Sebastián Piñera

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Sebastián Piñera
Official portrait, 2018
34th and 36th President of Chile
In office
11 March 2018 – 11 March 2022
Preceded byMichelle Bachelet
Succeeded byGabriel Boric
In office
11 March 2010 – 11 March 2014
Preceded byMichelle Bachelet
Succeeded byMichelle Bachelet
President pro tempore of PROSUR
In office
22 March 2019 – 12 December 2020
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byIván Duque
Leader of National Renewal
In office
26 May 2001 – 10 March 2004
Preceded byAlberto Cardemil
Succeeded bySergio Díez
Senator for Eastern Santiago
In office
11 March 1990 – 11 March 1998
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byCarlos Bombal
Personal details
Born
Miguel Juan Sebastián Piñera Echenique

(1949-12-01)1 December 1949
Santiago, Chile
Died6 February 2024(2024-02-06) (aged 74)
Lake Ranco, Los Ríos Region, Chile
Cause of deathHelicopter crash
Political partyNational Renewal (1989–2010)[a]
Independent (2010–2024)
Other political
affiliations
Coalition for Change (2009–2013)
Chile Vamos (2015–2024)
Spouse
(m. 1973)
Children4
EducationPontifical Catholic University of Chile (BS)
Harvard University (MA, PhD)
Signature
WebsiteOfficial website

Miguel Juan Sebastián Piñera Echenique[b] (Spanish: [miˈɣel ˈxwan seβasˈtjam piˈɲeɾa etʃeˈnike] ; 1 December 1949 – 6 February 2024) was a Chilean businessman and politician who served as president of Chile from 2010 to 2014 and again from 2018 to 2022. The son of a Christian Democratic politician and diplomat, he studied business administration at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and economics at Harvard University. At the time of his death, he had an estimated net worth of US$2.7 billion, according to Forbes, making him the third richest person in Chile and the 1177th richest person in the world.[1][2]

A member of the liberal-conservative National Renewal party, he served as a senator for the East Santiago district from 1990 to 1998, running for the presidency in the 2005 election, which he lost to Michelle Bachelet, and again, successfully, in 2010. As a result, he became Chile's first conservative president to be democratically elected since 1958,[3] and the first to hold the office since the departure of Augusto Pinochet in 1990.[4]

The legacy of Piñera's two administrations include the reconstruction following the 2010 Chile earthquake, the rescue of 33 trapped miners in 2010, a rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the legalization of same-sex marriage in Chile in 2021–2022.[5][6] After leaving office in 2022 Piñera developed amicable relations with the new left-wing president Gabriel Boric, who had previously been a harsh critic of him.[7][8] Piñera died in a helicopter crash on Lake Ranco on 6 February 2024 at age 74.

Early life and education

Piñera was born in Santiago de Chile on 1 December 1949,[9][10] as the third child of José Piñera Carvallo (1917–1991) and Magdalena Echenique Rozas (1919–2000).[11] Among his ancestors on his maternal side is his mother's great-great-grandmother, Luisa Pinto Garmendia, the sister of President Aníbal Pinto Garmendia and daughter of President Francisco Antonio Pinto and Luisa Garmendia Alurralde, who was a descendant of the penultimate Inca emperor, Huayna Capac.[12] He was a nephew of the former oldest living Roman Catholic bishop in the world, Bernardino Piñera, who died in 2020 due to complications from COVID-19.[13][14]

Piñera's family moved to Belgium one year after his birth and later to New York City, where his father was the Chilean ambassador to the United Nations. Piñera returned to Chile in 1955 and enrolled in the Colegio del Verbo Divino ("Divine Word School"), from which he graduated in 1967.[15]

Piñera then enrolled at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, from which he graduated in 1971 with an undergraduate degree in commercial engineering. Upon graduation, he was awarded the Raúl Iver Oxley Prize, which is given to the best overall student in each class.[16]

Piñera continued on to Harvard University on a partial Fulbright Program for postgraduate studies in economics. During his time at Harvard, Piñera and a classmate coauthored an article, "The Old South's Stake in the Inter-Regional Movement of Slaves", for the Journal of Economic History.[17] After three years at Harvard, Piñera graduated with both a Master of Arts and PhD in economics.[18]

