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“I lied, I didn’t have leukemia.” The Dirty Rise of Pilau Fadi in Chile

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There is a story that expands the narrow-minded limits of the human spirit and enrages Chile: “I lied, I didn’t have leukemia. It was the biggest mistake of my life.” Exist shocking confession By Chilean activist Rodrigo Rojas Fadi, 37, also known as “The Pilau Fadi”. He was an anonymous protester on the front line in Baquedano Square in Santiago, and within two years he became a rising star in Chilean politics, even reaching the position of Vice-President of the Constituent Assembly, and invited to a historic date: rewriting the constitution from the Pinochet era.

When protests erupted in Chile in October 2019, Rojas Fadi was in the lead. Graffiti on his bare chest condemned the struggle to pay for chemotherapy, economic and social inequalities and injustices in Chile, and he wrote a blog titled “Cancer, an Unfiltered Reality.” He gave interviews to describe the treatments he was undergoing. He had photographed himself with patches, syringes, and catheters. He declared a debt of 27 million pesos – about 30 thousand euros – to Scotiabank, as a result of a loan specifically requested to cover medical expenses to fight cancer.

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Rodrigo Rojas Fadi

All this until last Saturday, when newspaper work for La Tercera and some inconsistencies in its stories brought down the House of Cards. Rojas Fadi apologized publicly on Instagram, saying no, he didn’t have leukemia. “I made a mistake, a huge mistake. I wasn’t honest with you, my family, or anyone. I lied about my illness,” he said in a video. He talks about an illness he was diagnosed with when he was 29, but doesn’t go into details He says he caused a strong social stigma in Chile. He says that “at that moment the world fell on me.” Speaking of his homosexuality, the shame and pain he felt, “I could not face this situation honestly and tell the truth.” And again: “Now I think about that moment and I understand I didn’t have the balls to be honest, and I’m sorry for that.”

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Elected voter for the 13th District of Lista del Pueblo (People’s List) Chilean Rodrigo Rojas, 37, poses for a photo in Santiago, on June 25, 2021 (Photo by Martin Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images)

Rojas Fadi’s illness and his political rise are inseparable. Its history has been the emblem of the economic difficulties many Chileans face to make ends meet, and to demand greater social justice and equal rights to welfare and health in Chile. The “People’s List”, a leftist but independent, which includes people without political experience, entered the forefront of the street demonstrations. His illness caused that empathy, that emotional connection with the electorate, which led to more than 19,000 Chileans voting to enter the Constituent Assembly. Now he says he wants to step down, but there is no clear mechanism by which to do so.

Thus, the political issue joins the human issue. The assembly of 155 delegates began work in July and has 12 months to write a new constitution to replace the charter imposed by Augusto Pinochet in 1980. Two-thirds is required to approve the new text. “I mean – continues El Pelao Vade – that in all of my commitment, in my fight for a better Chile and for a cause most in need, I’ve been very honest and an essential part of who I am today.” However, there are very few now besides him.

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Harold Manning

"Infuriatingly humble social media ninja. Devoted travel junkie. Student. Avid internet lover."

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