- Sebastián Piñera
- Teaching career
- Political career
- First presidency (2010–2014)
- Second presidency (2018–present)
- Public image
- Personal life
- In popular culture
Sebastián Piñera in 2018, shortly after reassuming the presidency
|President of Chile|
11 March 2018
|Preceded by||Michelle Bachelet|
11 March 2010 – 11 March 2014
|Preceded by||Michelle Bachelet|
|Succeeded by||Michelle Bachelet|
|Leader of National Renewal|
26 May 2001 – 10 March 2004
|Preceded by||Alberto Cardemil|
|Succeeded by||Sergio Díez|
|Senator for Eastern Santiago|
11 March 1990 – 11 March 1998
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Carlos Bombal|
|Born||Miguel Juan Sebastián Piñera Echenique
(1949-12-01) 1 December 1949
|Political party||National Renewal (1989–present, membership suspended while president)|
|Coalition for Change (2009–2013)
Chile Vamos (2015–present)
|Spouse(s)||Cecilia Morel (1974–present)|
|Alma mater||Pontifical Catholic University of Chile
a Chilean politician and businessman. He has been the President of Chile since March 2018, following his election in December 2017. He also served as President from 2010 to 2014.
Piñera is the sixth child of the marriage between José Piñera Carvallo and Magdalena Echenique Rozas. He was born on 1 December 1949, in Santiago, Chile. His siblings are María Magdalena, José Manuel, Juan Pablo, José Miguel, and María Teresa. Sebastián Piñera’s ancestry includes Basque, Cantabric and Amerindian roots. Among his ancestors on his maternal side is his mother’s great-great-grandmother, Luisa Pinto Garmendia, the sister of President Aníbal Pinto Garmendia and daughter of President Francisco Antonio Pinto and Luisa Garmendia Alurralde, who was a descendant of the last Inca emperor, Huayna Capac. He is a nephew of the oldest living Roman Catholic bishop in the world, Bernardino Piñera.
Piñera’s family moved to Belgium one year after his birth and later to New York City, where his father was the Chilean ambassador to the United Nations. Piñera returned to Chile in 1955 and enrolled in the Colegio del Verbo Divino (“Divine Word College”), from which he graduated in 1967.
Piñera then matriculated at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, from which he graduated in 1971 with an undergraduate degree in commercial engineering. Upon graduation, he was awarded the Raúl Iver Oxley Prize, which is given to the best overall student of each class.
Piñera continued on to Harvard University on a partial Fulbright Program for postgraduate studies in economics. During his time at Harvard, Piñera and a classmate coauthored an article, “The Old South’s Stake in the Inter-Regional Movement of Slaves”, for the Journal of Economic History. After three years at Harvard, Piñera graduated with both an M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics.
Piñera was an educator from 1971 until 1988. He was Professor of Economics at the University of Chile, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, and Adolfo Ibáñez University. In 1971, he was professor of Economic Political Theory in the School of Economics at the University of Chile and in 1972, he was a professor at the Valparaiso Business School.
In 1989, with Cecilia Morel, Danica Radic, and Paula Délano, Piñera created the Enterprising Women Foundation (Fundación Mujer Emprende), originally called The House of Youth (La Casa de la Juventud). The foundation aims to assist in the development of young women of lower income.
In 1973, Piñera created the foundation Fundación Futuro, of which he is president and whose directors are Cristián Boza D., María Teresa Chadwick P., Hugo Montes B., Cecilia Morel M., Renato Poblete S.J., and Fabio Valdés C. The head director of the foundation is Magdalena Piñera. The foundation’s mission is to help in Chile’s development of justice, freedom and democracy. The foundation was renamed Fundación Cultura y Sociedad after Piñera was elected president.
Under the Fundación Cultura y Sociedad (formerly Fundación Futuro), the Grupo Tantauco has the mission of environmentalism, and is administered by Juan Carlos Urquidi. It was created to support the proposals Piñera plans to institute during his presidency. In 2005, Piñera created Tantauco Park (Spanish: Parque Tantauco), a 1,180 km2 (456 sq mi) private natural reserve he bought and owns on the south end of Chiloé Island, in order to protect 118,000 hectares of the region’s unique ecosystem. His foundation runs the park, which is open to the public and is an ecotourist location.
An additional project, Grupo Tantauco: Derechos Humanos, was proposed in hopes of beginning a reconciliation between the Chilean people who suffered human rights violations during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship.
Piñera was general manager of the Banco de Talca. In 1982, a warrant was issued for his arrest on charges of violating banking law. Piñera spent 24 days in hiding while his lawyers appealed the order. A writ of habeas corpus, first rejected by the Appeals Court but then approved by the Supreme Court, acquitted Piñera.
Piñera once owned 90% of Chilevisión (a terrestrial television channel broadcasting nationwide). He also owned 27% of LAN Airlines (LAN); 13% of Colo-Colo, a football (soccer) club; and other minor stock positions in companies such as Quiñenco, Enersis, and Soquimich.
In July 2007, Piñera was fined approximately 10 USD by Chile’s securities regulator (SVS) for not withdrawing a purchase order after receiving privileged information (an infraction similar to insider trading) of LAN Airlines stock in mid-2006. Piñera denied any wrongdoing and asserted that the charge was part of a political attack to damage his image. He did not appeal, stating that the court process could take years and interfere with his intention to run again for president in 2009. Later that month, he resigned from the boards of LAN and Quintec.
To avoid a conflict of interest he sold Chilevisión for $160 million in 2010 to Time Warner. He also sold his shares of LAN in several rounds between February and March 2010, as well as his stake in Colo-Colo.
Piñera has built an estimated fortune of $US2.8 billion as of February 2018, according to Forbes magazine. His wealth is greatly due to his involvement in introducing credit cards to Chile in the late 1970s and his subsequent investments, mainly in LAN Airlines stock. Piñera acquired shares of the formerly state-owned company from Scandinavian Airlines in 1994, as part of a joint venture with the Cueto family.
Piñera declared that he voted No in the 1988 plebiscite on whether Augusto Pinochet should stay in power until 1997 (even though it was a secret ballot). In 1988 as Pinochet had lost the referendum and Chile was returning to democracy Piñera offered his support for the Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle in his pre-candidacy for president. Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle was the son of former president Eduardo Frei Montalva, who had together with Piñera’s father founded the Christian Democrat Party of Chile and had been appointed ambassador by Frei Montalva. However, in 1989 Sebastián Piñera headed the presidential campaign of Hernán Büchi, a former finance minister of the Pinochet government. During the same election process, Piñera was elected as Senator for East Santiago (1990–1998) and soon after, joined the center-right National Renewal Party. During his term as Senator he was a member of the Senate Finance Committee.
In 1992, Piñera’s attempt to become his party’s candidate for the following year’s Presidential election dramatically ended after he was involved in a scandal known as Piñeragate, wherein a wiretapped conversation between himself and a friend was revealed during a political television show he attended. In the conversation—made public by the television station’s owner, Ricardo Claro—he conspired to have his rival for the party’s nomination, Evelyn Matthei, cornered during the show by a journalist close to Piñera.The tape was then revealed to have been illegally recorded by a member of the military and given to Matthei, who then gave it to Claro. Matthei stepped down from the presidential race as well.
In 1998, Piñera opposed the arrest and detention of Augusto Pinochet, in London, initiated by Baltasar Garzón, arguing that it was an attack on the sovereignty and dignity of Chile.
Piñera was president of his party from 2001 to 2004. He tried to run for Senator in 2001, but resigned his campaign after the presidential candidate of his alliance -and member of the allied party, the Independent Democratic Union (UDI)-, Joaquín Lavín made it clear he would not support candidates from Piñera’s party, insisting on supporting retired Admiral Jorge Arancibia instead.
On 14 May 2005, in a surprise move Piñera announced his candidacy for the 2005 presidential election (RN was supposed to support UDI’s Lavín.) He has described his political philosophy as Christian humanism. In the first round of the election, on 11 December, he obtained 25.4% of the vote, which placed him in second place. Since no candidate achieved an absolute majority, a runoff election was held on 15 January 2006, between himself and of the governing coalition. Bachelet won the presidency with over 53% of the vote.
