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Sábado 01 junio de 2019 | Publicado a las 23:40 · Actualizado a las 14:24
Smaller Congress, TPP-11, Maduro, space, mining, transport: highlights from Piñera’s 2019 address
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This Saturday night, and for 2 hours and 4 minutes, president Sebastián Piñera addressed Congress and the nation for the second time during his new administration with a speech full of announcements and self-congratulatory remarks.

Among the most important measures, Piñera, a conservative billionaire, announced a bill to reduce the number of representatives in the House from 155 to 120; as well as the number of senators, from 43 to 40.

The initiative will also seek to limit the number of times they can run for reelection, including majors, and to modernise the way Congress works.

Regarding trade, Piñera stated that the Senate has “the responsibility” of passing the Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP-11), which has been hugely criticised by civil organisations and academics.

Nonetheless, Piñera assured it will safeguard Chile’s interests, that it will allow to open new markets -despite the fact that the country has celebrated free trade agreements with all the nations involved- and reach 500 million consumers, benefiting more that three thousand national products.

The US-China trade war was also a part of Piñera’s speech. He admitted that its effects will most likely harm the economy, but still predicted that the GDP expansion should oscillate between 3% and 3.5%.

In this way, he highlighted the fact that the country grew 4% in his first year back at La Moneda, more than the results achieved during Michelle Bachelet’s second government, who currently serves as UN Human Rights high commissioner; Latin America as a whole and even the global average.

He also reasserted his stance on the Venezuelan crisis and the controversy surrounding president Nicolás Maduro.

Piñera, an outspoken detractor and fierce opponent of Maduro’s regime, said that his dictatorship “needs to end with free, transparent and democratic elections”.

The Government invited Juan Guaidó’s diplomatic representative in Chile, Guarequena Gutiérrez, who sat next to one of Mr Piñera’s daughters, Cecilia.

But Venezuela’s ambassador to Chile, Arévalo Méndez, was also in attendance. His invitation gained Piñera and his administration a number of critics ahead of today’s speech.

Guarequena Gutiérrez. Sebastián Beltrán Gaete  | Agencia UNO
Guarequena Gutiérrez. Sebastián Beltrán Gaete | Agencia UNO

The President also announced that Chile’s Fasat-Charlie satellite is going to be replaced with a new unit that will work alongside other stations. It will serve the Armed Forces, the State and the public, Piñera said.

Back on Earth, Piñera promised a National Lithium Policy, a crucial element in the manufacture of batteries and other technological devices.

Even though Chile has the largest reserve on the planet, it is not the world’s top producer and many fear it will lose the lead while Argentina and Australia work to become the essential suppliers.

Perhaps the last major announcement in his long speech regarded transport.

In the following years, Santiago is set to see how its metro system doubles in length from 150 kilometers to 300 with the addition of four new lines (7, 8, 9 and 10) and the extension of four others.

Notwithstanding, Piñera may have jumped the gun on this one as his secretary of Transport, Gloria Hutt, has for months evaded giving any sort of confirmation regarding Line 10.

Outside the capital, the Valparaíso region will also enjoy the extension of its metro system (Merval) from Limache to La Calera.

High-speed trains will also become an option in this region, uniting Santiago and the ports of Valparaíso and San Antonio.

In the south, Concepción, Chile’s second biggest city, should soon see the expansion of its train network (Biotren) to Lota and Penco. Studies for a metro system were also announced by the Head of State.

Other announcements regarded the implementation of 5G and the extension of Carretera Austral to link the Aysén and Magallanes regions, in the far south, to the rest of the country through Chilean soil.

For decades, journeys bound north have taken travellers to Argentina, even to this day.

The Government will also encourage, through two separate bills, the creation of the ministries of Housing and Territory as well as that of Agriculture and Food.

The first will result from the combination of the ministries of Housing and National Assets.

The second needs to be created from scratch, but it will include the Undersecretariat for Fisheries and Aquaculture, currently a part of the Ministry of Economy.

Besides, the President affirmed he is going to send a bill to modernise the Penal and Criminal Procedure codes.

“We will not allow that dangerous felons walk freely on our streets or get out of jail before the victims leave hospital”, Piñera said.

Finally, the President called for a national agreement headed by the Home secretary to “improve and strengthen” public institutions and politics.

Piñera lamented the scandals that have shaken lately, for example, the Justice system, with judges under investigation for an array of crimes; the Public Prosecutor’s Office, with attorneys filing lawsuits against other colleagues; and the Uniformed Armed Police, with over 100 former members facing jail sentences due to a multimillion-dollar embezzlement; just to name a few cases.

Originally, the President’s speech was delivered on 1 June, but that changed in 1926 when it was moved to 21 May, the same day the Battle of Iquique is commemorated. In 2017, through a constitutional reform, it was rescheduled to its initial date.

Tonight’s speech also made history for being the first ever to be delivered and broadcast at night so as to reach “more people”, La Moneda affirmed when they proposed the change.

Piñera is going through a tough time in terms of popularity, so the need to re-enchant the public is crucial to secure a new right-wing administration, race that already started in Chile Vamos, his coalition.

But his approval ratings have dropped for nine consecutive weeks. According to Cadem, only 33% of Chileans value his work.

Disapproval numbers, on the other hand, reached 52% this Monday, 2% less than last week’s results, an all-time high.

Leonardo Rubilar Chandía | Agencia UNO
Leonardo Rubilar Chandía | Agencia UNO
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