Ex-Chile President Dead in Helicopter Crash

A helicopter mishap killed Sebastian Pinera, a two-term president of Chile. He was the first conservative president of his nation in decades and had a background in economics.

A Life of Service

Miguel Juan Sebastián Piñera Echenique was born in Santiago de Chile on December 1, 1949. His father was a diplomat and Sebastian spent most of the first six years of his life in Belgium and the US. Later he earned a degree in engineering from a private Chilean college, before returning to the US and gaining a Master of Arts and PhD in economics from Harvard.

Soon after finishing his studies at Harvard, Pinera returned to Chile to teach economics at the University of Chile. He also became a political activis. He established a foundation in 1973 to aid Chile in its pursuit of democracy, freedom, and justice. In the next year, a military coup deposed Salvador Allende, the country’s socialist president, and installed General Augusto Pinochet, a right-wing autocrat who ruled the nation until 1989.

Pinera worked as an economist in addition to his academic career. Among his many successful commercial ventures was the introduction of credit cards to Chile in the 1970s, which he helped finance. However, his business operations weren’t always smooth sailing; in 1982, he went into hiding for over three weeks when the Pinochet regime issued an arrest warrant for him on suspicions of tax evasion. Regardless, he amassed a fortune of about $2.8 billion.

The question of whether Pinochet should remain in power or abdicate was put to a vote by the people in a referendum he convened in 1988. Pinera supported a centrist candidate to succeed him when he lost the vote. But the Chilean people chose a socialist candidate instead. For the province of Eastern Santiago, Pinera was elected senator in 1990 and served two terms of four years each.

Pinera sought the presidency in 2009 after a long career in business. Due to the lack of a unified victory, a runoff election was held in January 2010 between Eduardo Ruiz-Tagle, a centrist, and Pinera, a representative of the right National Renewal party. After a tight contest, Pinera was inaugurated as president on March 11, 2010, with a margin of 51.61%. Though he was defeated by socialist Michelle Bachelet for the presidency in 2013, he was re-elected in 2017.

Protests against the administration in 2019 and the pandemic in 2020 were two of the many difficulties that Pinera faced during his second term as president. In 2021, he was also embroiled in the “Pandora Papers” controversy, which alleged that he had accepted funds from a mining firm seeking to establish operations within a protected natural area. Despite the failure of an impeachment attempt, he chose not to run for president again in 2021.

Near his holiday house on Lake Ranco, Pinera lost control of his Robinson R44 light helicopter on February 6 and fell into the water. While his three companions were able to escape, Pinera perished in the sinking wreck because he was unable to free himself from his safety strap. The man’s family includes a widow and three kids.




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