Chile is in the grips of a corruption scandal


Chile is known as one of the least corrupt countries in Latin America, according to Transparency International. However, due to recent events, it seems that the country is due a change of position. Chile is in the midst of a wave of corruption that has hit both the government and the main political opposition.

Reports emerged in February of last year that the son and daughter of President Michelle Bachelet had profited millions from the sale of purchase of land. The president’s son is being investigated for real estate speculation and using undue influence for private gain.

Bachelet claimed, at the time, that the bank followed procedure, and only granted credit following satisfactory checks. But this wouldn’t be the only corruption allegation to haunt Bachelet.

In May of last year, reports put the Interior Minister at the heart of an illegal campaign donation scheme. In February of this year, the administrator of La Mondea, Chile’s presidential headquarters, resigned following complaints.

Since she was sworn into office in 2014, President Bachelet’s approval rating has fallen from 54% to below 30%, according to Adimark Consulting, in a survey conducted in February.  Unlike Brazil and Venezuela, Chileans are not launching anti-government demonstrations. Instead, indignation occurs quietly.

With the emergence of new charges, including those for opposition politicians, parties are struggling to find candidates for 2017’s presidential election.

One company in particular may lie at the centre of the scandal. Sociedad Química Minera de Chile or SQM, a producer of fertiliser, is accused of transferring large sums of money to politicians.

The corruption is all-pervasive, involving eight of Chile’s major political parties. Since allegations were raised last year, 21 people have been charged and dozens more are being investigated. The crisis continues.


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Pablo Mingoti in Rio de Janeiro

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