Chilean Senate rejects removal of president in misappropriation process

The Chilean Senate on Tuesday on Tuesday rejected a misappropriation process initiated by opposition to remove President Sebastián Piñera on allegations that he favored the sale of family property that depended on the government not declaring the land a nature reserve.

The lower house approved the misappropriation charges, setting up a test in the 43-member Senate, where senators voted 24 in favor of removal, 18 against and one abstention. The total in favor was five votes short of the two-thirds support of 29 senators needed to remove the president.

On a second indictment accusing Piñera of endangering the nation’s honor, the vote was 22 in favor of removal, 20 against and one abstaining.

The vote took place less than a week before the first round of Chile’s election to elect a successor for Piñera, whose term ends on March 11. Chile does not allow presidential re-election to consecutive terms.

Right-wing senator Luz Ebensperger was the one who voted against ousting the president. She said it’s not enough to just accuse Piñera of something, saying she saw nothing “to prove it.”

The accusations against the president arose from the publication of the so-called Pandora Papers, which revealed foreign financial business of prominent figures around the world, including Piñera, one of Chile’s richest people.

The leaked documents revealed that one of Piñera’s sons used foreign companies in the British Virgin Islands for the sale of the Dominga mining project, which his family co-owned.

The final payment on the sale of the mine in 2011 depended on the government declining to declare its location in a north-central Chile nature reserve. The government, by that time led by Piñera in his first time as president, had not made the name, which was sought by environmentalists. The next government also retained the name.

When investigators investigated the case a few years later, Piñera said he was not involved in managing the companies and did not even notice the family’s relationship with Dominga.

The president’s office noted that Piñera’s first term as president, from 2010 to 2014, did not begin when the sale was agreed, prosecutors and courts ruled in 2017 that no crime had been committed and that Piñera was not involved. It said all taxes payable in Chile had been paid.

Piñera’s assets are now being managed in a blind trust, according to the statement.

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