No Antiestablishmentarianism Here, Please, We’re Chileans

  • Christian Democrats seeking presidency with party leader Goic
  • Senator backs role of party politics after series of scandals

At a time when outsiders are all the rage, presidential hopeful Carolina Goic is at the heart of Chile’s political establishment and proud of it.

As a senator and the head of the Christian Democratic party for the past year, she talks in terms of “we, the party think’’ and “us in the DC believe.’’ Her candidacy had a “collective motivation as a party.’’

Carolina Goic

Photographer: Cristobal Palma/Bloomberg

But Goic’s rival to lead the ruling coalition into November’s election is former TV pundit and self-styled outsider Alejandro Guillier. Linked to, but not a member of, the tiny Radical Party, Guillier has none of Goic’s party baggage in a country where a series of scandals has left voters cynical of politicians. Rejecting party politics isn’t the way to reengage voters, Goic warned.

“I don’t like it when someone dismisses politics,’’ Goic said in an interview Friday in Santiago. “We have to demonstrate that through politics we can do things well. That is the way to restore confidence.’’

It won’t be easy. The scandals of the past three years revealed big business was illegally financing every single major party in Chile apart from the Communists, while evading taxes.

Won’t Commit

The scandals and three years of sluggish economic growth pushed the government’s disapproval rating to 78 percent in February. As a party stalwart, Goic says there is another reason. 

“It is in good part due to our own disorder, because we aren’t seen to be working all together with commitment,” she said.

It is a comment that makes her refusal to commit to a primary for the ruling coalition difficult to understand. She talks of the need for a “programmatic framework,’’ “political accords’’ and “congressional support’’ before committing. What that means in practice is hard to decipher.

Guillier warns that her refusal to participate would be the beginning of the end for the coalition that has governed Chile for 22 of the past 26 years.

The latest GfK Adimark opinion poll shows Goic was backed by 1 percent of the population in February, before announcing her candidacy.

‘No Excuse’

If Goic is concerned that Guillier is too radical, she needn’t be. At times during the interview, she sounded the more radical. She stressed the need to reform Chile’s private health-care system, saying there was “no excuse’’ not to tackle its inequalities.

Guillier, a former spokesman for the private health-care companies, never mentioned it.

Asked if she backed the government’s push to ensure free higher education for all at the better universities, Goic highlighted the need to expand the system to technical colleges to provide more opportunities for the poor. Guillier stressed the need to design courses that would prepare students for the country’s economic future.

On pension reforms currently under debate, Goic said the extra funds the government plans to levy from companies mustn’t go to the privately-managed pension funds that dominate the system. That is a view contested by Finance Minister Rodrigo Valdes, who says it is too early in the debate to say.

Still, with many in the business community blaming President Michelle Bachelet’s decision to raise taxes and empower labor unions for the slowest three years of growth since the early 1980s, Goic said future policies must be better designed and implemented more slowing. The government may have “sinned by being over enthusiastic,” she said.

-- This article is part of a series of interviews with Chile’s presidential hopefuls. For more on the other candidates, see the stories below:-

Chile Presidential Hopeful Looks to Old Trick to Revive Growth
Insulza Says He Is the Man to Restore Chilean Business Sentiment
Kast’s Radical Plan to Transform Chile; Overhauling the Overhaul
Chilean Candidate Ossandon Backs Free Markets With an Iron Fist
Chile’s Moderate Radical Who Wants to Dismantle Neoliberalism
Former TV Pundit Looking to Lead Chile Says Forget the Populism

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