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Chile's Bachelet Seeks Rapid Approval of Anti-corruption Measures

FILE - Chile's President Michelle Bachelet, pictured at a ceremony in Buenos Aires in 2014, says new anti-corruption measures will end influence peddling and allow greater oversight of political finances.

President Michelle Bachelet is endorsing anti-corruption measures and launching a dialogue about a new constitution after a series of recent scandals.

Bachelet asked Congress to fast-track the measures to fight corruption Wednesday after announcing that businesses would no longer be able to contribute to political parties, which will now be financed by the government.

"This not only prevents conflicts of interest but also establishes harsher penalties,'' Bachelet said.

The measure, she said, is "important to help end bad practices of clientelism and influence peddling while it allows a larger oversight than what has been carried out by previous authorities.''

Chile's corruption is among the lowest in South America. But trust in politicians and the business elite has been eroded after a bank loan scandal involving Bachelet's son and a campaign financing scandal involving right-wing politicians and a prominent financial company.

In her 2013 presidential campaign, Bachelet promised to fight against Chile's inequalities, and the flap involving her family has taken a toll on her image. A recent poll showed Bachelet's approval rating had dropped to 31 percent, the lowest both for her current administration and for her earlier presidential term in 2006-10.

Bachelet announced plans for constitutional reform during a nationally televised speech Tuesday night. She didn't provide details but said that a dialogue on changes to the constitution would begin in September.

The current Chilean constitution dates to the 1973-90 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.