Sebastián Piñera, who served as president of Chile twice, passed away at the age of 74 on Tuesday in a helicopter crash.
Carolina Tohá, the Interior Minister of Chile, has officially announced the passing of the former president. At this time, no additional information has been disclosed regarding the circumstances of the incident.
According to Tohá’s televised statement on Tuesday afternoon, Piñera was one of four individuals on the aircraft and the rest are safe.
shared a statement published by Piñera’s office confirming his death.
“On the afternoon of Tuesday, February 6, 2024, the ex-president experienced a plane accident in the Los Ríos Region,” the statement announced. It also expressed gratitude for the overwhelming outpouring of love and concern during this difficult time.
President Boric gave a speech expressing that he had been in communication with past presidents Eduardo Frei, Ricardo Lagos, and Michele Bachelet, who have all expressed a desire to be involved in his funeral arrangements.
“We are all Chile, and we should dream it, draw it and build it together,” Boric said, quoting Piñera. “We send a big hug to his family and loved ones in these hard times.”
Piñera was the president of Chile from 2010 to 2014 and then again from 2018 to 2022. He was in charge during severe natural disasters, such as the aftermath of an earthquake and a tsunami.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, he was in charge of governing and ensured that Chile had one of the highest vaccination rates for the disease among all countries.
His reputation is tainted by forceful law enforcement in October 2019 towards demonstrators protesting the country’s education, health, and pension systems.
Thousands upon thousands of demonstrators
In 2019, demonstrators constructed burning barricades and engaged in confrontations with law enforcement following an apology and assurances of change from Piñera.
I was unable to pacify the turmoil.
which resulted in a minimum of 18 fatalities.
The protest initially began due to frustration over a slight increase in subway costs, but evolved into demonstrations calling for better education, healthcare, and wages in a nation that is among the wealthiest, yet also the most unequal, in Latin America.
The social unrest ultimately led to two attempts to update the constitution inherited from the military government, but both have failed.
Piñera held the title of being the wealthiest individual in Chile, with an estimated net worth of $3 billion. For nearly two decades, he served as a professor at various universities and also provided consulting services for the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank.
During the 1970s to 1990s, he was a successful businessman in various fields such as real estate. He owned stocks in leading airlines, telecommunication, real estate, and electricity companies. He also founded a prominent credit card company in the nation. However, in 2009, he delegated the management of his businesses to others.
He became involved in the political field as a representative for the moderate conservative party. However, during his time as an unaffiliated senator, he opposed the extension of dictator Augusto Pinochet’s rule (1973-1990).
He ran three times for president of Chile. In 2006, he lost to socialist Michelle Bachelet; then in 2010 he defeated former president Frei. Four years later, in 2018, he won a second four-year term after defeating a leftist independent.
Onset of his initial term was preceded by a catastrophic 8.8 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami, resulting in the death of 525 individuals and causing extensive damage to central-southern Chile’s infrastructure.
The implementation of Piñera’s government plans was delayed in order to address the urgent task of reconstruction. He was also at the forefront of managing the historic 8.8-magnitude earthquake in 2010.
Saving 33 miners who were stuck underground for 69 days in a mine
, which garnered global interest.
The Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, expressed his sadness on social media about the sudden passing of Piñera.
Javier Milei, the current President of Argentina, expressed his condolences, as did the former President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.