Saturday, December 26, 2015

Milicogate and the Copper Law in Chile

There is an infamous law in Chile providing the military with 10% of sales from Codelco, the state copper company. President after president has introduced legislation to derogate it, but all unsuccessful. Everyone talked about it ~20 years ago as I started my dissertation research on civil-military relations in Chile, and here it stands.

Could it possibly be venality that finally creates consensus? #Milicogate ("milico" is slang for someone in the military) is a multi-year (2010-2014), multimillion case of fraud, involving siphoning of the funds. In response, the Bachelet government announced it will propose reforms in 2016. The funds are shrouded in secrecy, which makes no sense at all in a democratic context. That secrecy predates the Pinochet dictatorship, incidentally. The entire structure of the law is from a distant era.

The army commander in chief, Humberto Oviedo, had to testify before a congressional commission, and is scrambling to convince legislators that such a thing won't happen again. Seems like a propitious time for change. The main challenge is to establish a new law that provides stable, long-term military planning, which has traditionally been the reason the right supports the law.


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