Chile’s Senate rejects president’s impeachment in impeachment trial

Chile’s Senate rejects president’s impeachment in impeachment trial

Santiago Chile’s Senate late Tuesday rejected the opposition’s impeachment of President Sebastian Pinera over allegations he favored selling family property contingent on the government not declaring the land a nature reserve.

The House of Representatives approved the impeachment charges, and set up a trial in the 43-member Senate, with 24 voting in favor of impeachment, 18 against and one abstaining. The five-vote support total was less than two-thirds of the 29 Senate support needed to oust the president.

In a second count accusing Pinera of harming the honor of the nation, the vote was 22 in favor of removal, 20 against and one abstention.

After the vote, Chile’s presidential minister, Juan Jose Osa, described Pinera as “very calm”.

“He appreciates the decision made by the Senate,” Osa said.

The vote came less than a week before the first round of Chile’s elections to choose Pinera’s successor, whose term expires on March 11. Chile does not allow the president to be re-elected for consecutive terms.

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It was the right-leaning Senator Luz Ebensberger who voted against the president’s ouster. She said it’s not enough just to accuse Pinera of something, saying she doesn’t see anything “to prove it”.

The accusations against the president arose from the publication of the so-called Pandora Papers, which exposed the offshore financial dealings of prominent figures around the world, including Pinera, one of Chile’s richest men.

Leaked documents revealed that one of Pinera’s sons used offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands to sell the Dominga mining venture, which his family co-owned.

The last batch of selling the mine in 2011 was contingent upon the government’s refusal to declare its location in north-central Chile as a nature reserve. The government, which Pinera at the time led the first time as president, did not carry out the classification work, which environmentalists sought. The next government also refrained from this classification.

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When investigators looked into the case a few years later, Pinera said he was not involved in managing the companies and did not even realize the family’s connection to Dominga.

The president’s office noted that Pinera’s first term as president, from 2010 to 2014, did not begin when the sale was approved, that prosecutors and the courts decided in 2017 that no crime had been committed and that Pinera was not involved. She said all taxes owed in Chile had been paid.

According to the statement, PiƱera’s holdings are now managed in a blind trust.

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