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Financial scandals force center-right candidate Golborne to quit Chile's presidential race

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FILE - In this Oct. 11, 2010 file photo, members of the media surround Chile's Mining Minister Laurence Golborne at the camp where relatives wait for news outside the San Jose mine near Copiapo, Chile. Financial scandals are threatening to drive Golborne, a leading contender, from Chile's presidential race. Golborne is expected to decide on Monday, April 29, 2013, if he will quit the Nov. 17 election. The charismatic former public works minister is best known for leading the 2010 rescue of 33 miners trapped deep underground in the Atacama desert.(AP Photo/Jorge Saenz, File) (The Associated Press)

A former public works minister known for leading the 2010 rescue of 33 miners trapped underground in the Atacama desert quit Chile's presidential race Monday after a financial scandal.

Center-right politician Laurence Golborne is also a former chief executive officer of retailer Cencosud. His candidacy was jeopardized last week when the Supreme Court fined retailer Cencosud $70 million for increasing its supermarket unit's credit card maintenance fees when he was in charge in 2006. The court said card clauses were abusive and affected 608,000 clients.

Golborne's candidacy was also troubled by accusations that he didn't include information about an offshore account registered in the British Virgin Islands in his declaration of assets.

"I want to be clear: I don't want to be an obstacle to any decision," Golborne told reporters Monday. "As of this moment I bring down my candidacy in all forms for this nomination. Decide freely what is best for the country."

The resignation is expected to weaken the possibility that a candidate from the conservative governing coalition can beat former President Michelle Bachelet, the front-runner in polls for the Nov. 17 election.

"This leaves the Alliance in a situation with diminished real opportunities of challenging Michelle Bachelet, who has been consolidating as a real alternative," said Guillermo Holzmann, political science professor at the Universidad de Valparaiso.

Golborne had been competing against former Defense Minister Andres Allamand for a chance to represent the center-right coalition in the primary elections that will be held June 30. Officials planned to meet Monday night, and Economy Minister Pablo Longueira was considered likely to join the race.

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Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao