(CNN Spanish) – The name of Rodrigo Rojas Vade, 37, began to become known in the Chilean riots of October 2019. His shaved head, without eyebrows, the chemotherapy catheter exposed in his naked torso and the posters calling for “A dignified health for Chile ”during the confrontations with the police, they were giving notoriety to his speech at the height of the political and social crisis in the country, where thousands of people packed the Plaza Italia in Santiago to demand the government of Sebastián Piñera an end to inequality.
That was the beginning. Then came the photographs on social networks from a hospital, interviews and even a blog called Cancer without a filter – now closed – where he addressed his fight against acute lymphocytic leukemia and the debts left by the treatments. His image rose rapidly and on May 16, 2021, he was elected as one of the 155 members of the Constitutional Convention, the body in charge of drafting the new Magna Carta for Chile. However, the alleged cancer of Rojas, who was later elected as one of the seven vice-presidents of the Convention, was never such.
The situation came to light after an extensive investigation by the newspaper La Tercera, published on Saturday, September 5, in which “Pelao Vade,” as he is also known, admitted that he never had cancer. “I feel like I have to retire. I have nothing else to do in the Convention, “he said. Later, through a video on his Instagram account, he said: “I made a mistake, a terrible mistake, I was not honest with you or with my family, or with anyone. I lied about my diagnosis, I don’t have cancer, I have a diagnosis that I still have a hard time recognizing. I hid it so as not to face social stigma, “he said without giving details of what disease it was.
Rodrigo Rojas Vade’s explanation
In the statements that the Santiago newspaper includes in its 3,500-word investigation, Rojas gives more explanations: “When I was 29 years old, I was notified that I suffered from a discriminated disease in this country, at that moment the world fell over me, I thought my loved ones were going to reject me, I felt a lot of shame and pain for the damage that news that at that time was very frowned upon could bring them. Since my immaturity and difficult life I have had, I was not able to face this honestly and tell the truth of my diagnosis, saying that my disease was cancer and not the disease that I really have to this day. Today I want to be honest, transparent and take responsibility for the consequences ”.
Asked why he said he had cancer, Rojas explained that this disease “is the one that most closely resembles in terms of expenses, how it behaves” to the one he says he suffers. He also assured that he has been a hospital patient and that “perhaps he will continue to be.”
CNN has tried repeatedly to contact Rojas to expand on his story, but has not received a response so far.
The scandal had an echo in various sectors of the southern country, from accusations of electoral fraud to voters who declared empathy with its history and the reaction of cancer patients and their families. “Pelao Vade’s lie has no justification. Cancer has no political colors, it does not care which family you come from. It hurts, it hurts, it kills, it puts you in debt ”, they pointed out from the Valientes Corporation of women with cancer.
Since the beginning of the social upheaval, Rojas Vade had told the same story, but with nuances: a former operator of the Latam airline who was hospitalized in Chile, but who began to travel to Spain with discounted tickets for his work to undergo treatment in study for your type of cancer. “What I always tell my doctor about the clinical trial is that I think the treatment worked,” Rojas told La Tercera in the last public interview he gave.
After the victory of the “Approve” in the plebiscite of October 2020 – where Chileans were asked if they wanted a new Constitution – Rojas began his political work and was one of the founders of La Lista del Pueblo, the group of independents of the left that stormed the constituent elections in May 2021 with broad citizen support. But the conflict did not end there: at the time of making his declaration of interests and assets, Rojas claimed to have a debt with a bank equivalent to about US $ 35,000 “for financing chemotherapeutic treatment against cancer.”
So far their situation remains on swampy ground. The Constitutional Convention has not yet defined a regulation or protocol to follow in these cases. Although Rojas Vade has already submitted his resignation from the position of vice president, his departure from that position has not been made official and he continues to be a constituent. In the Pereira Palace in Santiago, headquarters of the body, there is no clarity of what will happen until the Ethics Commission itself concludes and approves the draft on which they have been working in recent days.
The Convention has until July 2022 to present its proposal for a new Constitution and submit it to a new plebiscite. Meanwhile, the president of the organization, Elisa Loncón, said that they hope to resolve Rojas’ situation as soon as possible.