Thursday, November 7, 2013

Presidential Frontrunners Support New Military Funding

Former president Michelle Bachelet, expected to win the Nov. 17 presidential election, has promised to push forward reforms of the military budget that have become stuck in Chile's Congress. Current President Sebastian PiƱera won only partial legislative approval for the plan, which eliminates the 10% tax on the state-owned Codelco mining company -- a tax that has financed billion of dollars in weapons purchases -- and replaces it with general funds. Bachelet also wants Congress to be notified of the military's spending and acquisition programs, although her plan doesn't specifically give Congress power to override those. She also is not happy about the surplus accumulated from the mining funds. Her closest rival, conservative Evelyn Mattei, also is urging the end of the "copper law" and supports a new financing mechanism. Both candidates also want to continue peacekeeping operations, and to improve military careers. Both also want to give the chairman of the joint chiefs more power in handling crises. Despite the similarities in platforms, Mattei is viewed as more friendly to the armed forces, while Bachelet has been sounding more liberal than she was during her first presidency. Oddly, both women have known each other since childhood, when their fathers were Air Force officers. But they were on opposite sides of the 1973 military coup. Mattei's father eventually became part of the ruling junta, while Bachelet's opposed the coup and died in captivity.

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