By Jueseppi B.
Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden at a Bilateral Meeting with Chilean President Sebastián Piñera
Palacio de la Moneda
You know that he was elected senator when he was only 29 years of age (inaudible) the youngest senator in the history of the United States. He performed as a U.S. senator for more than 36 years, and now he’s the Vice President of the United States.
Welcome to Chile.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
PRESIDENT PIÑERA: We consider yourself and the country a very good and loyal friend of my country. So — and I know that you have a very important voice to give and we are very pleased to have you here. Welcome to Chile once again, and I give you –
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Mr. President. I — despite some of the crises that are going on around the world, the President and I agreed that it was important that I be here in Chile because this — our commitment to this relationship is real. It’s deep, and you’ve deepened in your term, Mr. President.
I had a great meeting with President-elect Bachelet this morning, and I’m looking forward to meeting with you after this brief comments to the press here. And I also look forward to meeting the other leaders in the region from Colombia, Peru, Mexico and elsewhere. So it’s an opportunity for me meet others as well.
The President and I believe that the hemisphere, the Western Hemisphere, and particularly the Southern Hemisphere has — offers enormous, enormous potential. It’s the destination of 40 percent of all of America’s exports. It’s home to a growing middle class, and it’s quickly becoming (inaudible) quickly becoming a world energy center.
And we, for the first time, Mr. President, at least in my career, talk about how to achieve a hemisphere that is secure, middle-class and free. We’ve never been able to look at it that way before. From Canada through — down through Chile and everywhere in between, And nowhere in the region is that more — potentially more apparent than in Chile. (Inaudible) the United States you mentioned historic close ties. And that’s why — it’s why I’m here. That’s why my delegation is here.
Mr. President, our two countries have worked well together. We’ve made significant progress through your leadership in the TPP, Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation. During your term, Mr. President, our two countries also strengthened our people-to-people ties through the Visa Waiver Program. I remember first meeting you, talking about that. Chile is the only Latin America country in the program that allows visa-free travel between Chile and the United States.
And as far as my visit, I’m happy to say that we’re not going to wait until May the 1st. We want to move that program up to begin on March the 31st. Again, thank you for your — all your efforts.
The United States, Mr. President, looks forward to working with your successor, President Bachelet, on these and many more issues. I personally look forward to tomorrow’s inauguration. I’ve heard it described as the perfect example of democratic transfer of power. Chile’s economic, democratic tradition teaches us all that pragmatism, not ideology, is the secret to success. It’s no coincidence that Chile has used democracy and the open market to create new opportunities for her citizens. And we continue to look forward to working with the government of Chile, and I continue to look forward to seeing you as well in person.
Thank you for you hospitality.
From Associated Press:
Chile’s Bachelet to be sworn in again as president
By LUIS ANDRES HENAO and EVA VERGARA, Associated Press
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Michelle Bacheletis older and wiser than she was eight years ago when she first assumed Chile’s presidency, but chances are that leading her restive nation won’t be any easier this time around.
The moderate socialist takes office Tuesday promising to finance education reform with higher corporate taxes, improve health care, change the dictatorship-era constitution to make Congress more representative and reduce the vast gap between rich and poor.
“She promised a lot of things, a lot of reforms, so people expect many things to happen,” Navia added. “But the economic conditions have changed, and have changed rather rapidly, since the electoral campaign. The economy is not growing quite as fast and Bachelet is not going to have the leverage to introduce all the reforms.”
During her first presidency in 2006-10, Bachelet won praise for shepherding Chile through the global economic crisis. Although growth stumbled and unemployment rose, she used government reserves to help the poorest Chileans during hard times, and she enjoyed 84 percent approval when she left office even though she achieved no major changes.
The student protests that bedeviled outgoing President Sebastian Pinera began under Bachelet, who named a commission and shuffled her Cabinet in response. That seemed enough at a time when the student groups were strongly influenced by the ruling center-left coalition.
Those bonds broke under Pinera, when Communist Party members such asCamila Vallejo led the students. Vallejo is now a member of Congress and a Bachelet ally, but the key university student unions are led by anarchists who are vowing to make life impossible for Bachelet if she doesn’t follow through.
“We had an experience with these promises and it didn’t turn out well. But we’ve learned the lesson,” said Naschla Aburman, president of the Universidad Catolica student federation. “The urgency of the educational crisis that we’re living doesn’t allow us to give her a honeymoon.”
Chile is the world’s top copper exporter, and its fast-growing economy, low unemployment and inflation have been the envy of Latin America. But many Chileans say more of its mineral wealth should be spent on reducing income inequality and making quality education accessible to all.
Many blame Gen. Augusto Pinochet‘s 1973-90 dictatorship for concentrating wealth and power. Pinochet privatized water resources and ended agrarian reforms. He also eliminated central control and funding of public schools, enabling wealthy communities to take care of their own and impoverishing most of the country’s schools.
Bachelet, the daughter of a general who died of torture after challenging Pinochet, became Chile’s first female defense minister and president, and after leaving the presidency was the first leader of the U.N. women’s agency. Four years later, she was still the center-left’s best hope, and reluctantly returned to campaign.
She did so as the leader of a “New Majority” coalition that welcomed Communists, street activists and former student leaders, and won in December by the widest margin in eight decades of presidential elections.
Chile’s well-managed economy thrived under Pinera, but metals prices have dropped and growth has slowed just when Bachelet hopes to take in about $8.2 billion in taxes from businesses to fund her education reform.
Pinera was praised for reconstruction efforts after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake devastated part of the country days before he took office, and his management of the rescue of 33 trapped minors brought him global fame.
His popularity plunged amid clashes between police and protesters, but bounced back after he took strong positions against dictatorship-era abuses. The billionaire former airline now plans to form a foundation, stay in the public eye and move his conservative coalition to the political center for another shot at the presidency in four years.
Thank you Associated Press.
Biden hails U.S.-Chile relations as long and deep
SANTIAGO, Chile, March 10 (UPI) – The Southern Hemisphere is becoming increasingly important to global export and quickly becoming an energy center, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Monday.
“The president [Obama] and I believe that the hemisphere, the Western Hemisphere, and particularly the Southern Hemisphere offers enormous, enormous potential,” Biden said ahead of a bilateral meeting with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera in Santiago, Chile. “It’s the destination of 40 percent of all of America’s exports. It’s home to a growing middle class, and it’s quickly becoming … a world energy center.”
The U.S. relationship and commitment to Chile is real and deep, “and you’ve deepened in your term, Mr. President,” said Biden, who will attend the inauguration of Pinera’s successor, Michelle Bachelet.
“And we, for the first time, Mr. President, at least in my career, talk about how to achieve a hemisphere that is secure, middle-class and free,” Biden said. “We’ve never been able to look at it that way before — from Canada down through Chile and everywhere in between. And nowhere in the region is that potentially more apparent than in Chile.”
Chile’s economic, democratic tradition teaches that pragmatism, not ideology, is the key to success, Biden said.
“It’s no coincidence that Chile has used democracy and the open market to create new opportunities for her citizens,” the vice president said.
Thank you United Press International, Inc.
3/10/14: White House Press Briefing
Published on Mar 10, 2014
White House Press Briefings are conducted most weekdays from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing