SANTIAGO — President Piñera spoke to the country last night (Oct. 22) in order to address the recent protests. He said that he has heard the cries of the people. He presented a number of proposals to resolve the dispute.
President Piñera addressed the nation last night following a week of increasingly vigorous protests, violence, destruction, and looting. He offered a number of proposals with the aim of satisfying the public and preventing further social unrest.
Piñera began the speech by assuring the public that the government has “heard, loud and clear, the voice of the people.” He then acknowledged that not all the protests have been violent and that the majority of protesters are peacefully expressing their discontent with the government.
Thanking the police and the military, Piñera recognized the “valuable and demanding work” they have undertaken over the last few days.
The president emphasized the government’s intention to once again establish normality in Chile, saying, “We are working hard to improve public transportation, access to food, health, pharmacies, gasoline, schools and other services of vital importance to citizens.”
Addressing Public Demands
He announced that the Santiago Metro Lines 3 and 6 will open on Oct. 23 to work alongside Line 1 which reopened on Oct. 21. However, some stations along these lines will remain closed, including Baquedano, Universidad de Chile, and Santa Lucía.
Piñera also addressed the requests to end the curfew which has been implemented in many of Chile’s largest cities. He denied that the curfew will be lifted early and said. “It is my duty to lift the State of Emergency when I have assurances that public order, citizen security, and both public and private property are properly protected.”
Upon reaching the subject of the public’s demands, the president once again stressed, “We have received with humility and clarity the message that Chileans have given us.”
All Government Proposals
President Piñera then laid out the government’s 10-point proposal, which he hoped would placate the violent protests. The proposed measures address topics such as the pension system, health system, minimum wage, electricity rates, taxes, and equity between communes:
- Immediate increase of 20% of the Basic Solidarity Pension, which he said will benefit 590,000 pensioners.
- Immediate increase of 20% in the Solidarity Pension Contribution, which he said will benefit 945,000 pensioners.
- Additional increase in basic pensions and solidarity pension contributions, during the years 2021 and 2022, for pensioners over age 75.
- Contributions of fiscal resources to complement the pension savings of the middle class and women who work and contribute, to increase their pensions at the time of retirement, which he said will benefit 500,000 workers.
- Contributions of fiscal resources to improve pensions for non-senior citizens.
(B) Health and Medicines
- Urgency for immediate discussion of the bill the administration sent to Congress that creates catastrophic diseases insurance, in order to ensure a ceiling for family health spending; the expense that exceeds that ceiling will be covered by the Insurance.
- Creation of insurance that partially covers consumers’ medical expenses, not covered by programs such as the GES or the Ricarte Soto Law.
- Extension of the Fonasa agreement with pharmacies to reduce the price of medicines, which he said will benefit more than 12 million people.
(C) Creation of a guaranteed minimum wage of CLP$350,000 (USD$482), for all full-time workers that complements the salary of full-time workers, when it is less than CLP$350,000; this benefit will be applied proportionally to those under 15 and over 65.
(D) Creation of a mechanism for stabilizing electricity rates, which will allow the recent 9.2% increase in electricity to be canceled, returning the value of electricity rates to the level of the first half of this year.
(E) Higher taxes for higher income sectors through the creation of a new tranche in the Supplementary Global Tax of 40% for incomes exceeding CLP$8 million per month (USD$11,021), which he said will increase tax collection by USD$160 billion.
(F) Creation of the Ombudsman’s Office, in order to facilitate access and strengthen the legal defense and social and psychological support to victims of crime.
(G) Greater equity between high and low income communes by strengthening the Municipal Common Fund, establishing greater contributions from the higher income communes, for the benefit of lower income communes; which he said will allow greater equity in the provision of municipal services such as security, lighting, infrastructure, parks, sports, recreation, and others.
(H) Reduction of the wages of parliamentarians and high salaries of public administration and reduction in the number of parliamentarians and limitations on re-elections.
(I) A request to speed up the processing and approval of the following bills:
- The Pro-Childhood bill, which ends “the sadly famous Sename” and replaces it with two new public services: the Child and Adolescent Protection Service and the Youth Reintegration Service.
- The bill that creates the catastrophic health insurance (above).
- The bill that creates the right to universal preschool for all children of working mothers and fathers, when appropriate.
- The bill that reduces the contributions of the most vulnerable older adults.
(J) A reconstruction plan for damages and destruction caused by violence and crime that have occurred in recent days.
President Piñera concluded his speech by offering a message of hope to the citizens, emphasizing that Chile will move past these incidents, “transforming this crisis into a new opportunity and hope for all Chileans.”
President of the Senate Jaime Quintana responded on Twitter to the President’s speech. He called it “a breakthrough” however he commented that it “does not touch on substantial aspects” of what needs to be accomplished.
Valoro el perdón del Pdte. Recogió gran parte de nuestras propuestas. Hay que esperar su presentación para analizarlas detenidamente. Sin duda es un avance. No toca aspectos sustantivos del modelo, pero después de tanto silencio se comienza a dar señales de que el gob aún existe.
— Jaime Quintana (@senadorquintana) October 23, 2019
Similarly, Head of the Christian Democratic Party of Chile, Fuad Chahín called the president’s proposals “measures [i]n the right direction but insufficient.”
Medidas n el sentido correcto pero insuficientes. No tienen profundidad para hablar de un #PactoSocial. Necesitamos medidas estructurales al sistema d pensiones y un impuesto a la concentración económica, a los grandes grupos económicos. Un primer paso, pero hay q avanzar más.
— fuad chahin (@fchahin) October 23, 2019
Parliamentarian and Chilean Communist Party politician Camila Vallejo was not persuaded by Piñera’s proposals. Speaking to Cooperativa, she criticized the president’s response to the social unrest: “The President is acting as if nothing is happening; he does not take charge of the deaths or assume political responsibilities regarding the violence that has been unleashed in the streets as a result of his bad decisions.”
Vallejo also criticized the presence of the military on the streets and called for Piñera to take responsibility for “what is happening in his country, under his mandate, concerning human rights violations.”
Thus far, the public’s response has been tepid. Many are still angry at the government and the protesters have not been appeased by the speech.
Ana Truesdale is a British student, studying Liberal Arts at Durham Univeristy, who is currently interning at Chile Today on her year abroad. She has a strong interest in Latin American culture and journalism and wishes to experience all that Chile has to offer.