The former president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, died on Tuesday afternoon after a helicopter crash, where three more people who survived were traveling. At 74 years old, Was president of the South American country in the periods 2010-2014 and 2018-2022 and one of the richest men in Chile.
With a fortune close to US$3 billionthe controversial PhD in economics at Harvard He always faced criticism for his business past and the rejection of some of his political allies linked to the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. His keen sense of business, plus his temperament controlling and obsessive, made him the center of several controversies but at the same time allowed him to amass a heritage that took him even to the famous Forbes list.
The business passion of the man from Santiago, born in December 1949, transferred to politics, becoming a senator between 1990-1998. “I knew that my true vocation was public service and I went into politics,” he confessed in an interview in March 2019, in which he also stated that a third term was not in his plans.
Although In 2005 he lost the presidential race against the socialist Michelle Bachelet, five years later he marked a milestone by becoming the first conservative to come to power since the return to democracy in 1990 after four center-left governments.
The beginning of his first term was focused on reconstruction after an earthquake and tsunami that shook the central-southern area of the countryalthough he also scored victories like the surprising rescue of 33 miners trapped 700 meters deep, which inspired a Hollywood movie.
Convinced that economic growth was the key to improving the quality of life and achieving development, he was an advocate of investment and reforms to modernize the world’s largest copper producer. But his phrases “Education is a consumer good” and “Nothing is free in this life”about their reservations regarding universal gratuity, marked a harsh period of protests against it.
In October 2019in his second term, faced the so-called “social outbreak”, a series of demonstrations and riots with which Chileans, mainly in Santiago, took to the streets to protest against the neoliberal system. The trigger was the rise of public transportation fare.
The controversies in Sebastián Piñera’s career
His taste for improvisation When giving speeches, it led him to make mistakes or make unfortunate comments that his detractors called “piñericosas”, which the president often sought to take advantage of. On one occasion gave Olympic record holder Usain Bolt a doctored photo where the president appeared running against the athlete.
Despite his harsh tone and the perception of being “distant”, according to several surveys, in 2017 he achieved a solid second electoral victory to succeed Bachelet again. “It is difficult to govern, but that is no reason to give up doing everything possible to be a good government”he told the newspaper El Mercurio in June 2019.
He also a helicopter pilot He returned with the promise of “better times,” but global volatility, coupled with a weakness in the price and production of copper clouded his intentions. He also faced the COVID-19 pandemic in his second term. At first, it received a lot of criticism for the low amounts of aid for people, which added to the discontent of the population. But later, its management of official vaccination policies made Chile one of the model countries in managing the health situation.
Despite his links and support from right-wing parties, Piñera always claimed to have voted against Augusto Pinochet in the 1988 referendum that allowed the return to democracy in the country. The late leader also lamented his sour relationship with his brother José de Él, an economist and former Pinochet minister who created the pension fund system, praised by several countries although criticized by a large part of Chileans.
Piñera could not dispel doubts about his past as a businessmans, fined by regulators, complaints of use of insider information and linked directly or indirectly to other scandals. But he always denied any wrongdoing.
Regarding a scandal over irregular loans from a bank he ran in the 1980s, he said before winning his first presidency that it was “victim of an unjust, illegal and arbitrary act”. In that case he was convicted by the court and remained a fugitive for a few days.
On one occasion he admitted that he would have liked to be recognized in a better way, but he always trusted that his achievements would speak for themselves. “Time is not our ally, it will be our judge,” he said in a speech to Congress in 2011.
How Sebastián Piñera died
The former president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, died this Tuesday after The helicopter in which he was traveling plunged into Lake Rancoin the Los Ríos Region, in the south of the country.
The businessman was traveling with three other people, who managed to escape alive. However, as reported by Radio Bio-Bío, Piñera nor he could have unbuckled his seat belt and drowned.