Presidential elections of 2009–2010
Piñera ran for President of Chile in the 2009–2010 election.Since August 2009, he led in opinion polls, competing with Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, Marco Enríquez-Ominami and Jorge Arrate; all of whom are left-of-center candidates. In the 13 December 2009 election, Piñera placed first in the results with 44.05% of the votes, while Frei placed second with 29.6% of the votes. Neither candidate received more than half of the total votes; therefore, according to the Constitution, Chileans returned to the polls for a final run-off election on Sunday, 17 January 2010.
That evening, the third and final preliminary results were announced by the Deputy Interior Ministry. These showing accounted for 99.77% of the total ballot boxes. Of the votes, Piñera received 51.61% and Frei received 48.39%. Eduardo Frei conceded after the first preliminary results, making Sebastián Piñera the new President-elect of Chile. Further results were released by the Chilean Electoral Service on 25 January 2010. Official and final results sanctioned by the Election Qualifying Court were published on the Official Gazette on 1 February 2010.
Piñera invested an estimated 13.6 million USD in his presidential campaign, which included items such as a campaign anthem and “Thank You” banners. Piñera’s banners and billboards have carried statements throughout the country such as “Delinquents, your party is over,” and “Small businesses, Big opportunities”. Piñera’s campaign released a on YouTube featuring a male gay couple, something never seen before in a presidential campaign run in Chile. Amongst his promises were increasing education rates and improving international relations with the neighboring country of Perú.
Piñera’s victory meant a shift towards the right, breaking two-decades of center-left political leadership and becoming the first elected right-wing leader in 52 years.
On 28 January, Piñera suspended his membership in National Renewal, becoming unofficially an independent. RN’s bylaws require successful presidential candidates from the party to renounce their association in order to govern the country fairly, foremost with the interest of the people, not with the interest of a political party or particular political philosophy.
Private to public transition
Piñera became the first billionaire to be sworn into the Chilean Presidency. He offered to sell his shares in major corporations before being sworn in on 11 March 2010, in order to avoid conflicts of interest. Piñera has placed US$400 million in blind trusts.
The Monday following Piñera’s election, expectations of sale from his largest holdings created a surge in trade of Axxion and LAN shares, causing three brief suspensions ( 19–20 January 22, 2010) in the Santiago Stock Exchange in order to ease trade. Axxion shares more than tripled before falling 39% on Friday, 22 January. Bachelet’s Finance Minister Andrés Velasco urged Piñera to get the sale “sorted out quickly.” The value of Piñera’s interest in Axxion was estimated at 700 million dollars USD, of his 1.2 billion dollar USD fortune at the beginning of that week.
On 5 February, Piñera confirmed plans to sell his 26.3% stake in LAN airlines at an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting for his main holding company, Axxion. Under the pact, Axxion shareholders have agreed to fix the price of the sale, estimated at 1.5 billion USD. The Cueto family, who at that point held 25.5% of LAN through their holding company Costa Verde Aeronáutica, had the first option to purchase the stake. On 18 February, Axxion posted a statement on their website confirming the sale of a 21.18% stake in LAN Airlines to the Cueto family for 1.23 billion USD. Announcement regarding the sale of the remaining shares was pending until March 2010, when the whole package left Piñera’s hands.
Piñera sold his 9.7% stake in the upscale private hospital Clinica Las Condes at a price of 25,113 CLP per share (48.00 USD) through his holding company Bancard on Tuesday, 16 February. The total sale of the 792,000 shares grossed 37.85 million USD and was purchased by the brokerage firm Celfin. The proceeds from the sale will go to paying off Bancard debt.
Piñera announced on February he had the intention to transfer 100% of his stake in Chilevisión to a non-for-profit organization called Fundación Cultura y Sociedad (formerly Fundación Futuro), of which he is owner. The foundation’s board will include some of the station’s current executives. Under that proposal, Piñera maintains the right to remove and replace the foundation’s president at any given time. Cristián Patricio Larroulet Vignau, current Minister of the Secretariat of the Presidency of Chile, stated that Piñera was honouring his promise of removing himself from private corporations, as Chilevision will become the property of a non-profit organization. MP Cristián Monckeberg (RN), stated there is no law obligating Piñera to do otherwise and thus this decision is legally legitimate.. The option above finally did not take place, Piñera decided to sell the TV station, and after a failed attempt in May 2010 with the Linzor Capital investment fund, the President announced it sold Chilevisión to Time Warner, in late August 2010.