Career

Teaching

Piñera was an economics lecturer from 1971 until 1988 at the University of Chile, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, and Adolfo Ibáñez University. In 1971, he was in charge of Economic Political Theory in the School of Economics at the University of Chile, and in 1972, at the Valparaiso Business School.[19]

Foundations

In 1989, with Cecilia Morel, Danica Radic, and Paula Délano, Piñera created the Enterprising Women Foundation (Fundación Mujer Emprende), originally called The House of Youth (La Casa de la Juventud). The foundation aims to assist in the development of young women of lower income.[20]

In 1973, Piñera created the foundation Fundación Futuro, of which he was president and whose directors are Cristián Boza D., María Teresa Chadwick P., Hugo Montes B., Cecilia Morel M., Renato Poblete S.J., and Fabio Valdés C. The head director of the foundation is Magdalena Piñera.[21] The foundation's mission is to help in Chile's development of justice, freedom, and democracy.[22] The foundation was renamed Fundación Cultura y Sociedad after Piñera was elected president.[23]

Under the Fundación Cultura y Sociedad (formerly Fundación Futuro), the Grupo Tantauco has the mission of environmentalism, and is administered by Juan Carlos Urquidi. It was created to support the proposals Piñera instituted or planned to institute during his presidency.[24] In 2005, Piñera created Tantauco Park (Spanish: Parque Tantauco), a 1,180 km2 (456 sq mi) a private natural reserve he bought and owned on the south end of Chiloé Island, in order to protect 118,000 hectares of the region's unique ecosystem. His foundation runs the park, which is open to the public and is an ecotourist location.[25] Piñera bought the 118,000 hectares in Chiloé through an offshore company in Panama. He faced pressure to cede eight hectares to sixteen indigenous families whose presence pre-dates Piñera's purchase and who have spent years negotiating to obtain title to their familial lands.[26][27]

An additional project, Grupo Tantauco: Derechos Humanos, was proposed in hopes of beginning a reconciliation between the Chilean people who suffered human rights violations during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.[28]

Businesses

Before entering politics, Piñera was a businessman with several corruption charges

Piñera was general manager of the Banco de Talca. In 1982, a warrant was issued for his arrest on charges of violating banking law and fraudulent loans,[29] in an event where over US$38 million were not paid to the Central Bank of Chile, Piñera being the Banco de Talca's CEO. The money disappeared and was never paid.[30] Piñera spent 24 days in hiding while his brother, José Piñera, appealed the order, making some calls to underestimate the crime. A writ of habeas corpus, first rejected by the Appeals Court but then approved by the Supreme Court, acquitted Piñera.[31] According to the Pandora Papers, Sebastián Piñera's case was throw out due to political intervention.[29]

Sebastián Piñera was also involved in the Chispas Case, on which a fraudulent buyout of the chilean electrical company Enersis netted its participants over $400 million. All involved were convicted, resulting in a $75 million fine.[32]

Between 1992 and 2004 Sebastian Piñera engaged in tax evasion through the use of shell companies, for which he was never formally charged.[33] Due to Pandora Papers leaks, he was formally charged for tax-evasion and bribery due to selling a family-owned copper mine Dominga to his best friend through shell companies registered in British Virgin Islands [34]

Piñera once owned 90% of Chilevisión (a terrestrial television channel broadcasting nationwide). He also owned 27% of LAN Airlines (LAN);[35] 13% of Colo-Colo,[36] a football (soccer) club; and other minor stock positions in companies such as Quiñenco, Enersis, and Soquimich.[37][38][39]

In July 2007, Piñera was fined approximately US$680,000 by Chile's securities regulator (SVS) for not withdrawing a purchase order after receiving privileged information (an infraction similar to insider trading) of LAN Airlines stock in mid-2006.[40] Later that month, he resigned from the boards of LAN and Quintec.[41]

To avoid a conflict of interest, he sold Chilevisión for $160 million in 2010 to Time Warner.[35][42] He also sold his shares of LAN in several rounds between February and March 2010.[43]

Piñera built an estimated fortune of US$2.8 billion as of February 2018, according to Forbes magazine.[44] His wealth was greatly due to his involvement in introducing credit cards to Chile in the late 1970s and his subsequent investments, mainly in LAN Airlines stock. Piñera acquired shares of the formerly state-owned company from Scandinavian Airlines in 1994, as part of a joint venture with the Cueto family.[44][45]

Political career

In 1988, after Pinochet had lost the referendum on his continued rule and Chile was returning to democracy, Piñera offered his support for the Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle in his pre-candidacy for president.[46]

Between 11 March 1990 and 11 March 1998, Piñera was senator for Eastern Santiago.[47]

In 1998, Piñera opposed the arrest and detention of Augusto Pinochet in London, initiated by Baltasar Garzón, arguing that it was an attack on Chile's sovereignty and dignity.[48]

On 14 May 2005, in a surprise move Piñera announced his candidacy for the 2005 presidential election (RN was supposed to support UDI's Lavín.) He described his political philosophy as Christian humanism.[49]

Presidential elections of 2009–2010

Piñera celebrates alongside his wife and family after winning the 2009–10 presidential election

Piñera ran for President of Chile in the 2009–2010 election.[50] From August 2009, he led in opinion polls, competing with left-of-center candidates Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, Marco Enríquez-Ominami, and Jorge Arrate. In the 13 December 2009 election, Piñera placed first in the results with 44.05% of the votes, while Frei placed second with 29.6%.[51] Neither candidate received more than half of the total votes; therefore, as per the Constitution, Chileans returned to the polls for a final run-off election on Sunday, 17 January 2010.[52]

That evening, the third and final preliminary results were announced by the Undersecretary of the Interior,[53] accounting for 99.77% of the total ballot boxes. Piñera received 51.61% of the votes and Frei received 48.39%.[54]

Piñera meeting with Michelle Bachelet during the presidential transition

Piñera invested an estimated US$13.6 million in his presidential campaign, which included items such as a campaign anthem[55] and "Thank You" banners.[56] Piñera's banners and billboards carried statements throughout the country such as "Delinquents, your party is over," and "Small businesses, Big opportunities".[57] Piñera's campaign released a national TV spot on YouTube featuring a male gay couple, something never seen before in a presidential campaign run in Chile. Amongst his promises were increasing education rates and improving international relations with the neighboring nation of Peru.[58]

Piñera's victory meant a shift towards the right,[59] breaking two-decades of center-left political leadership in Chile and I. the process becoming the first elected right-wing leader in 52 years.[60]

On 28 January, Piñera suspended his membership in National Renewal party and unofficially became an independent.[61] RN's bylaws require successful presidential candidates from the party to renounce their association to govern the country fairly, foremost with the interest of the people, not with the interest of a political party or particular political philosophy.[62]

Private to public transition

Piñera became the first billionaire to be sworn into the Chilean Presidency.[63] He offered to sell his shares in major corporations before being sworn in on 11 March 2010, to avoid conflicts of interest. Piñera placed US$400 million in blind trusts.[64]

The Monday following Piñera's election, expectations of sale from his largest holdings created a surge in trade of Axxion and LAN shares, causing three brief suspensions (19–20, 22 January 2010) in the Santiago Stock Exchange to ease trade. Axxion shares more than tripled before falling 39% on Friday, 22 January.[65] Bachelet's Finance Minister Andrés Velasco urged Piñera to get the sale "sorted out quickly."[66] The value of Piñera's interest in Axxion was estimated at US$700 million, of his US$1.2 billion fortune at the beginning of that week.[67]

On 5 February, Piñera confirmed plans to sell his 26.3% stake in LAN airlines at an extraordinary shareholders' meeting for his main holding company, Axxion. Under the pact, Axxion shareholders have agreed to fix the price of the sale, estimated at US$1.5  billion. The Cueto family, who at that point held 25.5% of LAN through their holding company Costa Verde Aeronáutica, had the first option to purchase the stake.[68] On 18 February, Axxion posted a statement on their website confirming the sale of a 21.18% stake in LAN Airlines to the Cueto family for US$1.23 billion. Announcement regarding the sale of the remaining shares was pending until March 2010, when the whole package left Piñera's hands.[69]

Piñera sold his 9.7% stake in the upscale private hospital Clinica Las Condes at a price of 25,113 CLP per share (US$48.00) through his holding company Bancard on Tuesday, 16 February. The total sale of the 792,000 shares grossed US$37.85 million and was purchased by the brokerage firm Celfin.[70] The proceeds from the sale will go to paying off Bancard debt.[71]

