In a national television and radio broadcast, the President said, “We are ending our government term with the joy of having accomplished our mission, and we are looking our fellow Chileans in the eye with our heads held high. Essentially, Chile is now a better country in which to be born, grow up, study, work, raise a family, and grow old than it was four years ago. In other words, a better country in which to live.”
Similarly, he outlined some of his government’s most emblematic initiatives and took the opportunity to thank members of his administration and various powers of state. He also thanked his family and gave special thanks to the Chilean people, emphasizing his sense of “deep pride for Chile and immense gratitude to my fellow Chileans for your warmth and support.”
The full text of the President’s address follows:
“My fellow Chileans, good evening:
This Tuesday our government term ends and we will be handing over the baton to the President-elect Michelle Bachelet.
This evening I would like to thank every Chilean from the very bottom of my heart, for the privilege and responsibility you placed on our shoulders when you elected us to lead our country for this four-year term.
The greatest honor and challenge that can be given to any citizen who loves their country it to serve their nation and their people as president.
The truth is we have had to govern in very difficult times. We inherited an economy that was showing clear signs of fatigue in its capacity to grow, create jobs, improve wages, reduce poverty, and open up more opportunities for Chileans.
We have governed during a severe global economic crisis which has meant unemployment and recession for many countries around the world and also on our continent. We have had to deal with a widespread drought, and 12 days before our government took office, on that tragic morning of February 27, Chile was struck by one of the most devastating and destructive earthquakes and tsunamis of our history. This disaster, which caused so much pain, also generated an enormous challenge in terms of reconstruction which we had to add to the existing pledges and goals of our government program.
Over the course of these years, we often said Chile is a country of heroes. And we were not only referring to Caupolicán, Lautaro, Arturo Prat, Ignacio Carrera Pinto, but also the millions and millions of anonymous heroes who strive every day to make their families’ lives better and to make Chile a greater country.
There are times for governments to make commitments and times for accountability in terms of fulfilling those commitments. In the last few weeks I have had the privilege of touring every region of Chile, accounting for our commitments and our mission: to make Chile a society of opportunities, security, and values, in which we all have the opportunity to develop our talents fully, the security of a dignified life and the fortitude of living within a framework of values and principles.
Today we are ending our government term with the joy of having accomplished our mission, and we are looking our fellow Chileans in the eye with our heads held high. Essentially, Chile is now a better country in which to be born, grow up, study, work, raise a family, and grow old than it was four years ago. In other words, a better country in which to live.
And the best proof is that the birth rate in our country, which had been falling, is once again rising. And when Chilean couples, who undoubtedly want the best for their children, decide to have more children, it is because Chile is a better country today for our children.
In spite of the mistakes we made, which we have acknowledged and strived to overcome, and while we are well aware that there are still many problems to resolve and challenges to address in order to improve the lives of all Chileans, thanks to everyone’s hard work, contribution and merit, today Chile is growing with strength and determination, creating jobs, improving wages and reducing poverty and inequality. Today, everyone in Chile advances together.
How can we not be pleased with the 1 million new jobs we have created together and which mean that 1 million Chilean men and women found an opportunity and recovered their dignity; with the 3 million Chileans who realized their dream of owning their own home during our government; with the fact that thanks to the substantial improvements to state-backed student loans and a fourfold increase in the number of grants, today no young person is excluded from higher education due to a lack of resources, and no family sees their dream of sending their child to university turn into a nightmare because of the onerous burden of debt that this used to entail.
How can we not be pleased with the 24 new hospitals we have inaugurated and the 47 that are under construction; with having increased our capacity to train the medical specialists we need from 1,200 to 4,000; with having eliminated the AUGE priority medical condition waitlists and having started to reduce the cost of medicines; with having implemented the Elige Vivir Sano (Choose to Live Healthily) program, led by the First Lady, which is transforming our culture towards a life with more sports, better eating habits, more family time, and more time spent outdoors. In other words, a fuller and happier life for our fellow Chileans.
A good president should be like a good parent and look after all his children, but with particular care for those who are in greatest need.