Piñera said he won’t sell his 12.5% stake in Blanco y Negro, company that owns the nation’s popular soccer team Colo-Colo. He has stated, “We want big things and not only achieve local victories. The idea is to return the Copa Libertadores to Chile. That is our great goal.” Although he will remain part owner, he will take no administrative duties or role while President.
Council of Ministers
Piñera announced what he calls his “cabinet of unity” on Tuesday, 9 February 2010, at 18:00 hours (local time), in Chile’s National Historical Museum. The list of names was presented the previous day to the leader of the National Renewal Party, Carlos Larraín, and the leader of the Independent Democratic Union, Juan Antonio Coloma. The cabinet is made up of 16 men and 6 women, with an average age of 49. Amongst Piñera’s nominees is Jaime Ravinet, who is defense minister of the current president’s cabinet and a former member of the Christian Democratic Party, from which he resigned upon accepting Piñera’s cabinet offer. Also a nominee is Cristián Larroulet, who was an economic planning adviser under Pinochet.
During his first official meeting with his Council of Ministers on Wednesday, 10 February, Piñera issued a formal memorandum calling upon all members to renounce their positions in all private companies by 28 February in order to avoid conflicts of interest. The memorandum also said that in regards to national heritage, secretaries of state whose affiliation with companies having direct receipt of fiscal monies must either remove themselves from those associations or honor the restrictions of their competitors. Ten of his 22 ministers have involvement in companies with significant financial means.
2017 presidential elections
On 17 December 2017, Sebastián Piñera was elected president of Chile for a second term. He received 36% of the votes, the highest percentages among all 8 candidates in the 2017 elections. In the second round, Piñera faced Alejandro Guillier, a television news anchor who represented Bachelet’s New Majority (Nueva Mayoría) coalition. Piñera won the elections with 54% of the votes.[
First presidency (2010–2014)
Piñera was sworn in as the 35th President of the Republic of Chile on 11 March 2010, in a ceremony held in a plenary session of the National Congress in Valparaíso. In the same ceremony, Piñera’s Cabinet ministers were sworn in. The ceremony was also marked by a 6.9 Mw earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that upset the invitees Shortly after, the National Congress building was evacuated due to a tsunami alert that proved to be false a couple of hours later. On 12 October 2010, Piñera rallied his countrymen in the rescue of 33 trapped miners, all of whom were rescued after 70 days following a mining accident. “Chile will never be the same”, he said to the miners’ foreman, Luis Urzúa, as he (the last of the miners to emerge from the cavern) greeted Piñera, in a broadcast carried live across the globe. Despite much goodwill in Chile following this, many Chileans are still waiting on Piñera to rectify anti-terrorism laws in Chile which effectively mean the indigenous Mapuche people can be dealt with as “terrorists”. This matter has led to hunger strikes which started before the mining disaster, and are set to continue afterwards.
In January 2011 he faced the protest in Magallanes Region in response to a proposed increase in the price of natural gas there by 16.8%. The protests left more than two thousand cars isolated while trying to cross from the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego to the province of Santa Cruz through Chilean territory. Another 1,500 tourists were left without movement in Torres del Paine National Park after routes to Puerto Natales and El Calafate were cut. In consequence, on 14 January, Minister Secretary General of Government Ena von Baer announced changes in Sebastián Piñera’s government cabinet, including the resignation of Ricardo Raineri as Energy Minister. Laurence Golborne became Mining and Energy Minister, on 16 January.
In March 2011, President Piñera led a state visit to Spain to boost relations between the two countries. While in Spain, President and Mrs Piñera, with Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia, opened the exhibition ”Don Qui. El Quijote de Matta”, at the Cervantes Institute of Madrid.
