Tuesday, October 19

The president of Chile faces a political trial for Pandora’s papers in the middle of the electoral campaign

In Chile, more than a revelation, Pandora’s roles have been a slap in the face to the public as a whole at the gates of the November 21 elections. Much of the information published in the report by Ciper Chile and LaBot, two of the 150 media that are part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), had already been revealed in 2017 in a report on radio Biobío. At that time, nobody noticed the information: it did not cause, by far, the shock that it has caused now.

Pandora Papers Shake Europe

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The leaks published last weekend focus on the sale of property shares from the family of President Sebastián Piñera in the British Virgin Islands in 2010. The buyer was Carlos Alberto Délano, a childhood friend and a college friend of the president, convicted in 2018 of tax evasion, who bought the stake in a mining project –Dominga – which is intended to be installed in the north of Chile, in the La Higuera area, located in the Coquimbo region, where one of the richest ecosystems in the world is found.

The controversy flared up strongly because it was announced that the transaction was carried out in a tax haven and provides the documents. In the British Virgin Islands, a contract was signed that established a payment in three installments, the last of which depended on the area where the mining company was located was not declared an area of ​​environmental protection. This condition was subject to the decisions that the first Government of Piñera himself would make (2010-2014), therefore, according to journalistic investigation, may create a conflict of interest. Despite pressure from environmental groups, the area was not declared environmentally protected and Délano made the third payment.

Two impacts: judicial and political

The effect of Pandora, whose echo has resounded throughout the week in Chile, has at least two prominent edges: political and judicial. In 2017, the Prosecutor’s Office investigated the facts, but ended up closing the case that was also dismissed by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. “At the end of the investigation, the Prosecutor’s Office recommended ending the case because the sale was fully in accordance with the law due to the non-existence of any crime and because the innocence of this president of any charge related to the aforementioned operation had been judicially declared,” said Piñera this Monday during a public appearance to give explanations about the journalistic revelations.

However, during the 2017 trial, the transaction that took place in the British Virgin Islands was not analyzed, as there was no public knowledge of this antecedent until this weekend. Now, the national prosecutor, Jorge Abbott, has ordered the Anti-Corruption Unit to re-analyze the documents of the sale of the mining company. If the existence of possible crimes is cleared, A criminal investigation could be initiated ex officio.

On the political flank, the news came a month and a half before the presidential and parliamentary elections. The impact of the disclosures is expected to be long. The opposition groups announced this Wednesday that they will present a constitutional indictment (impeachment or impeachment) against Piñera in Congress. It will be the second of his term. The first – which was unsuccessful – was attempted at the end of 2019 due to the human rights violations committed during the social outbreak of October of that year. This other will be for having infringed the principle of probity [conducta intachable y desempeño honesto del cargo] and for “seriously compromising the honor of the country”, both points established in the Constitution.

Faced with this scenario, Piñera said in his press conference that the constitutional accusation “has absolutely no basis” because it will be made “for facts that were known and investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office and in which the highest courts of justice unanimously ruled discarding all irregularity and crime “. This argument has been repeated in recent days by various members of the Government. “It is an accusation based on a falsehood, because, according to them [sus impulsores], there would be information that would not have been known in the past, in the trial that was made in 2017 ″, said the spokesman for the Executive, Jaime Bellolio.

The candidacy of the right, threatened

In La Moneda they did not expect that the decision to promote the impeachment would advance so quickly, especially because they did not imagine that the Christian-Democracy (DC), of the center-left despite the fact that it usually supports the Government in many of its positions, will join as soon. In fact, according to sources cited by the press, members of the Executive have transferred to the DC that if they maintain their support for the impeachment they will not support their presidential candidate, Yasna Provoste, in an eventual second round against the left, information that the government dismisses. In the Socialist Party they also received comments about the impact on electoral dynamics or the “distortion of the results” that the political trial could entail.

It is believed that the journalistic revelations could cloud the presidential career of the candidate of the right, Sebastián Sichel. “As the president is not going to be on the ballot, people transfer the cost of their discomfort to who represents the president, who is the object of punishment,” says Marco Moreno, dean of the Faculty of Political Sciences of the Central University . “Sichel is the candidate of La Moneda and it does not seem reasonable that the Piñera brand can be disposed of because, simply, people are not going to believe him.”

In addition to having held positions in the current government – as a minister and previously as president of the State Bank – Sichel represents the right-wing coalition Chile Podemos Más. To avoid the electoral cost, the candidate has chosen to distance himself from the president. “More clarification is required than there has been,” he said. Although it does not support the constitutional accusation, it does appeal for an investigative commission to be formed.

The lawyer and political analyst Jorge Navarrete agrees that Sichel is the “candidate for continuity.” “His efforts to promote himself as independent and from a world other than the right wing end up bringing him closer to Piñera,” he says. For the sociologist and director of the Data Influye survey, Axel Callis, the candidate’s problem is that “his own sector does not identify him as someone who represents them, nor does it give them certainty about what is coming, because he has neither political nor programmatic definitions. clear “.

What the polls say

Until recently, Sichel was the one who had the best chance of going to a second round and competing against Gabriel Boric, candidate of the left-wing Frente Amplio coalition and the Communist Party, which for now is leading the polls. However, since last week and as a result of other mistakes made in the campaign that add to the current situation, that trend began to change and the far-right candidate José Antonio Kast (Republican Party) has placed second.

“Faced with the current levels of polarization, with an increasingly binary politics and campaign, the candidate of the extreme right is the one who capitalizes on the potential collapse of Sichel”, says Navarrete. Moreno, on the other hand, believes the opposite. “It is very difficult for Kast to go to the second round, he has a roof problem. Doubling his vote compared to 2017 is an important advance, but the one who can best capitalize on what happens with Sichel is Yasna Provoste, from the center. ”

The promoters of the political trial estimate that it will begin before the first electoral round, scheduled for November 21. In the Government they trust that, even if it is approved in the Chamber of Deputies, it will not advance in the Senate, where a higher quorum of two thirds is required. “That a president does not finish his term is something very extraordinary and serious in Chile, therefore, not only the right will vote against, but it is also a scenario that many citizens look at with distance and suspicion due to the institutional uncertainty that this would generate. ”Says Navarrete, who also doubts its approval in the Upper House.

Be that as it may, the vote in the Senate will be held before the second round, scheduled for December 19.


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