Five days before the general elections in Chile, the conservative president Sebastián Piñera has escaped the most complex political test of his second term: the constitutional accusation that the opposition sought to pass in Parliament to remove him less than four months after he left power, in March 2022. This Tuesday, early this Tuesday, the Chilean Senate has reviewed as a jury the arguments of the Chamber of Deputies, which last week approved the impeachment with 78 votes, the minimum required. In the Upper House, however, senators have made speeches of 15 minutes each announcing their vote – which would officially take place around midnight – and it is already a fact that the opposition will not reach the 29 votes necessary to remove the President from office. president, questioned by the alleged irregularities in the sale in the Virgin Islands of a mining project, as confirmed by the Pandora Papers.
It was highly probable that the impeachment would not advance in the Senate, because of the required high quorum of two-thirds. The opposition only has 24 votes in the Upper House, so it had to convince another five of the ruling party. It was a complex mission, given that even his political sector has turned its back on Piñera. In a political crisis since the 2019 riots, which have led to a deep popularity problem – support is around 16%, according to the latest Cadem poll – the scandal of the Pandora Papers he deepened the disaffection of his alliance in the midst of a presidential and parliamentary competition, where he does not appear alongside the president. In today’s session in the Senate, the ruling Senator Manuel José Ossandón, who is running for office again in Sunday’s elections, not only abstained, but also issued a harsh political judgment against the president, pointing to his diffuse line of opinion. separation between business and politics.
“For me, honor is much more important than a sentence,” said Ossandón, of the National Renovation party, once led by Piñera himself and who currently has a complex relationship with the president. Although he assured that the accusation has no probative support, Ossandón made a strong criticism: “We all know who he is, what his ways are, where are his limits and what he has done in his business and political life. I have always said that I do not share the ways in which he has mixed politics and business, the private and the public, because I think he has not been able to set limits ”.
The day began in the Congress based in Valparaíso, about 100 kilometers from Santiago, with the presentation of three opposition deputies, for almost an hour and a half. “Although the president is upset, there is no deadline that is not met or debt that is not paid. If the accusation is rejected today, we will continue to insist on all institutional and international mechanisms, ”threatened Deputy Gael Yeomans (CS), from the Broad Left Front, one of those who spoke in front of the Senate in the morning. Then it was the turn of the president’s lawyer, Jorge Gálvez, who pointed to the electoral motivations to push the dismissal. “Why is it that instead of investigating, is a constitutional accusation improvised, with the declared intention of placing its vote prior to the election, in the middle of a presidential and parliamentary campaign?”, Asked the jurist, surrounded by two of the ministers politicians from Piñera, Juan José Ossa and Jaime Bellolio.
In the afternoon, when the speeches of each of the senators present began –43 in total–, one of the expected interventions was that of the Christian Democratic senator Yasna Provoste, the only candidate for La Moneda in the Upper House. Like all the opposition, the standard-bearer of the center-left announced her vote in favor of dismissal and assured that “Piñera has damaged democracy like no one else.” “History will judge, which I am convinced, is the worst government in democracy in the last 70 years,” said Provoste, who in this campaign has not managed to differentiate himself from the left-wing presidential candidate, Congressman Gabriel Boric, and hardly go to a Second round. The socialist senator José Miguel Insulza, former secretary general of the OAS, also announced his vote in favor of impeachment, but marked a nuance: “I would have preferred that this accusation had occurred at another time.”
Insulza pointed to an issue that hovers over the Chilean political debate and that is related to the moment of this constitutional accusation. Considering that the law allowed Congress to lift an impeachment trial for up to six months after Piñera ends his constitutional term on March 11, certain sectors considered it political irresponsibility to remove him from office amid the greatest crisis of the recent past , even if there were reasons to investigate it. In the Chamber of Deputies, the independent parliamentarian linked to the center-left, Pepe Auth, did not approve the dismissal last week and this Tuesday he denounced a campaign against him: “Pepe Auth traitor, operator of the right,” indicated a poster installed in the middle of public highway, which was signed by the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, CUT, the main union.
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It is part of the political climate in Chile in the final hours of a polarized, open and competitive campaign, where the main favorites – according to the latest polls known – are Gabriel Boric, the candidate of the Broad Front and the Communist Party, and the leader of the extreme right Republican Party, José Antonio Kast.
The publication in early October of the Pandora Papers it unleashed a political crisis in the final phase of the government. Barely on the waterline since the social unrest of October 2019, Piñera will end his second term with the Prosecutor’s Office on top, which after the publication of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ, in its acronym in English) opened an investigation by alleged irregularities in the sale of the Dominga mining project in 2010. The impeachment that sought the removal of the president pointed to “the acts of his Administration that seriously compromised the honor of the Nation and for having openly infringed the Constitution and the laws”, according to the 285-page document presented by the opposition deputies.
Never before has a Chilean president been investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office for his public function. Also, never in the recent past has a Chilean president terminated his mandate early, because the last time it happened was with the military coup against Salvador Allende in 1973. But on this occasion, Piñera was close, because on the first occasion that The opposition tried to dismiss him – two years ago, in the midst of the social outbreak – the accusation was never approved even in the Chamber of Deputies.
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