Amidst the severe 2011 Chilean student protests Piñera shuffled his cabinet and removed Joaquín Lavín from the post of minister of education. With respect to the protest, Piñera has defended for-profit activity in education and proposed to legalize it, rejecting the students’ demands for the public ownership of educational establishments. During August 2011, Piñera’s public approval declined precipitously amidst continuous protests, to the extent that some polls indicated that he was the least popular Chilean leader since Augusto Pinochet. His approval ratings dropped to as low as 22% according to a CERC survey. As such, Piñera’s chances of passing sought reforms were seen as remote.
As president, Piñera expressed support for the Argentine claim on the Falkland Islands, referring to “the unrenounceable rights of Argentina on the islands”.
In March 2012, Piñera visited Vietnam with the intention of increasing cooperation between the two countries in general and with Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s most populous and largest economic hub, in particular. HCM City also called for a Chilean sister city while receiving Piñera on 23 March. The visit included the signing of a bilateral trade agreement and several cooperation pacts in education, tourism, culture and finance.
Early in 2012 physicist Frank Duarte sharply criticized Piñera’s performance in the handling of the Chilean–Peruvian maritime dispute at The Hague, deemed as favoring commercial interests over the interest of the Chilean people, and called for Chile’s withdrawal from The Hague. Following the adverse ruling against Chile in 2014, several political figures in Chile, from a variety of political parties, also called for Chile’s withdrawal from The Hague that would, in addition, imply a withdrawal from the Pact of Bogota.
In December 2011 during a state visit to Mexico a joke made by Piñera where he compared women with politicians caused uproar in Chile, sparking criticism from his own minister Carolina Schmidt who said of the joke that it was “hurting to many women”. In the joke Piñera said that “when a lady says “no” it means maybe, when she says maybe it means yes and when she says yes she is not a lady.” The Chilean Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence called the joke “misogynic” and “a shame for the whole country” Previously on a state visit to Peru in 2011 Piñera received criticism for his informal style after he revealed to Peruvian president-elect Ollanta Humala that he was a descendant of the Inca Huayna Capac.Senator Jorge Pizarro criticized Piñera’s comment to Ollanta Humala, calling for more careful and respectful attitudes.
Second presidency (2018–present)
On December 17th, Piñera won the second round of the Chilean General election, defeating the left wing candidate Alejandro Guillier to become President-Elect. Piñera took office for a second time on March 11th, 2018, succeeding the outgoing Michelle Bachelet.
Piñera is associated with bad luck. The BBC has listed a series of situations of “bad luck” concerning Piñera’s presidency: the 2010 Maule earthquake followed by another quake during Piñera’s inauguration ceremony, the mining accident of 2010, the 2010 Santiago prison fire, the 2011 Puyehue-Cordón Caulle eruption and the 2012 wildfires.
|Presidential styles of
|Reference style||Su Excelencia, el Presidente de la República.
“His Excellency, the President of the Republic”
|Spoken style||Presidente de Chile.
“President of Chile”
|Alternative style||Señor Presidente.
José Mujica, president of Uruguay, stated Piñera’s low approval rates might be caused by a lack of “glamour”.
In April 2012 The Economist described Piñera as being considered an “inept politician” by both the opposition and supporters. The Chilean government responded by stating that The Economist’s comment was disrespectful. His lapses, errors and inconveniences have been labelled “piñericosas” in Chile, in a phenomenon comparable to Bushisms in the United States. Piñera notably confused the fictional character Robinson Crusoe with Alexander Selkirk while giving a speech on a state visit to Robinson Crusoe Island.
In June 2013, after visiting President Obama in the White House, he said, “I’m going to sit at the President of the United States’ desk,” breaking the White House’s political protocols. Alfredo Moreno Charme, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said “How many other presidents have done the same?” and Obama responded, “This is the only one,” causing laughter between those there. Piñera then justified his abrupt actions by stating his daughter was born in the United States.
Piñera married Cecilia Morel in December 1973. They were neighbours in the Avenida Américo Vespucio, Santiago. They have four children, born in 1975, 1978, 1982 and 1984. All of them have university degrees. Piñera is also a member of Washington D.C.-based think tank, the Inter-American Dialogue.
In popular culture
Actor Bob Gunton portrays Piñera in the 2015 film The 33, directed by Patricia Riggen.