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(Oct. 7, 2005) President Ricardo Lagos criticized Chile’s national television station (TVN) yesterday for airing sensationalist news stories. The president questioned why 48 percent of TVN’s news coverage on Tuesday evening dealt with crime and delinquency.

“The first five and most important stories [on TVN] were about delinquency” said Lagos, “this is absolutely inadequate.”

This controversy has grown out of Independent Democratic Union (UDI) presidential candidate Joaquín Lavin’s criticism of the government’s new crime initiative. Lavin has spoken out against Lagos’ Socialist Party (PS), as well as their presidential candidate Michele Bachelet as being too soft on crime.

“I assure you that criminal offenders prefer to vote for Michelle Bachelet because they know that she will have the same soft hand that President Lagos has had” said Lavin last week.

The UDI candidate has been trying to put forth a platform to differentiate himself from the other right-wing presidential candidate Sebastián Piñera, member of the National Renovation Party (RN), after recent polls show national support for his candidacy fell from 22 percent to 20 percent, while Piñera increased his support from 14 percent to 19 percent. Michele Bachelet, the Socialist Party (PS) presidential candidate, is leading all of the polls with 45 percent of the popular vote (ST, Sept.28).

Lavin has promised, that if elected, he will make crime a priority his government. He has proposed a new crime initiative know as the “three strikes your out” law. The proposal seeks to eliminate provisional liberty for repeat offenders and modify the penal system.

Many politicians including President Lagos have accused Lavin of playing politics with the topic and have asked all of the candidates to raise the level of debate, focusing on serious issues confronting the nation.

Francisco Vidal, Minister of the Interior, agreed with Lagos that Chileans need to take the subject of delinquency seriously, and not just use it to play politics. Vidal’s office is in charge of reducing crime in Chile.

“If someone thinks this is the best way to collaborate with the right-wing campaign, they are within their rights,” said Vidal, “but my concern is permanent, it is not a political election theme.”

TVN could not be reached for comment.



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