Piñera announced in February he had the intention to transfer 100% of his stake in Chilevisión to a not-for-profit organization called Fundación Cultura y Sociedad (formerly Fundación Futuro), of which he was owner.[72] The foundation's board will include some of the station's current executives. Under that proposal, Piñera maintains the right to remove and replace the foundation's president at any given time.[73] Cristián Patricio Larroulet Vignau, current Minister of the Secretariat of the Presidency of Chile, stated that Piñera was honoring his promise of removing himself from private corporations, as Chilevision will become the property of a non-profit organization. MP Cristián Monckeberg (RN), stated there was no law obligating Piñera to do otherwise and thus this decision was legally legitimate.[72] The option above did not take place in the end; Piñera decided to sell the TV station, and after a failed attempt in May 2010 with the Linzor Capital investment fund, the President announced it had sold Chilevisión to Time Warner, in late August 2010.[74]

Piñera said he would not sell his 12.5% stake in Blanco y Negro, a company that owns the Colo-Colo soccer team. He stated: "We want big things and not only achieve local victories. The idea is to return the Copa Libertadores to Chile. That is our great goal."[75] Although he will remain part owner, he will take no administrative duties or role while President.[76]

Council of Ministers

Piñera announced his "cabinet of unity" on 9 February 2010 in Chile's National Historical Museum. The cabinet was made up of 16 men and 6 women. Among Piñera's nominees was Jaime Ravinet, the previous president's defense minister; until accepting Piñera's offer, he had been a member of the Christian Democratic Party. Another nominee was Cristián Larroulet, who was an economic planning adviser under Pinochet.[77] Piñera first met with his new ministers one day later and issued a formal memorandum calling upon all members to renounce their positions in all private companies by 28 February to avoid conflicts of interest. The memorandum also said that in regards to national heritage, secretaries of state whose affiliation with companies having direct receipt of fiscal monies must either remove themselves from those associations or honor the restrictions of their competitors.[78]

First presidency (2010–2014)

Cabinet

Piñera receives the presidential sash from Senate President Jorge Pizarro at the National Congress of Chile on 11 March 2010
Piñera's official portrait for his first term as president
President Piñera meets with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on 18 May 2010

Piñera was sworn in as the 34th President of the Republic of Chile on 11 March 2010, in a ceremony held in a plenary session of the National Congress in Valparaíso. In the same ceremony, Piñera's Cabinet ministers were sworn in. The ceremony was also marked by a 6.9 Mw earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that upset the invitees.[79]

The composition of his government was marked by the presence of former officials of the Pinochet dictatorship. For example, the head of the cabinet of the Undersecretary of Defence, Major Mario Larenas Gutiérrez, was accused by the communist deputy Hugo Gutiérrez of having participated in the Caravan of Death following the 1973 coup.[80] The same deputy recalled the past of the general appointed by Piñera as director of the Gendarmerie, Iván Andrusco, who had worked at DICOMCAR, a repressive body dissolved following the Caso Degollados (1985), and who had been forced to resign.[81][82]

On 12 October 2010, Piñera rallied his countrymen in the rescue of 33 trapped miners, all of whom were rescued after 70 days following a mining accident. "Chile will never be the same", he said to the miners' foreman, Luis Urzúa, as he (the last of the miners to emerge from the cavern) greeted Piñera, in a broadcast carried live across the globe. Despite much goodwill in Chile following this incident, he faced continuing opposition from Chileans calling for amendments to anti-terrorism laws on the grounds that indigenous Mapuches could be treated as terrorists. This matter led to hunger strikes which started before the mining disaster, and were set to continue afterward.[83]

Sebastián Piñera and his Council of Ministers in Chile's Palacio de Cerro Castillo

In January 2011 he faced protests in Magallanes Region in response to a proposed increase in the price of natural gas there by 16.8%. The protests left more than two thousand cars isolated while trying to cross from the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego to the province of Santa Cruz through Chilean territory. Another 1,500 tourists were left without movement in Torres del Paine National Park after routes to Puerto Natales and El Calafate were cut.[84] In consequence, on 14 January, Minister Secretary General of Government Ena von Baer announced changes in Sebastián Piñera's government cabinet, including the resignation of Ricardo Raineri as Energy Minister. Laurence Golborne became Mining and Energy Minister, on 16 January.[85]

