SANTIAGO – Chilean presidential candidates Sebastian Piñera and Alejandro Guillier gave every appearance of calm in their election debate on Thursday, a sharp contrast to the rows in recent days between the two men vying to succeed Michelle Bachelet.
The debate, which lasted an hour-and-a-half during which the pair posed scarcely any questions to each other, focused on the country’s economic recovery, financing education, emigration and the ongoing discussion over the private health care and pension systems.
Organized by the Association of Chilean Radio Broadcasters (Archi), the controversy sparked by recent statements by both candidates was the main topic at the outset of the debate.
Rightist Let’s Go Chile candidate and former president Piñera had to respond regarding his complaint about fraudulent votes in the first election round on Nov. 19, saying that he never intended to place the balloting result or the electoral system’s operation in doubt and complaining about the government’s “ill-intentioned” reaction.
Although the center-leftist Guillier, with the Force of the Majority party admitted he would make small adjustments in the tax reform if it might affect small and medium businesses, Piñera announced that he will change the tax reform altogether “because it’s halting investment.”
“It’s a reform made by dummies and crazies that has cost the country $24 billion,” claimed Piñera, to which Guillier responded that it had been well-executed and was valued highly by the World Bank because “the biggest taxpayers” are the 0.1 percent of the population that is the wealthiest.
When questioned about the corruption cases in which two of the former ministers in his 2010-2014 administration are involved, Piñera said that his campaign platform contains measures “to improve probity and transparency,” and he announced an increase in penalties for such crimes.
He also expressed his desire to modify the immigration law “because it’s obsolete.”
When asked about the private pension system, broadly rejected by the public, Guillier admitted that the pension fund administrators (AFP) “have been a failure” and thus the model needs to be changed to leave room for a public retirement system.
Guillier expressed his intention to push for a new Constitution and submit it to a plebiscite because the current one, he said, was conceived during the Cold War, when Chile was a dictatorship.
In the final segment of the debate, Piñera asked Chileans going to the polls on Dec. 17 to choose between one option that is “controlled by the Communist Party and the extreme left” and another that represents “putting Chile on its feet and getting going again.”
Guillier, meanwhile, censured his opponent for saying that he supports the middle class but wants to “take away their rights,” and he lobbied for a model of “greater and fairer social investment.”