Monday, May 22, 2006

Chile: Bachelet Pledges Huge Social Spending Plans

By EVA VERGARA Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

SANTIAGO, Chile — President Michelle Bachelet said Sunday that Chile will use some of the billions of dollars from its booming copper exports to advance her social agenda, creating 130,000 jobs while investing in health, housing and education.
Addressing Congress in the port city of Valparaiso, Bachelet also promised to seek "truth and justice" for the human rights violations during the 1973-90 military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, including the fate of hundreds of dissidents who remain unaccounted.
Bachelet, who took office March 11, announced a one-time $35 grant to some 1.2 million low-income Chilean families with low income.

Bachelet gave no figures on her social-spending plans but she has cash to work with; income from copper exports was $3 billion more than expected during the first quarter of the year.
Part of the additional income will be used to build two hospitals and provide modern equipment to others. The government is also building nursery schools throughout Chile and financing scholarships for poor students and housing projects.

She seems sincere. Lagos always had good words too. But $35 to each family seems a little maternalistic (and Bushy). Still, she also pledged to fix the broken pension system and increase funding for educations and neighborhood projects.

One interesting note about Chile that I did not know until recently, is that it retains ownership and control over its copper reserves. It is one move Piochet did not overturn from Allende's brief period. Still nationalization was Allende's fatal mistake... much worse than anything else a Latin leader could do.


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