[Marxism] Chile returns Bachelet to office

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 16 05:02:23 MST 2013

NY Times December 15, 2013
Chilean Voters Return a Former President to Power

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chilean voters handed a landslide victory to Michelle 
Bachelet on Sunday, returning her to the presidency amid continuing 
unease over high levels of inequality in Chile despite an enviable 
stretch of rapid economic growth.

Ms. Bachelet received about 62 percent of the vote, compared with 38 
percent for her opponent, Evelyn Matthei, according to preliminary 
results from the Chilean electoral service. Ms. Matthei conceded defeat.

Ms. Bachelet, who was widely admired as president from 2006 to 2010, 
when her policies helped shield Chile from a sharp downturn during the 
global financial crisis, has put forth an ambitious package of proposals 
that would, among other things, increase corporate taxes, expand access 
to higher education and overhaul the 1980 Constitution, which dates to 
the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Her platform contrasted sharply with the anti-tax views of Ms. Matthei, 
a former labor minister who belongs to the most conservative wing of the 
governing coalition of President Sebastián Piñera, a right-wing 
billionaire. Ghosts of the Pinochet era hung over this year’s race; 
unlike Mr. Piñera himself, Ms. Matthei voted in favor of General 
Pinochet in the 1988 plebiscite that opened the way for democracy to be 
re-established in Chile.

After Ms. Bachelet narrowly missed earning an outright victory in a 
first election round in November, some voters predicted a shake-up to 
the political establishment in Chile, one of Latin America’s most 
socially conservative countries. It stands out in the region for 
maintaining a total ban on abortion and resisting efforts to legalize 
same-sex marriage, as the authorities have done in Brazil, Argentina and 

“What I’m most interested in is to have a constituent assembly to change 
the Constitution, and political integrity, ethics in politics,” said 
Pablo González, 34, a psychologist.

If Ms. Bachelet, a 62-year-old pediatrician, is able to advance her 
proposals, Chile, one of the region’s first countries to aggressively 
expose its economy to market forces in the 1970s and 1980s, may once 
again be seen as a laboratory for policy experimentation in Latin America.

“There are concerns that the country’s enormous progress in recent 
decades will be undone,” said Michael Shifter, president of the 
Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington policy group. “But it is far more 
likely that Chile will remain pretty much on its present course, with 
continued growth joined with more serious efforts at improving health 
and education and pursuing greater social justice.”

For now at least, commodities exports are delivering robust economic 
growth. The economy, while slowing somewhat from last year, is forecast 
to expand more than 4 percent in 2013. But many Chileans complain that 
most of the riches from the boom are still controlled by a relatively 
small elite.

Chile has the highest level of income inequality among the Organization 
for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 34 member countries. That 
explains, at least in part, why Mr. Piñera’s approval ratings remain 
lower than 40 percent and Ms. Matthei’s pledges to continue with many of 
his policies have failed to resonate with voters.

Disappointment with Mr. Piñera’s administration, Chile’s first 
right-wing government since the country’s transition to democracy in the 
1990s, led to waves of student protests and the recent election of some 
leaders of social movements to Congress.

Ms. Bachelet has promised to draft legislation within her first 100 days 
in office aiming to increase tax revenues by about 3 percent of gross 
domestic product. Ms. Matthei, 60, and other conservative leaders 
contend that such a move could scare off investment, but such warnings 
have been mocked as insensitive to the needs of struggling voters.

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