Sebastián Piñera, President of Chile, is facing an impeachment process launched by opposition parties over allegations of potential irregularities in the sale of the Dominga mining company. The revelations were part of the ICIJ Pandora Papers leak.
A constitutional lawyer provided some context, “The consequences of the constitutional prosecution, an independent process parallel to the judicial investigation, are political and not legal and depend on the balance of forces in Congress. In practice, the outcome is not relevant since Piñera’s term ends in March 2022 and since in the installation of the constitutional convention, he has been a ‘lame-duck’ President.”
“The consequences of the constitutional prosecution, an independent process parallel to the judicial investigation, are political and not legal.”
Constitutional lawyer, Chile
We also spoke to several congressmen who shared the same view, “It is very likely that accusation will be approved but to remove the President requires a high quorum of 3/5, which includes at least 5 senators from the ruling party.”
This political manoeuvre came after Chile’s public prosecutor said that it would open an investigation into bribery-related corruption charges and other accusations of wrongdoing in relation to the sale of the mine. Opposition members of the Senate said that the move was an ‘ethical duty’ as Piñera’s deal depended on a favourable regulatory environment approved in the first year of his term. President Piñera has denied all accusations and said that the deal was already investigated in a 2010 probe which cleared him of wrongdoing. However, the prosecution said that the contract obtained from Pandora Papers leak was not part of the original file.
President Piñera, thus faces political turbulence as he quickly approaches the end of his term, with presidential and legislative elections taking place in November. This latest blow will likely favour left-wing candidates who already fared well in the constitutional convention election last July. There is some subtlety here, one senator commented, “The opposition should be careful, a constitutional accusation against a president can be entered up to six months after they leave office. By voting this through now, there are clear political motivations which could be destabilising for all political parties.”
“The opposition should be careful, […]. By voting this through now, there are clear political motivations which could be destabilising for all political parties.”
Both political and judicial actions targeting Piñera show a change of trend in Chile after the massive 2019 protests showed anger over shrinking opportunities, inadequate and unequal access to healthcare, pensions and educations. Meanwhile, it is still unclear if the impeachment process will reach the necessary 78 votes in the lower Chamber of Deputies to move forward to the Senate.
The former CEO of a large Chilean bank spoke frankly, “This is all irrelevant compared to the greatest uncertainty facing the country: the constitutional convention. With this process hanging over us Chile is undoubtedly a less attractive investment environment in the short term and it is difficult to know what to expect in the medium term.”