This is the reason for our steadfast commitment to the poorest members of our society and our hardworking middle class, and our firm commitment to support and assist fellow Chileans, from the cradle to the grave, so that everyone can develop the talents God gave us, and so that everyone may know that aside from our individual responsibilities, no Chilean who stumbles will be left alone and abandoned, that there will be a friendly and supportive hand to help them get back on their feet and walk again.
This is why we lengthened maternity leave from three to six months and extended eligibility to this benefit from one in three women to all working women, so that our children, in the first six months of life, which is when they are developing physically, emotionally, and intellectually, can always have the love and company of their parents, because it is during these first six months when they need their parents most.
This is why we introduced universal nursery care and free, guaranteed preschool education for all our children. This is why we established the Ethical Family Income, in a move away from the welfare model that creates dependency and a loss of freedom, towards what is now a truly strategic alliance between the state and those in greatest need, joining forces and rewarding efforts in the fight against poverty and restoring dignity to people’s lives. This is why we eliminated the 7% healthcare contributions for our pensioners and have already sent a bill to Congress to improve pensions for our Armed Forces.
This is why we have made progress in ensuring equality between men and women, both in terms of rights and responsibilities, and in building a society that is more inclusive, more respectful, and less discriminating of minorities and those who think differently.
This is why we have tackled crime with the utmost determination and resolution and although it has been a very difficult task, crime rates are finally starting to fall, as shown in the latest National Urban Citizen Safety Survey (ENUSC), and the peace and security that our families long for are starting to progress.
And in all of this we have been inspired and guided by our values and principles, such as our unwavering commitment to the value and dignity of life, the human rights of all citizens at all times, in all places and under all circumstances; freedom, peace, justice, honesty, unity, environmental protection, and solidarity among Chileans.
The way in which we have carried out the reconstruction program following the 2010 earthquake and tsunami, the determination and faith with which we rescued our miners, the unity with which we celebrated our Bicentenary, the constellation of anonymous heroes we have met, together make up an invincible force which we must now focus on the new challenges that God and life have put before us, challenges which proved so elusive during our first 200 years as an independent republic.
Because the dream and mission of our generation, the Bicentenary generation, is to achieve what our parents, grandparents, and those who came before them always longed for but never achieved: to transform Chile into a developed country without poverty, a country with greater justice and equal opportunity, a country that offers all its children a fuller, happier life, in a society that is committed to these values and principles that are so entrenched in the heart and soul of our people.
I would like to end by sharing two thoughts with you.
Firstly, the deep sense of pride I feel for Chile and my immense gratitude to my fellow Chileans for the warmth and support you have always shown, be it through an embrace, a word of encouragement, a friendly gesture, a happy smile, or simply in the privacy of your own hearts and minds.
Secondly, I would like to wish the best of luck and every success to the future government, which from Tuesday will be led by President-elect Michelle Bachelet.
During my four years as president of all Chileans, whenever I needed, I could always rely on the wise and generous advice of those who preceded me in this position. The future president knows that she too can always rely on me for this same attitude and disposition.
I would also like to thank all those who were part of our government, the ministers, undersecretaries, regional governors, governors, heads of agencies, party activists, and supporters within the Coalición por el Cambio, and many others who gave their very best in the task of improving the lives of Chileans and ennobling our country. Also the Legislative and Judicial Branches and other institutions such as the Office of the Comptroller General, the Central Bank, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Constitutional Court, and many others who also made a huge contribution.
I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks to my family, my children, grandchildren and in particular my wife, Cecilia, who was not only a wonderful first lady, but also the best companion, friend, counselor, and sometimes critic, that I as president could have had.
And finally, I would like to thank the Lord for not abandoning me or allowing me to falter, not even during my most difficult and darkest moments when I felt alone and misunderstood, and for always giving me the good health, determination, and strength necessary to fulfill my responsibilities as the president of all Chileans, always giving my best and never straying from what I considered, based on my deepest values and my own conscience, to be the best for Chile and its people, now and in the future.
God bless Chile, God bless the Chilean people.
Good night and thank you, thank you very much.”