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Chileans Reject President Bachelet but Her Populist Reforms Will Live On

By: Guest Contributor - Aug 29, 2016, 8:48 am
(Los Tiempos) Chile
President Michelle Bachelet’s approval rates are at historic lows. (Los Tiempos)

By Andrea Kohen

EspañolRecent surveys in Chile are revealing an interesting phenomenon. The “popular” Michelle Bachelet administration, the one that called itself the voice of the people and bragged about its progressive reforms, has suffered a painful setback.

President Bachelet’s approval rating has sunk to just 15 percent, similar to controversial presidents like Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, who has turned his country into an absolute dictatorial misery.

Bachelet has been determined to implement reforms promoted by certain progressive interest groups. The idea behind her reforms is that the rich have too much, so the government needs to put a limit on that wealth to equalize Chileans’ living conditions through tax reforms. With this, the government can offer free college education to more people, among other initiatives.

President Bachelet has repeatedly defended her long-term plans for these reforms, expanding Chile’s bureaucracy in the process and undermining the economic model that allowed the country’s economy to take off.

Her populist speech hit the people with full force. Corruption scandals forced the opposition to remain silent, so the New Majority (ruling coalition) had the opportunity to get tons of firewood from the fallen tree.

Later on, the CAVAL case broke, revealing that Bachelet’s son was involved in influence peddling. This also led to other investigations that exposed a network of corruption and unlawful financing of political parties of the center and the left. Chileans began to acknowledge their political leaders were being anything but transparent.

It should be no surprise that Bachelet’s popularity has taken a hit, and yet I predict the center-left will lead Chile again thanks to the populism rooted in the country’s politics. The people reject Bachelet’s reforms in response to the poor outcomes of her policies, but continue to demand changes counter to economic growth.

Such is the case of the movement “NO + AFP,” which rejects the current pension system. It rejects the system because pensions are low and it has not changed the variables of life expectancy, contribution rate or profitability with which the system was created.

Modifications made during certain governments have hampered the contributor, but the pension fund administrators have still done an impeccable job creating wealth through investment and compound interest.

Chileans have taken their prosperity for granted. Some people assert that the model has failed, that capitalism is the apocalypse if it does not produce material equality, and that this inequality is precisely what invalidates the model. That speech is tucked deep in people’s minds, and that is why they protest for causes that are fatal for freedom.

Polls show a loss with respect to this administration, but the country seems to be returning to the socialist political experiment where resources are distributed to generate equality, regardless of whether the formula is viable or not.

People could not care less about risking the wealth of the country, and blame anyone but themselves for what they do not like.