Q&A: Chilean presidential candidate Franco Parisi

Published On : Sun, Sep 1st, 2013
Center-right independent candidate on tax reform, political special interests, renewable energy and free high education.

Former economics professor and TV personality Franco Parisi will be one of a handful of candidates looking to make history in Chile’s presidential elections this November.

The first poll of this campaign may have sounded alarm bells for the governing conservative coalition, but it also opened the possibility for a candidate from outside the country’s two established political pacts — the Alianza and the Concertación — to make the second round.

Parisi, a center-right candidate with a populist bent, could well positioned to absorb votes lost from the Alianza.

Running on a platform which emphasizes redistribution of wealth, tax reform and economic regulation, Parisi has cast himself as an iconoclast in the Chilean political arena, lambasting the political class for its commitment to special interests.

Some of Parisi’s proposals include free education at the undergraduate level, improved supervision of private healthcare institutions, the increased use of alternative energy sources, income tax reform for and regulation of the copper industry.

Parisi’s headquarters is a two story house east of downtown Santiago, where he spoke to The Santiago Times wearing a leather jacket and a t-shirt.

How do you differ from other independent candidates like Marcel Claude and Marco Enríquez-Ominami (MEO) who also claim to offer something new in Chilean politics?

To say that they are independent candidates is ridiculous. They are political animals. They always have been, and people view them as such. Therefore, I think that people are too intelligent to allow for them to characterize themselves in that way, because they aren’t. They are political animals.

In terms of your social and economic policies, how do you differ from those candidates?

The thing is that we are telling the truth. We really know how to control and improve distribution of income. MEO wants to place a tax on those who possess more the US$1 million worth of stock. Two points: if a person has US$1 million in stocks, [those stocks can be] transferred to a business, so they won’t have to pay the tax. That is not understanding how distribution policies are made in Chile.

What you have to do is charge a tax for millionaires in function of estimated income, what’s called presumed income, which already exists. It is applied to taxi drivers and farmers. If I am president, we are going apply a tax on wealth according to permanent income.

The other tax MEO proposes has zero effectiveness. It shows he doesn’t know how to make distribution policies in a country like Chile. Second: Marcel Claude wants to nationalize the copper industry. There is not enough money for that … it would be impossible to pay for.

We say first get rid of Law Decree 600 [which fixes taxes on foreign investment]. Second, we are going to charge the fuel taxes which the mines don’t pay. Third, we are going to charge for the use of water. If you don’t have water, you can’t operate a mine. But in Chile, the mining industry doesn’t pay for water it uses. I am going to charge them for it. That’s the difference.

The agricultural sector, is charged for using water to produce vegetables. So, what kind of country do you want? One where the mining industry is taking all the wealth of the country without paying for the water it uses and you charge for water in the agricultural industry?

I believe that you have to charge both.

How do you plan to advance to the second round of voting for the election in November? What is your strategy?

The strategy is the same one that we have been using for a long time. We tell the truth. We don’t lie. Politicians are used to twisting the truth with small print. We tell things like they are.

If [Concertación candidate Michelle] Bachelet wins, buy stock in Antofagasta Minerals … Buy stock in Banco de Chile. If you’re going to vote for [Alianza candidate Evelyn] Matthei, then buy stock in SOQUIMICH [Chemical and Mineral Society] buy stock in COPEC [a Chilean energy and forestry company]. Because they are being financed by those economic groups, and MEO also receives support from business owners.

I, on the other, don’t receive any kind of a support from any economic group. Up to this point, I have been financed by anonymous donations from volunteers and by my own money. As a result this makes us different. When people understand that, they are clearly going to vote for us.
So would the idea be to beat Matthei in the first round of voting?
Yes, hopefully, I would be able to beat her. She has tremendous support from economic groups. Her husband works for COPEC. He’s in Angelini [a consortium of Chilean businesses] so its complicated. It’s going to be hard, but we are growing.
Do you plan to win a lot of votes from people who have historically support the Alianza?
I don’t know. I think that in order to enter the second round, I am going to need votes from everywhere. There are also people in the Concertación who are very disillusioned. It’s not just one sector that’s disenchanted. There are a lot of people who are disenchanted because they have realized that only things that the Concertación and Alianza do is look out for themselves and their own. The political elite has already showed what it is like.
If you are elected president what is the most important change you plan to implement?

The concept of government is that we have to improve the distribution of power, of wealth and of opportunity. In Chile, it’s not just wealth that’s concentrated, but also power and opportunity. It’s always the same. And that’s going to be the guiding factor. We are going to have a government that’s based around distribution.
How do you plan to change the distribution of those things? With what political actions? 
It means tax reform no matter what. It means restructuring the governmental apparatus so that government doesn’t have to be prisoner to the political apparatus — separating the governmental apparatus from the political apparatus so that institutions work for people and their families. 
An example: houses are flooding in Alto Hospicio because the regulation of sanitary services is not working. And with that, one realizes that phenomenon we’re seeing is a constant use of the public apparatus by political agents. So that’s going to be a significant change.
We obviously want to improve public education and for it to be free and of quality, especially in the regions [as opposed to Santiago]. We want to make very significant marks in the regions. And that’s something only we can carry out.
What are the changes you propose to make to Chile’s education system?
All of my life, I have studied in public schools, but in Chile, public education is deteriorating day to day, and who has permitted that? Bachelet and co, along with the Alianza. We want to put an end to that phenomenon.
Besides from making public education free at the pre-university and university level, what other changes do you plan to make to the education system?
Many more. The length of undergraduate study needs to be shortened. More courses should be available on the Internet. Student mobility needs to be permitted. There need to be student senates. There need to be open evaluations of public professors and elections for democratic officials.
Are you opposed to the binominal system?
I have been for a long time. The best way to get rid of the binominal system is by voting for us. If you vote for the same people as always, the only thing that gets strengthened is the binominal system. What we are going to see in this election is that the focus is primarily on the presidential race, but in the races for senators and deputies, the Concertación and Alianza are going to win, and this is clearly bad for all of Chile.
You have been a big supporter of alternative forms of energy. What sorts of energy policies would you implement if elected?
We’re very much in favor of run-of-river hydropower. I want to have run-of-river hydropower run by agricultural cooperatives. That’s what we’re looking at. And in terms, of homes, that 100 percent of Chilean houses have solar panels.

You already have experience with the copper industry after working on the Chilean Copper Commission. What changes need to made in that economic area?

First, eliminate Law Decree 600. Second, charge for water. Third, implement true supervision through Sernageomin [Chilean National Geology and Mineral Service]. Sernageomin has 16 inspectors. We have to raise that to at least 800 so that we know exactly what kinds of minerals are being taken and at what amount. In reality, there isn’t supervision. And this lack of supervision has made it so that there is a kind of free-for-all for the mining industries.

You have been characterized as the independent candidate of the right. In terms of your economic policies, where do you differ from Matthei?
Matthei doesn’t want tax reform. I want tax reform. I want to reduce the sales tax on the basic food basket. She doesn’t want to reduce it. I want to reduce sales tax on books to zero. She doesn’t want to reduce it. She has to give guarantees to big economic groups, particularly COPEC and SOQUIMICH. I, one the other hand, think we need better regulation and better control so that things will be fairer in the fight between the big guys and the little guys.
By Henry Clayton Wickham ([email protected])
Copyright 2013 – The Santiago Times

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