After his first thousand days in office, Socialist President Ricardo Lagos faces a large-scale political crisis inside his government. The leader of the Democrat-Christians, Alfredo Zaldivar, declared that his party has left the coalition with the Socialists - Concertacion - due to deep differences among its members.
Zaldivar expressed to the local newspaper El Mercurio his dislike of the way the government handled a bribery scandal, which involved the National Senate. The other important party inside the coalition, Partido por la Democracia -PPD-, is accused of receiving funds to pass a law.
Zaldivar expressed his decision very clearly: "The coalition is over. There was not an affection between its members; only power kept it joined." Therefore, President Lagos will be forced to redesign his government to face the last three years in office without the full support of its former partners.
Concertacion, a center-left force, became hegemonic after sacking Augusto Pinochet 14 years ago. In the last elections, it lost some of its support but defeated Joaquin Lavin, the right-wing candidate.
However, Lagos enjoys over the support of 50% Chileans and expects to use it to order deep reforms on his administration. He is thinking of changing his cabinet, removing Socialist and PPD leaders, and passing bills to control the funding of political parties.
Lagos' position looks very similar to the one of Argentine President Fernando De la Rua, when, after an identical scandal, faced the resignation of his vice-president and the fracture of the ruling coalition. His continuity at the Palace of Government will depend on his skill of handling this crisis.
However, the Chilean economy looks much stronger than its neighbor's. Today, the Chilean economy grows over the regional average and has been doing so since 1993.
Lagos is the second socialist president. The Army and the CIA sacked the first one, Salvador Allende, in the 1973 coup. Allende died during the coup defending his government with a rifle; Lagos, at that time, was ambassador to the Soviet Union.
Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina
Photo: President of Chile, Ricardo Lagos.