Former Chilean President Sebastian Piñera dies in helicopter crash

Chile's former two-term president Sebastian Piñera has died in a helicopter crash, the government said Tuesday afternoon.

In a national address, Interior Minister Carolina Doha said Pinera, 74, had been killed and three others had fled.

“President Binera ruled us and we will remember him for the way he dedicated his life to public service,” Doha said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash in Los Rios, which was hit by rain Tuesday afternoon.

The helicopter crashed in the rural town of Lago Ranco in southern Chile, Chile's National Disaster Prevention and Response Service said in a statement. First responders recovered Pinera's body. Doha did not identify the other passengers.

President Gabriel Boric said in a televised address that he had ordered three days of mourning.

“President Piñera contributed to the best deals for the good of the country,” Boric said. “He was a Democrat from the start.”

Boric cited the reconstruction Pinera led after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 500 people, his role in rescuing 33 miners after the San Jose mine collapsed and his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic.

Piñera, a billionaire centre-right politician, served two consecutive terms as president – once from 2010 to 2014 and then from 2018 to 2022. His second term was marked by massive protests against social inequality and two opposition-led attempts to impeach him. Presidents are not allowed to hold office continuously in Chile.

One of those efforts included the findings of an investigation by media partners led by The Washington Post and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which showed that a mining company owned by Pinera's children was sold to a close friend of Pinera's for $152 million. , Chilean businessman Carlos Alberto Delano. The sale took place in December 2010, nearly nine months into Pinera's first tenure.

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The last installment of the deal concerns the government's refusal to impose environmental safeguards on the mining area, which has been criticized by opposition politicians as a “serious” conflict of interest.

The lower house of parliament voted to impeach him, while the senate voted against.

Pinera denied wrongdoing.

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News of Pinera's death reverberated across the region, prompting condolences from former and current leaders.

Ivan Duque, Colombia's right-wing president from 2018 to 2022, said: “I feel great pain for the death of my best friend and colleague Sebastian Piñera. wrote In X. “Dear Sebastian you will always be in our memory and we will protect your legacy.”

Throughout his presidency, Piñera defended democracy and human rights in the region — particularly in Venezuela, where he became a key supporter of opposition efforts to oust President Nicolás Maduro.

In 2017, Chile, under Piñera's mandate, helped form the Lima Group, a coalition of a dozen Latin American countries created to seek a peaceful solution to the humanitarian and political crises in Venezuela. What did he criticize? as depicted “A dictatorship is harmful and unwilling to leave power,” he often said was invited For international engagement in the restoration of Venezuelan democracy.

Upon hearing of Piñera's death, exiled Venezuelan opposition leader Antonio Letesma Appreciated His steadfast solidarity with the struggle of the Venezuelan people.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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