Chilean President Piñera risks impeachment after Pandora documents leak | Chile
Opposition politicians have launched impeachment proceedings against Chilean President Sebastián Piñera over possible irregularities in the sale of a mining company, after new details of the deal were revealed in Pandora newspapers .
Lawmakers cited an “ethical duty” to hold the president accountable for alleged irregularities in his involvement in the controversial Dominga project.
Earlier this month, the Chilean prosecution announced it would open an investigation into possible charges of corruption and tax offenses related to the sale, which ended in the British Virgin Islands.
The move is the latest blow for center-right Piñera as he nears the end of a turbulent four-year tenure. Presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for November, with polls suggesting left-wing candidates are likely to gain ground.
Pandora Newspapers – the largest mine of leaked offshore data in history – have revealed new details about the controversial mining deal.
Piñera’s family sold their stake in the Dominga mining project in 2010 to their close friend and business partner, Carlos Alberto Délano. Pandora Papers’ investigation found evidence to suggest that the third installment of the payment contained a clause requiring the government not to strengthen environmental protections in the proposed area for the mine in northern Chile.
Jaime Naranjo, a left-wing lower house lawmaker and one of the driving forces behind the impeachment process, said Piñera had “openly violated the constitution … seriously compromising the honor of the nation”.
Piñera, whose fortune stands at $ 2.5 billion according to Forbes magazine, dismissed the charges and argued that no irregularities were found in the deal.
Amid scrutiny of his cases, Piñera on Monday announced a state of emergency in four southern provinces of the country where tensions are high between the Mapuche people, Chile’s largest indigenous group, and the police and powerful landowners. Unrest has rocked the region since the 2018 police murder of an unarmed Mapuche man – and the cover-up that followed – sparked protests of anger across the country.
The new measures will restrict movement and the right to assembly following the recent arson attacks, and further increase the military and police presence in the area. Indigenous activists have questioned the timing and purpose of the measure, announced on the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas.
They say the state of emergency, which will last for 15 days but can be extended to 30 days, was enacted to cynically distract from the president’s inquiries.
Piñera is also still under pressure because of the brutal crackdown on anti-inequality protests in 2019 and 2020. His former Home Secretary, Andrés Chadwick, was indicted by congress at the height of the protests in December 2019, and Piñera himself narrowly avoided impeachment in a similar vote days later.
In April, Baltasar Garzón – the Spanish judge who worked to hold dictator Gen Augusto Pinochet accountable for crimes committed during his 1973-1990 regime – filed a charge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague alleging Piñera’s complicity in crimes alleged human rights abuses during the unrest. The president denied any wrongdoing.
The president’s latest impeachment motion could be passed in Congress before the first round of Chilean legislative elections on November 21. If approved by the lower house, it passes to the Senate, where it must be approved by a two-thirds majority if Piñera is to be removed from office.