Former two-time Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, who died earlier this week aged 74 in a helicopter crash, was laid to rest Friday at the Parque del Recuerdo Cemetery with full State honors, it was reported from Santiago. Also bidding farewell to Piñera were some of the 33 miners rescued during his first term in office.
In addition to incumbent President Gabriel Boric Font, other former heads of state attended Piñera's memorial as thousands of Chileans applauded as the hearse passed by. But Friday's hot weather resulted in many people needing medical attention, including two Carabineros motorcyclists who fell while escorting the carriage.
The Chilean Army paid its last respects To Piñera with three cannon salutes and Foreign Minister Alberto van Klaveren presented the flag of honor to former First Lady Cecilia Morel.
During his government, the quarrels and recriminations were sometimes beyond what was fair and reasonable, the 37-year-old Boric said of his predecessor. I did not know him closely, we had a significant age difference, also different backgrounds and interests, but I got to share with him as former President of the Republic and, in this condition, I recognize and value that he never ever refused to provide help and advice despite the public differences we had in the past, he added.
The President's gestures were highlighted by Piñera's widow and children, who thanked Boric with affectionate hugs. I hope that this tribute serves for the resurgence of unity and civic friendship in this country, said Magdalena Piñera, regarding the social and political division that marked the last government of her father, after the protests of October 2019.
Former President Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010 and 2014-2018) highlighted Piñera's attitude of always choosing the institutional way out of any given crisis.
Before the burial, a two-hour mass was celebrated at Santiago's cathedral by Archbishop Fernando Chomali which was attended by a dozen of the 33 Atacama miners rescued 700 meters deep in 2010, after 69 days of risky maneuvers. Today there are 33 flags and not 33 crosses. Today, in the San José mine, those 33 flags will fly together with another flag, which will be that of our president, our rescuer, said Luis Urzúa wearing a miner's helmet.
One of the wealthiest men in Chile, Piñera died Tuesday of asphyxiation by submersion in Lago Ranco. He became the first democratically elected right-wing president after the military dictatorship.