Chilean President Michelle Bachelet address the country’s congress in Valparaiso Thursday to present the annual state of the union address, including the future plans for her government.
“Chile is undergoing one of the biggest transformations of its history,” Bachelet started. The president began by addressing details of the new law for inclusion in education, including drawing on her previous promises to better coverage for kindergartens, quality, free education for all, and the creation of two public universities.
Protesters, who have been pushing for Bachelet to make good on social movement demands around education, labor and constitutional reform, took to the streets outside the Congress in Valparaiso as well as in Santiago. Several arrests were reported.
On the burning topic of pensions, Bachelet announced the state would now contribute 5 percent in health contributions for people over 65 and ease access to the Basic Solidarity Pension fund.
Looking back on projects approved, Bachelet highlighted the end of the binomial electoral system as one of the most important achievements of her government and reaffirmed her project for a new constitution. Starting in 2017, Chileans abroad will be able to vote as part of the electoral reform package. The Chilean leader said “severe sanctions” would be applied to those who do not respect the new electoral norm.
Bachelet promised a bill guaranteeing funding and more fiscal independence for Chile's regions, including multi million investments for Arica, Parinacota, and Tarapaca which were strongly hit by the earthquake, adding that 19 dams will be built by 2024.
Men and women will have access to civil unions regardless of their sexual orientation – which Bachelet has called a stepping stone to same-sex marriage, along with a Gender Identity bill is being drafted.
“The #CivilUnion doesn’t discriminate. Find out the benefits of this new agreement.”
Chile’s first female president also spoke in favor of having more women in politics, something that she hopes will be addressed through a new law requiring 40 percent of candidates for Congress elections to be women.
Bachelet promised a better access to healthcare with the construction of 71 family and community health centers and increased training quotas for doctors and specialists – up by 1,400 for 2015. The president highlighted another new law which decriminalizes therapeutic abortion, as well as the Ricarte Soto bill which guarantees state funding for patients with high cost diseases..
Bachelet also announced the creation of a Sub ministry of Human Rights, a free cultural TV channel and the celebration of Violeta Parra's 100th birthday in 2017.