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The Chilean opposition asked Parliament on Wednesday to launch impeachment proceedings against President Sebastian Piñera, relating to the revelations of the Pandora Papers investigation. The Chamber of Deputies, then the Senate, will have to rule on the accusation of conflict of interest in the sale of a mining company.
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera finds himself in turmoil a few weeks before the general elections. The Chilean Parliament will begin the study of an impeachment procedure launched by the opposition against the elected for the controversial sale of a mining company, carried out in a tax haven and revealed by the international investigation of the Pandora Papers.
the President Piñera used “his function to carry out personal affairs,” opposition MP Tomas Hirsch said on Wednesday (October 13th) after the petition was filed in the Lower House, the first step in the impeachment process.
The opposition-controlled Chamber of Deputies (83 of 155 seats) must now decide whether to approve or reject the accusation. If the lower house approves it, it will be the turn of the Senate to decide by a two-thirds vote. “It could take several weeks,” says Thomas Nicolon, correspondent for France 24.
The two chambers must vote before the general elections on November 21 where a new president will be elected and the Parliament renewed.
At the end of 2019, Sebastian Piñera, whose term ends in March 2022, had already faced an impeachment attempt for the violent repression of the social uprising against inequalities, but the initiative had not succeeded.
“A case closed by justice”, according to Piñera
The government accused the opposition of bringing “an accusation without legal basis” with political motives. “It’s the dirtiest thing in the election campaign,” spokesman Jaime Bellolio said.
This procedure, which according to the president has “no basis”, comes in addition to the criminal investigation opened five days ago by the regional prosecution of Valparaiso (center) in the same case.
Sebastian Piñera, one of the political leaders appearing in the Pandora Papers, the investigation disclosed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), has denied any conflict of interest in the sale of the mining company to a close friend and claims his “total innocence”.
The right-wing president, one of the richest men in Chile, believes that in 2017 there was already “an in-depth investigation by the prosecution service” and that it is “a case closed by justice”.
However, the prosecution argued that the facts related to the sale and purchase of the mining company “were not expressly included” in the 2017 dismissal decision.
The sale took place in 2010 during the Chilean Head of State’s first term (2010-2014), who has been in power again since 2018.
“Personal” and non-environmental interests
According to an investigation by the Chilean media CIPER and LaBot, members of the ICIJ, the mining company Minera Dominga was sold to businessman Carlos Alberto Délano, a friend of the head of state, for 152 million euros. dollars, a transaction made in the British Virgin Islands.
Payment for the transaction was to be made in three installments, and contained a controversial clause that made the final payment conditional on “an environmental protection zone not being established on the mining company’s operating area, such as ask environmental groups “.
According to the investigation, Sebastian Piñera’s government ultimately failed to protect the area where mining was planned, so the third payment was made.
For deputy Tomas Hirsch, President Piñera “thus prevented a single area on the planet from being declared a nature reserve, solely to promote his personal interests”.
This open-pit copper and iron mining project in the Atacama Desert (north), still awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court after appeals, also provides for the construction of an ore loading port at near a national reserve sheltering Humboldt penguins, an endangered species that only nest in Chile and Peru.
In early August, an environmental assessment commission approved the project despite protests from environmentalists, but still has to receive approval in the Council of Ministers.
During his first term, Sebastian Piñera announced the cancellation of a project to build a thermoelectric power station to be installed near Minera Dominga. No further protective measures were subsequently taken.