Amidst the severe 2011 Chilean student protests Piñera shuffled his cabinet and removed Joaquín Lavín from the post of minister of education. With respect to the protest, Piñera defended for-profit activity in education and proposed to legalize it, rejecting the students' demands for the public ownership of educational establishments.[86] During August 2011, Piñera's public approval declined precipitously amidst continuous protests, to the extent that some polls indicated that he was the least popular Chilean leader since Augusto Pinochet. His approval ratings dropped to as low as 22% according to a CERC survey.[87] As such, Piñera's chances of passing sought reforms were seen as remote.[88]

Foreign affairs

President Piñera & First Lady Morel with Elizabeth II during their state visit to United Kingdom in October 2010

In March 2011, President Piñera led a state visit to Spain to boost relations between the two countries. While in Spain, President and Mrs Piñera, with Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia, opened the exhibition "Don Qui. El Quijote de Matta", at the Cervantes Institute of Madrid.[89]

As president, Piñera expressed support for the Argentine claim on the Falkland Islands, referring to "the unrenounceable rights of Argentina on the islands".[90]

In March 2012, Piñera visited Vietnam with the intention of increasing cooperation between the two countries in general and with Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's most populous and largest economic hub, in particular. HCM City also called for a Chilean sister city while receiving Piñera on 23 March. The visit included the signing of a bilateral trade agreement and several cooperation pacts in education, tourism, culture, and finance.[91]

President Piñera with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on 10 November 2010

Criticism

Levels of approval (blue) and disapproval (red) of Piñera's term from 2010 to 2014, according to the Adimark survey. Piñera left office in March 2014 with an approval rating of 50%

Early in 2012, physicist Frank Duarte sharply criticized Piñera's performance in the handling of the Chilean–Peruvian maritime dispute at The Hague, deemed as favoring commercial interests over the interest of the Chilean people, and called for Chile's withdrawal from The Hague.[92] Following the adverse ruling against Chile in 2014, several political figures in Chile, from a variety of political parties, also called for Chile's withdrawal from The Hague that would, in addition, imply a withdrawal from the Pact of Bogota.[93][94]

According to Hermógenes Pérez de Arce Ibieta, President Piñera had pushed for Harold Mayne-Nicholls to be replaced as President of the Chilean Football Board in 2010.[95] Pérez de Arce hold Piñera, owner of football club Colo-Colo, had a long-term interest in removing Mayne-Nicholls from the Presidency of the Chilean Football Board.[95] Marcelo Bielsa, the manager of the Chile national football team, subsequently made headlines for his brief and cold greeting to Piñera in the farewell before the 2010 FIFA World Cup.[96][97] Both Bielsa and Mayne-Nicholls had good relations with former president Michelle Bachelet, Piñera's political rival.[98]

Second presidency (2018–2022)

2017 presidential elections

Piñera's campaign logo in the second round of the election

On 17 December 2017, Sebastián Piñera was elected president of Chile for a second term.[99] He received 36% of the votes, the highest percentage among the eight candidates in the election. In the second round, Piñera faced Alejandro Guillier, a television news anchor who represented Bachelet's New Majority (Nueva Mayoría) coalition. Piñera won the elections with 54% of the votes.[50]

President Piñera receives presidential sash and the O'Higgins Pioche for the second time, 11 March 2018
President Piñera meets with U.S. President Donald Trump

Piñera took office for a second time on 11 March 2018, succeeding the outgoing Michelle Bachelet. Environmental NGOs accused the government of yielding to pressure from the mining lobby to thwart any draft legislation. In 2018, Piñera buried an initiative to ban industrial activities near glaciers. In 2019, a draft law from the ranks of the opposition caused tensions. It is supposed to convert glaciers and their surrounding environment "into protected areas, prohibiting any intervention except scientific and that can benefit sustainable tourism". At least 44 mining projects will likely be completed between 2019 and 2028.[100]

In May 2018, in response to massive feminist demonstrations, his government adopted "The Women's Agenda", which combined a conservative social vision and economic liberalism.[101][clarification needed] In June 2021, Piñera said that he would push for the adoption of a same-sex marriage bill, drawing criticism from his conservative allies.[102]

