Tuesday, 25 August 2009
In a presidential race that is already testing the limits of campaign negativity, two of the leading candidates have found something new to criticize: SebastiÃ¡n PiÃ±eraâ€™s open â€œbribeâ€ to the Chilean public, a promise to give CH$40,000 (US$75) to each of Chileâ€™s low-income families if he wins the upcoming election.
PiÃ±era, the presidential candidate for the conservative Coalition for Change, said this weekend he plans to distribute the bonuses in March, should he win. He noted that President Michelle Bachelet gave two bonuses of similar amounts earlier this year. He defended the bonus as something the public â€œlongsâ€ for and quickly denounced anyone who labeled his proposal as â€œpopulism.â€
Sen. Eduardo Frei, presidential candidate for the governing, center-left ConcertaciÃ³n coalition, was quick to label the proposal as a bribe. â€œIt seems to me that going around offering a bonus for next March threatens the dignity of all Chileans,â€ he said. â€œThe time in which you could buy votes in Chile was over a long time ago, and we donâ€™t want to go back.â€
Independent candidate Dep. Marco Enriquez-Ominami seemed more willing to give PiÃ±era the benefit of the doubt.
â€œThe line between a candidateâ€™s economic proposal and a bribe that is used to seduce the people, is very thin,â€ Enriquez-Ominami said. â€œI want to believe that he made his proposal as a statesman, not as a demagogue.â€
Interestingly, another critic was the candidateâ€™s brother, former Chilean Labor Minister JosÃ© PiÃ±era, who expressed his unhappiness with the bonus proposal on his Twitter page.
â€œDoesnâ€™t anyone dare to say that it is populism to offer bonuses of $40,000 pesos whether you do it from one side or the other?â€ he wrote. â€œIs everyone blind?â€
In a recent interview, candidate PiÃ±era said that his campaign spent roughly CH$10 million over the past 10 days in his push for the race. Most all national polls have him leading in the presidential race, although none have him polling over 50 percent of the vote in the first round of voting.
PiÃ±era, who owns the local ChilevisiÃ³n television station and has sizable stakes in Lan Airlines and the Colo Colo soccer team, is among the wealthiest people in Chile with an estimated net worth of over US$1 billion. Forbes ranks him as the 701st wealthiest person in the world.
PiÃ±era recently said that he plans to sell his stake in Lan before the March 2010 presidential inauguration and is looking into either selling ChilevisiÃ³n or setting up a blind trust for his wealth.
SOURCES: LA TERCERA, EL MERCURIO, FORBES
By Daniel Zarchy ( email@example.com )