Coronavirus in Chile

“Food for Chile” Raises Questions Among Chilean Mayors

SANTIAGO – The “Food for Chile” campaign, which seeks to distribute over two million food boxes to the most vulnerable families in Chile, started this week. Although thousands of families have benefited from the aid, local authorities say they feel misled. Among other complaints, they state that the national government should have paid for the campaign and not the municipalities.

The “Food for Chile” campaign, meant to alleviate hunger vulnerable families in Chile are suffering due to the Covid-19 crisis, should be revisited, Chilean mayors suggest. According to the local authorities, there are several things wrong with the program.

One of the main complaints from the mayors is that all municipalities that are currently not under quarantine measures are expected to pay themselves for the food boxes. The original understanding was that the national government would finance the campaign. In several regions, municipalities now claim they do not have sufficient funds to cover the campaign. Families in those regions, however, nevertheless suffer from the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak in Chile and expect help.

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Mayors in the Metropolitan region, currently the epicenter of the outbreak and on lockdown, say they received less food boxes than promised. Renca, one of the poorest parts of the Chilean capital, complains it lacks 4,000 food boxes. Other mayors in the region decry delays in distribution. In Lo Prado, only 3,500 food boxes of a promised total of 27,000 have been distributed so far. According to the local authorities it could take up to 40 days before all residents of the district receive their aid.

So far, over 126,000 food boxes – or 5 percent of the total promised by President Sebastián Piñera – have been delivered nationwide, according to yesterday’s government report. At the current rate, the distribution of the “Food for Chile” food boxes won’t be complete until the end of August. Thus far, the vast majority of the boxes, over 95,000, have been distributed in the Metropolitan region.

A third complaint that is currently being investigated by the Public Prosecutor’s Office is the clandestine sale of food boxes. In several lower income parts of Chile, people have complained that some have been able to pay distributors to get their food boxes before others. Minister of the Presidency Felipe Ward said he would launch an investigation: “It is not acceptable that when efforts are made to reach the most needy with concrete, practical, urgent help, there are people who profit … This really has no name, we condemn it in the extreme, and we are going to pursue those responsible.”

As a solution, local authorities have suggested changing the food boxes into food coupons, which residents can use to buy food at local providers. The local economy would benefit and the coupons could be delivered more quickly than the food boxes. Currently, the national government buys the ingredients for the food boxes at two national providers.

In the meantime, in the lower income parts of Chile, protests continue. On Wednesday night, police stopped approximately 150 protesters in Puente Alto from looting a supermarket. In El Bosque, San Ramón and La Pintana, burning barricades were put up and in Melipilla protesters clashed with riot police.

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