Chile presidential candidates Bachelet, Matthei square off in debate ahead of elections

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Center-left candidate Michelle Bachelet and her conservative rival Evelyn Matthei have squared off in a presidential debate ahead of Chile's election next week.

Bachelet and Matthei were childhood friends, but found themselves on opposite sides of national polices after the 1973 military coup.

Bachelet led Chile from 2006-10 and is widely expected to retake the presidency in a Dec. 15 vote.

During a Friday radio debate, she defended her plan to raise corporate taxes to finance an education overhaul. She also said she wants to change the dictatorship-era constitution and favors same-sex marriage and abortion in some cases.

Matthei is former labor minister. She criticized Bachelet's plans saying priorities such as tending to Chile's poorest, improving pensions and reducing rising crime should come before giving everyone free education.