Chile's President Sebastián Piñera will be allowed to stay in office until March 11, 2022, after an attempt to impeach him Tuesday failed to be endorsed by the Senate.
While 29 votes were required to move on with the proceedings filed by the Lower House, 14 votes against it plus the abstention of Senator Manuel José Ossandón of the ruling National Renovation party, the Upper House knew at 8 pm Tuesday that the key number could never be reached.
Opposition deputies had filed for Piñera's impeachment after the international press investigation known as the Pandora Papers showed irregularities in the sale of the Dominga mining company by the Piñera family to a friend through the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands during Piñera's first presidency in 2010.
The sale also included a provision that conditioned the third US $ 152 million payment to the mine's site not being declared a sanctuary, which was up to the Council of Ministers appointed by the head of state.
The deputies had agreed to seek Piñera's impeachment on Nov. 9 with 78 out of 155 votes because the head of state had allegedly violated the Constitution and the Laws and seriously compromised the honour of the nation.
The Senate convened Tuesday as a jury and failed to reach the required number of votes to move on. The opposition only had 24 Senators out of the 29 required for a different outcome.
Piñera's defence, led by lawyer Jorge Gálvez, had claimed that the arguments against their client were false and crafty.
I believe that as a defence we have fulfilled the task entrusted to us by the President of the Republic, in the sense of demonstrating that the constitutional accusation lacks any merit. It is based on false facts and involves the crafty distortion of the facts, and we have reliably demonstrated that neither the President of the Republic nor his family has committed any illicit or irregularity, Gálvez told the Senate.
He added that from the legal perspective, the present constitutional accusation violates the Constitution, violates international treaties and does not set out in this case, the facts that could give rise to the political responsibility of the President.
Senator Juan Antonio Coloma (UDI) said: “I hope sanity returns or rationality returns. The country needs to understand itself, respect the institutionality, not abuse it.”
Senator Loreto Carvajal (senator PPD) said that “it is incomprehensible that once again Piñera is saved from this accusation. We do not have the sufficient quorum to accuse him constitutionally.”
“Many times we listen foolishly 'we must let the institutions work', but the accusers do not allow the institutions to work today,” Senator Claudio Alvarado (UDI) said before voting against the impeachment.
Senator Jaime Quintana (PPD) favoured Piñera's removal from office: “We all knew that this was not going to be a good government, but we never imagined that it would be this horrible, where the image of Chile abroad, something that had taken decades of efforts to cement, was going to fall to the ground at a point of almost no return, and where the only hope would be in a constituent process.”
As revealed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the Dominga project was sold to businessman and family friend Carlos Alberto Délano. Piñera, one of Chile's richest men, has maintained he had distanced himself from his business through blind trusts in 2009 and that what was revealed in the Pandora Papers had already been investigated and dismissed by the courts in 2017.
The Senate's decision came just days before next Sunday's presidential elections.
It was the second attempt to impeach Piñera. The first try had taken place after the October 2019 revolts, citing human rights violations against protesters.