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CHILE
Bachelet´s second chance
Latinamerica Press
3/17/2014
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Educational and tax reforms, in addition to a new constitution, are the backbones of the new government.

“Chile has one great adversary, and it is called inequality, and only together we can face it, let´s start now, time is limited and we will make the most of it,” said President Michelle Bachelet in a short speech from the Palace of La Moneda in Santiago, after swearing in on March 11 to a second term for the next four years.

Bachelet, who was president between 2006 and 2010, received the presidential sash from Isabel Allende — daughter of ousted president Salvador Allende (1970-1973) and the first female president of the Senate in the history of the country — after outgoing President Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014) handed it to her.

As a candidate of the center-left New Majority coalition — which includes the Concert of Parties (Christian Democratic, For Democracy, Radical Social Democratic and Socialist) that ruled Chile between 1990 and 2010, and the Communist Party, Citizen Left and Broad Social Movement —, Bachelet won the runoff election held on Dec. 15 with 62.2 percent of the votes against the right-wing Evelyn Mattei, of the Alliance coalition, composed of the National Renovation and Independent Democratic Union party, which obtained 37.8 percent.

The great challenge for Bachelet will be to implement an educational reform that ensures free, quality public education and puts an end to the for-profit education system. During the first months of her first term, Bachelet faced protests from secondary school students calling for the repeal of the Organic Constitutional Law on Education, the end of municipal control over schools, free college admission examinations and free school transportation, among other demands.

“I know firsthand what public education can offer someone,” Bachelet said. “I am a daughter of public education and my commitment is that in Chile everyone may have those same opportunities.”

The president has also pledged to carry out tax reforms to increase corporate taxes by 5 percent, exercise greater fiscal control and implement measures against tax evasion.

However, the main goal is the adoption of a new constitution to replace the constitution inherited from the military dictatorship (1973-1990), one which guarantees rights and incorporates mechanisms for direct or indirect democracy, includes a new electoral system and the restoration of majority rule to modify laws, among other aspects. However, this amendment requires the approval of three-fifths of the legislature (72 representatives and 23 senators), which will force Bachelet to negotiate with lawmakers of the opposite aisle.
 
Former student leaders in Congress
Four former student leaders between 25 and 28 years old who led the student protests in 2011 took their seats as representatives. They are Camila Vallejo and Karol Cariola, both members of the Communist Party which is part of the ruling coalition, Giorgio Jackson, from Democratic Revolution, and Gabriel Boric, of the Independent Left.

“We have taken on responsibly what we´ve demanded from the streets, we believe one needs to take charge of the changes that Chile needs, therefore today we are taking part of this new process,” Vallejo said after swearing in. “In this new stage we have to meet the people´s mandate, which is to change education, tax reform and a new constitution.”

Boric, meanwhile, told the news bulletin The Clinic that he also wants to eliminate for-profit healthcare.

“The left is today focused on granting universal social rights, in open dispute with the State´s concept of subsidies,” he said. “I cannot conceive that fundamental rights, such as health and education, are made a business, and even less that this is done using public resources. Primary care operates under the same logic of secondary education: the subsidy. That causes the lack of guaranteed health care for all people and we all know that obtaining treatment in private practice is tantamount to long waiting times and lack of specialists. That is why this subsidy system has been a disaster, because it ended funneling [public] resources into private institutions.”  —
Latinamerica Press.


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Big challenges await President Michelle Bachelet in her second term. (Photo: Gobierno de Chile)
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