Cabinet

In January 2018, Piñera unveiled his cabinet to harsh criticism: his interior minister, Andrés Chadwick, was a vocal supporter of Pinochet dictatorship, which had previously appointed him president of the Catholic University Students Federation.[103] In 2012 Chadwick expressed "deep repentance" for this support after discovering "over the years" serious human rights violations committed by the dictatorship, while defending the regime on other grounds.[104]

Chadwick and justice minister Hernán Larraín were also "supporters and defenders of the secretive German enclave Colonia Dignidad, which was established by the fugitive Nazi officer and paedophile Paul Schäfer in the early 60s".[103] Colonia Dignidad was used by Pinochet security officials to torture and murder opponents of the regime.[103][105]

Response to 2019–2020 Chilean protests

Official portrait of Piñera vandalised in Viña del Mar during protests

Following widespread protests that broke out across Chile in October 2019, due to a poor economy, Piñera declared a state of emergency on 18 October, authorizing the deployment of the Chilean Army across the main regions to enforce order and prevent the destruction of public property, and invoked before the courts the Ley de Seguridad del Estado ("State Security Law") against dozens of detainees.[106] As a result, Piñera was criticized for his actions, resulting in an approval rate of 9% by 24 October, according to a poll by Active Research,[107] although it increased to 13% by 1 June 2020,[108] against 73% disapproval. This consistently low level of support was attributed to losing support from officials due to failure to restore order and enforce the rule of law.[109] On 12 December 2019 the National Congress rejected an opposition-led motion to impeach him. The impeachment resolution accused him of failing to protect human rights in relation to the protests.[110]

In response to the unrest, Piñera removed Chadwick as Interior and Public Security Minister on 28 October 2019 and replaced him with Gonzalo Blumel. On 11 December Chadwick was impeached for his role in the protests, including the many eye injuries attained by protesters.[111][112] Chadwick was banned from holding public office for five years.[112]

Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

As of 19 April 2021, Chile had recorded 1,131,340 cases of COVID-19 and 25,277 deaths from COVID-19, placing the country in the 50th and 31st places by total cases per million and total deaths per million respectively.[113] In response, Piñera banned events with more than 500 people[114] and issued lock-down orders in certain areas of the country, most notably the Santiago Metropolitan Region.[115] Despite heavy criticism amidst the still ongoing political crisis,[116] Chile managed to achieve one of the fastest vaccination rates worldwide.[117]

Following the social unrest that erupted in late 2019, Piñera's diminished capacity to govern according to the principle of presidentialism led to claims that Chile was in a state of de facto parliamentarism or should become parliamentary.[118][119][120][121][c]

Conflict in Araucanía

Piñera faced conflict in the Araucania region and nearby provinces, where the Mapuche people are demanding the return of their ancestral lands, which they consider to have been taken over by large companies. Militants have been carrying out attacks and arson attacks on large logging operations, leading the Chilean government to declare a state of emergency in October 2021 and to militarise the region. Several civilians were killed as a result of law enforcement actions.[122]

Pandora Papers

In the Pandora Papers leak of 3 October 2021, Piñera was named in the revealed documents.[123] According to the Spanish newspaper El País, Chilean media organizations CIPER and LaBot allegedly documented that Piñera was involved in "particularly controversial activity".[123] According to reports, Piñera took money from a prominent mining executive in exchange for government support for Minera Dominga – a controversial mining investment project located in an environmentally sensitive area. The mining executive in question is Piñera's childhood friend Carlos Alberto Délano of Andes Iron.[123][124]

El País wrote:[123]

In December 2010, when Piñera had been in the presidential residence, La Moneda Palace, for just nine months, the presidential family sold the business to Délano with a deed signed in Chile for $14 million and another in the Virgin Islands for $138 million. The amount was to be paid in three installments, with a caveat: the last payment was conditional on there not being environmental protection imposed on the mining operations area, as environmental groups were demanding. The decision on the viability of Minera Dominga was left in the hands of the Piñera government, which failed to promote environmental protection, so the third installment was finally paid.

