Coronavirus in Chile POLITICS

Piñera Vetoes Bill That Prohibits Cut of Basic Services During Pandemic

SANTIAGO – President Sebastián Piñera used a presidential veto on Thursday, July 9, to suspend a bill that would prohibit companies from cutting basic services during the pandemic. The bill must now be modified. According to the government, the veto “will not have any impact on the benefits that were agreed upon for the people.”

As announced earlier this week, President Sebastián Piñera vetoed a law that would prohibit companies from cutting essential services like water, gas, and electricity during the pandemic if clients can’t afford to pay bills. According to Alfredo Moreno, Minister of Public Works, the current bill is not drafted according to the rule of law and amendments should be made.

One reason Piñera vetoed the bill was a provision for free internet access to children belonging to the poorest 60 percent of Chile. Another provision that was rejected was one that provided that families that use more than 15 cubic meters of water cannot delay payment of bills.

Claudio Alvarado, the Cabinet’s Minister, said that although the government vetoes the law, none of the benefits in the bill will be affected. “What we are studying are amendments that do not affect the benefits that the law establishes for people, but rather make sufficient and necessary adjustments and accommodations to improve it, so that these benefits are in accordance with current legislation,” Alvarado said in an interview with Radio Universo.

Critics from both sides of the aisle

The opposition has criticized the veto, referring to the blow the government suffered in the lower house of Congress earlier this week, when a bill allowing the withdrawal of 10 percent of pension funds was approved. Party for Democracy lower house member Raul Soto said that Piñera has not learned his lesson and that the bill “is very necessary, as it is one that prohibits the cutting of basic services, which would bring economic relief.”

Earlier, the leader of the Christian Democrats in the lower house, Gabriel Silber, threatened to freeze all relations with the government if Piñera used his veto. “It is a real slap in the face for the most vulnerable sectors in times of pandemic,” Silber said.

Emblematic of the division within the current government coalition Chile Vamos, Miguel Mellado, of Renovación Nacional, said he regrets that the veto is targeting free internet access for the poorer Chilean children. “The most important part of the bill is to democratize telecommunications and allow students from the poorest 60 percent of the Chilean families to have free access to the Internet,” Mellado said.

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