“He was a democrat from the first hour”. This is how President Gabriel Boric said goodbye on the national network, with heartfelt and profound words, to Sebastián Piñera, who was born in Santiago in 1949 and died yesterday in a tragic accident in Lake Ranco, in the south of Chile.
Sebastián Piñera was a former president, former senator and businessman who lived life intensely. Those close to him describe that behind the executive image, sometimes disconnected from emotions and accelerated by the former president, lived a happy man, who did not know resentment and cared personally about his most immediate environment.
History will tell that Piñera was, by far, the most important right-wing politician in the last fifty years in Chile, if not more. A man who understood the most basic of the laws of politics: Power requires majorities to govern.
In 1980, at the height of the protests against the dictator Augusto Pinochet and his proposed Constitution, a young Piñera was one of the thousands who gathered at the Caupolicán Theater to listen to former president Frei Montalva. For many it may have seemed obvious, because his family was a Christian Democratbut intrinsically Piñera knew that his economic and social integration vision had much more in common with the sectors that supported Pinochet than with those that opposed him.
In 1988 he redoubled the bet. He marked the vote for “No” to Pinochet and participated in the campaign against the regime. And the following year, already in democracy, he assumed the electoral leadership of the right-wing candidate, where his affections really were.
He was elected Senator for Santiago, but many in the hallways distrusted him for years. “He is a Christian Democrat,” “it's not really right-wing”said members of the Independent Democratic Union, a party with which they always had more tensions and represented the most conservative sectors of the Chilean right.
That dispute with the UDI had its final blow in mid-2005, when he decided to accept the candidacy for President of the Republic and compete with the until then undisputed leader of the sector, Joaquín Lavín. Piñera won in the first round and then lost to Michelle Bachelet.
In 2009, life brought him his long-awaited revenge. With support that transcended the historical border of the right, thanks to convening and dialoguing profile which it was in charge of cultivating, the right finally built the majority necessary to come to power. And at that moment, the attributes that already made him a very successful businessman appeared, but he had not yet put them to the test in politics: quick, reckless decisions and competitiveness.
Shortly after, the helicopter fell into Lake Ranco where the death of the former President of Chile was confirmed.
They say he was obtuse, but it was something else: his stubbornness is the reverse of his success. They told him no, he went and did it. That's why he won so much and, when he failed, he failed miserably.
He won when he rescued the miners in Atacama in the face of all the advice of his advisors who asked him not to risk political capital in a search with little chance of success. He won when many told him that his plan to rebuild Chile after the 2010 earthquake was unworkable. For the first he toured the world showing the role of his success, with the second his reconstruction plan has come to be studied in the most prestigious universities in the world.
He also won when he hid the speech from one of his closest advisors, the conservative Cristián Larroulet, and decided to include equal marriage as the first announcement on its public account. Three of the most important laws on sexual and gender diversities in Chile bear his signature, due to his majority vocation and need to expand the horizons of conservatism in his sector.
won when became the undisputed international leader in vaccination rates and protection against Covid, because as soon as he found out about the virus he went out to negotiate with laboratories to be first in line. Once again, his business skills led him to catapult part of his legacy.
And he won, when, certain that he had not violated human rights as they accused him, he himself summoned international organizations to submit to their scrutiny. He came to the UN and Human Rights Watch, None of them accredited systematic violations of human rights attributable to him or his direct command.. These reports were the basis of the defense for the prosecution of the International Criminal Court to decline to initiate any action against him.
People leave flowers at Sebastián Piñera's house.
But he also lost. He lost when, amid the smoke from the barricades and the chaos in the city, he said that the country is at war against a powerful enemy. He did not say what it was and a significant part of the population felt attacked. A divorce from which she never healed, and which only in the last year, in a kind of vindication of his legacy, seems to have begun to be repaired. In the latest polls, the positive image of the deceased president returned to the levels that twice took him to the Palacio de La Moneda.
In the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the coup d'état, Boric himself, who had “warned” him during the campaign that he would persecute him for complaints of human rights violations in the outbreak, He made a gesture recognizing that for him he was “a democrat.”the same words he used yesterday to refer to his farewell.
Sebastián Piñera lived with intensity and made risky decisions. Yesterday, according to witness testimonies, when he began to feel bad and lost control of the helicopter, he managed to stabilize the craft and ask his loved ones to jump. After that he rushed forward. He leaves faithful to how he lived.