Chile: opposition demands probe into Bachelet's son loan

AP News
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Posted: Feb 16, 2015 2:11 PM
Chile: opposition demands probe into Bachelet's son loan

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chilean opposition lawmakers on Monday demanded an investigation into whether President Michelle Bachelet's son got privileged access to a bank loan.

Right-wing lawmakers say Sebastian Davalos and his wife benefited from privileged treatment in receiving a $10 million loan to buy land later sold for about $15 million. The loan was fast-tracked for approval by the Banco de Chile after the couple met with its vice president, Andronico Luksic, one of Chile's wealthiest men. The loan was approved a day after Bachelet was elected president in December 2013.

"This is going to test Chilean institutions because we're talking about the president's son," said Jose Manuel Edwards of the center-right Renovacion Nacional party.

Davalos has said the deal was not illegal, but he resigned as head of Bachelet's charitable foundation Friday, and he acknowledged the controversy has "damaged the president and the government."

In an interview published Sunday by El Mercurio newspaper, Davalos said he doesn't believe he was imprudent when meeting with the bank's vice president. He also said his mother had been unaware of the meeting and the loan, finding out about them last week during their family vacation in southern Chile.

Bachelet is still on vacation and has not yet commented. But some members of her "New Majority" coalition, which includes Communists, street activists and former student leaders, have acknowledged the family got privileged access, while insisting the loan was legitimate.

Having Davalos meet the vice president of the bank, "was a tremendous political mistake," because the government's core values are the fight against inequality and abuse of power, said Osvaldo Andrade, head of Chile's Communist Party.

Corruption levels in Chile are among South America's lowest, according to Transparency International. But trust in politicians has eroded by a probe of Penta Group, a company accused of illegally financing right-wing candidates.

Since Chile's return to democracy in 1990, the popularity of every president has dropped at the beginning of the second year of its mandate, Mella said. Bachelet's popularity rating currently ranges from 38-40 percent, but Mella predicted it will continue to plunge with the scandal.