According to Infobae, Piñera's family and other investors allegedly made a 1,000% profit over an eighteen-month period on the project that required approval from Piñera's government.[125]

In response, Piñera's business manager said that Piñera had not been in control of his own companies for about twelve years and that he was not aware of the sale of Minera Dominga to Délano.[123]

Impeachment

As a consequence of the leaked information by the Pandora Papers; a formal impeachment was launched against him. On 9 November 2021, the Chamber of Deputies passed the impeachment and it then moved to the Senate, where a two-thirds vote is needed to remove a sitting president.[126][127] On 16 November 2021, the Senate voted against removing Piñera from office, ending the impeachment process.[128]

Public image

Since the return to democracy in 1990 Piñera has been the president with the lowest approval rating in polls.[129] According to diplomat and political scientist Carlos Huneeus, Piñera showed himself well-prepared in his public appearances with a good command of relevant facts, yet he fails to show empathy.[130] In an interview with Cristián Warnken, Piñera acknowledged he had difficulties in expressing his feelings.[131] In April 2012, The Economist described Piñera as being considered an "inept politician" by both the opposition and supporters.[132] The Chilean government responded by stating that The Economist's comment was disrespectful.[133]

Jokes and informal style

Many of Piñera's jokes were, according to diplomat and political scientist Oscar Godoy, attempts to gain sympathy.[134]

In December 2011, during a state visit to Mexico, a joke made by Piñera where he compared women with politicians caused uproar in Chile, sparking criticism from his own minister Carolina Schmidt who said of the joke that it was "[hurtful] to many women".[135] In the joke, Piñera said that "when a lady says "no" it means maybe, when she says maybe it means yes and when she says yes she is not a lady."[136] The Chilean Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence called the joke "misogynistic" and "a shame for the whole country".[136] Previously on a state visit to Peru in 2011, Piñera received criticism for his informal style after he revealed to Peruvian president-elect Ollanta Humala that he was a descendant of the Inca Huayna Capac.[137] Senator Jorge Pizarro criticized Piñera's comment to Ollanta Humala, calling for more careful and respectful attitudes.[138]

In June 2013, after visiting U.S. President Obama in the White House,[139] he said, "I'm going to sit at the President of the United States' desk" breaking the White House's political protocols. Alfredo Moreno Charme, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said "How many other presidents have done the same?" and Obama responded, "This is the only one," causing laughter between those there. Piñera then justified his abrupt actions by stating his daughter was born in the United States.[140]

Bad luck and ridicule

Piñera was often publicly associated with bad luck.[141] The BBC listed a series of situations of "bad luck" concerning Piñera's presidency: the 2010 Maule earthquake followed by another quake during Piñera's inauguration ceremony, the Copiapó mining accident of 2010, the 2010 Santiago prison fire, the 2011 Puyehue-Cordón Caulle eruption and the 2012 Araucanía wildfires.[141] His lapses, errors and inconveniences were labelled "piñericosas" in Chile.[142] Carlos Peña was deeply critical of Piñera's failed public appearances, calling his improvised visit to Plaza Baquedano, the epicenter of the 2019–2020 protests, in April 2020 an act of "provocation and contempt" and "narcissism bordering on evil" (Spanish: narcicismo cercano a lo maligno).[130]

Chilean impressionist Stefan Kramer recurrently personified Piñera since at least 2010. This initially caused some displeasure in the Government, which filed a complaint in 2010 to the National Television Council regarding what they saw as a disrespectful portrayal.[143][144] In 2011, Kramer again personified Piñera, alongside his brother Miguel, in the Teletón charity event while Piñera was present in the audience.[143][145][146] Judging the situation, journalist Fernando Paulsen said Piñera acted correctly by letting the imitiation pass, while claiming anything else would have been seen as an abuse of authority.[146] Afterwards, organizers were concerned that they put the president in an really uncomfortable position, and Kramer chose to not personify Piñera for the 2012 Teletón.[145] However, earlier in 2012, Piñera had been ridiculed again by Kramer in the blockbuster film Stefan versus Kramer.[143] In the movie, Piñera was portrayed as a Machiavellian politician, and was mocked among other things for his real-life impasse with the highly popular football coach Marcelo Bielsa.[143] Some pundits argued, however, that the portrayal may not be merely negative but could have the effect of humanizing him before the public.[147]

José Mujica, president of Uruguay, stated Piñera's low approval ratings might be caused by a lack of "glamour".[148]

