronato' neighbourhood, which is home to the largest of Santiago's Palestinian communities.

He recalls that his house was always filled with discussion about Palestine and what was being done by Israel to family members in Beit Jala – cousins were always being arrested or attacked and family land seized: these were the stories brought by the monthly letters from Beit Jala.

Arabic – language of secrets

"The Arabic language was the language of the family letters from Palestine, but also the language of secrets", Jadue says, laughing. His parents and grandparents were always careful to speak Spanish in front of the children, who were growing up during Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship, and in a society that was becoming increasingly racist. Therefore they made sure the children could speak Spanish without an accent to avoid them being bullied.

The Communist Party of Chile did well in the mayoral elections in May - supporters celebrate their success [LightRocket via Getty Images]

"However, when one of them wanted to hide something from me, my brother and sister, they would speak in Arabic - this was the language of the family secrets".

Jadue understands Arabic although he doesn't speak it and says that after a few days of being in Palestine he is able to understand everything. He last visited Palestine in 2019 but intends to visit again before the presidential elections, which will take place this autumn.

A left-wing, Palestinian identity

In 1973 Pinochet seized power through a US-backed coup, signalling the start of the military dictatorship. Jadue began hearing stories of arrests and killings – on the streets, at school and from neighbours - similar to those he had previously heard at home, but this time they were happening in Chile, not Beit Jala.

After a few years, he came to the realisation that those behind the killing, destruction and violation of human rights in Palestine were the same as those supporting the killing, violence and arrests in Chile: the United States. This realisation formed the cornerstone of his left-wing identity at an early age.

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Jadue became politically active aged just eleven, in 1978, during Israel's invasion of Lebanon. Beginning by attending lectures about Palestine and drawing posters for demonstrations, he quickly started giving talks himself. By the age of 15, he had mastered giving lectures on Palestine, with the support of Palestinians active in Chilean politics at that time such as Miguel Marzouqa and Nicola Hadwa who guided and educated him.  

Oslo: a turning point

Jadue was active in Palestinian organisations, especially in the Palestinian Information Office in Chile, which had close ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which Jadue was a member of until 1993. This was the year of the Oslo Accords, which formed a turning point for him.

"It's true I became politically active through Palestinian organisations, but the day after the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) signed the Oslo agreement I resigned from all of them in protest. On the very same day I joined the Chilean Communist Party - because it was the party closest in terms of ideology to the PFLP".

When the USA describes a Palestinian organisation as terrorist, that just means it is fighting for freedom. I am not interested in what Americans say

Jadue's stance on Oslo never changed: "It was an American-Israeli trick and will never result in freedom or independence for Palestinians".

Fascination with the popular struggle

Jadue is fascinated by the history of popular uprisings, and in his daily struggles, he takes inspiration from people like George Habash (who co-founded the PFLP), Fidel Castro, Salvador Allende (the elected socialist president in Chile who was ousted and murdered in 1973 by Pinochet) and Gladys Marín, former Secretary-General of the Chilean Communist Party who fought against Pinochet's dictatorship.

"I look up to these revolutionary figures, and others – these are the people who shaped me".

He dismisses the idea that his membership of the PFPL in his youth could be wielded as an accusation, stating: "When the USA describes a Palestinian organisation as terrorist, that just means it is fighting for freedom. I am not interested in what the Americans say, and I’m not scared of them".

Among his friends and politicians, he is known as an avid reader, and it is hard for him to discuss anything without quoting lines from various writers and intellectuals, like Amin Maalouf, José Saramago and Samir Amin.

Jadue has been mayor of Recoleta since 2012 and has led successful initiatives to make life affordable for the residents there [AFP via Getty Images]

Palestine – at the top of his agenda

If he becomes president of Chile, Palestine will have a prominent place in his agenda. He is adamant that Chile would have no part in "paying off the Israeli Occupation’s bills", and would not support the Occupation in any way - particularly the settlements.

Regarding the current Palestinian leadership he has a message: "Focus on rebuilding the PLO, and invest in a genuine national liberation project. These are your two priorities today".

How he became a candidate for the Chilean presidency

Jadue's educational background is in architectural engineering and social science, and this combination may be the secret to his phenomenal success in running the municipality of Recoleta. After two failed attempts in the city's mayoral elections, he persevered and was elected in 2012.

He resolved to deal with local and longstanding issues, the most urgent of which was the high price of medicine. He arranged for the municipality to buy medicines (benefitting from tax-exemption laws for municipalities) and resell them to the public at a cost price. 130 municipalities across Chile soon followed his example, leading to the establishment of a union of 'People's Pharmacies' in 2018.

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He has gone on to do the same with books that were previously unaffordable to most due to high taxes. His friends, familiar with his dogged persistence say: "He won’t ever get really far in politics as long as he remains in the Communist Party". However, they say, he will always be faithful to his ideals and where he's from, and he is determined to achieve as much as he can even though the path he's chosen is a difficult one: that of the Communist party and not one of the populist or capitalist parties.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.

Article translated by Rose Chacko