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Chile's Boric seeks to placate amid challenges in first state of the union

·2 min read

SANTIAGO, June 1 (Reuters) - Chilean President Gabriel Boric struck a conciliatory tone and outlined his government's plans to tackle a slew of issues amid a sharp drop in his approval rating during his first State of the Union Address on Wednesday.

Emphasizing the need for all Chileans to work together to address issues from safety to tax reform, Boric also spoke neutrally about the new constitution, for which support has dwindled.

"On September 4 we'll have a transcendental decision: approve or reject the proposal of a new constitution," he said. "Both options are legitimate."

The comments marked a shift from the firebrand candidate and former student protest leader who vowed Chile would be the "grave" of neoliberalism during the 2021 election.

Wearing his signature suit with no tie, Boric promised a 40-hour work week, the right to euthanasia and investment in infrastructure, education, health, housing, sports and culture. The president also said the government would submit a law to reform the country's controversial private pension system in August.

"The time has come to build a true social security system," Boric said, committing to guaranteeing a monthly pension of 250,000 pesos ($303) to citizens over 65 and emphasizing that current private pensions would be protected.

He said he will present a new tax reform bill to Congress this month, saying "the country cannot wait."

"Our tax reform will attack the bases of inequality," Boric said, adding it would tax high incomes, estates and mining income.

Regarding mining, Boric reiterated the need to create a national lithium company and said the government would invest $90 million in Codelco, the state-owned mining firm, for exploration and $86 million for innovation.

The president also said he planned to reform the police system and invest in security to tackle rising criminality and drug trafficking. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero, Natalia Ramos and Alexander Villegas in Santiago Editing by Matthew Lewis)