Use of bellicose rhetoric

During the 2019–20 Chilean protests Piñera made himself known for the use of a bellicose language.[149] When Piñera addressed the nation on the evening of 20 October during the height of the unrest he remarked that the country was "at war with a powerful and relentless enemy" and announced that the state of emergency would be extended across much of the country.[150] Some opposition politicians described his rhetoric as "irresponsible", while a Latin America editor for BBC News Online expressed concern about the impact his words would have on the protesters and on the chances for meaningful dialogue.[151] Hours shortly after the President's speech, chief of national defense Javier Iturriaga del Campo appeared to contradict this declaration, asserting that he was "content" and "not at war with anyone".[152]

However, the use of bellicose rhetoric can be traced back to at least 2018 when Piñera began his second government.[149] He referred to a variety of subjects like drug trafficking, terrorism, and organized crime as "powerful and relentless enemies".[149] Besides this Piñera made frequent use of words like "battle", "conquest", "defeat" and "combat" in his verbal communication.[149] The use of such language is not unique to Piñera but has also been heard from European right-wing populists and George W. Bush.[149] According to economist Carlos Tromben who studied Piñera's political discourse, the aim of this rhetoric was to rally the nation behind what was perceived as a common interest, but the success of this was variable.[149] Tromben also views the bellicose rhetoric as a defensive communicational strategy aimed to gain time for a "counterattack".[149]

Personal life

Piñera and Morel in February 2012

Piñera married Cecilia Morel in 1973. They were neighbors on Avenida Américo Vespucio in Santiago.[153] They had four children, born in 1975, 1978, 1982, and 1984.[154]

Piñera was also a member of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington D.C.-based think tank.[155] He supported Javier Milei's successful presidential campaign in the 2023 Argentine general election.[156]

Death and funeral

Map of the Lake Ranco helicopter crash in which Sebastián Piñera died

At 2:47 p.m. Chile Summer Time (UTC−3) on 6 February 2024,[157] a few minutes after take-off, the Robinson R44 helicopter (Registration CC-PHP) that Piñera was piloting crashed nose-first into Lake Ranco in the province of El Ranco in Los Rios Region.[158] The helicopter crashed about 40 m from the southern shore of the lake at Ilihue, east of the town of Lago Ranco.[159] Piñera had a summer house near Coique, 42 km (26 mi) from the crash site on the opposite side of the lake.[159] At the time of the crash there had been a strong storm in the area.[160] According to La Nación, he survived the crash itself but the impact left him unconscious and unable to remove his safety belt, resulting in his drowning.[161][162] The other three people on board were his sister Magdalena and businessman Miguel Ignacio Guerrero with his son Bautista Guerrero, all of whom survived.[163] His body was subsequently retrieved by the Chilean Navy from a depth of 28 m (92 ft).[164][159]

Funeral mass of Sebastián Piñera at Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral

In an address from La Moneda Palace later that evening, President Gabriel Boric declared three days of national mourning and announced that Piñera would be given a state funeral to be organized by foreign minister Alberto van Klaveren.[165][163] Tatiana Rivera, the regional attorney for Los Rios, said that Piñera's body would be transported to Valdivia for an autopsy. Following its completion, his body was transferred to a base of the Chilean Air Force in Santiago Air Base, then transported to the Former National Congress of Chile building in Santiago, where it lied in state. A private ceremony for the family was held on the morning of 7 February, after which the public was allowed to enter the building. On 9 February, Piñera's body was transported to Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral for a requiem mass officiated by Archbishop Fernando Chomalí Garib. President Boric, along with former presidents Michelle Bachelet, Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, and President of Senate Juan Antonio Coloma gave speeches. Piñera's body was then transported to La Moneda for a eulogy by President Boric, to be later taken to the Parque del Recuerdo for burial.[166]

Styles, honours and arms

Presidential styles of
Sebastián Piñera Echenique
Flag of the President of Chile Arms of Sebastián
Reference styleHis Excellency
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Alternative styleMr. President

National honours

Foreign honours

Arms

Notes

  1. ^ Membership suspended while President.
  2. ^ In this Spanish name, the first or paternal surname is Piñera and the second or maternal family name is Echenique.
  3. ^ Other observers claim instead the Piñera administration had become increasingly presidential as result of the COVID-19 pandemic in Chile.[121]

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