Former Chilean President Sebastian Piñera died this Tuesday in a helicopter accident in Lago Ranco, southern Chile, in which three other people were injured. The Chilean Navy confirmed that one person died and three were injured when a civilian helicopter crashed in Lago Ranco. Minutes later, it was confirmed that the deceased was the former Chilean president, who was piloting the helicopter.
The former president’s office later confirmed: “With deep sorrow, we announce the death of the former President of the Republic of Chile, Sebastián Piñera Echenique. During the afternoon of Tuesday, February 6, 2024, the former president suffered an air accident in the Los Ríos Region.”
“We will inform about his funeral arrangements in due time. We appreciate the massive outpouring of affection and concern we have received during these bitter hours,” added the statement from his office.
National mourning amid emergency due to fires
The Government of Chile declared a national mourning and the organization of State funeral for former President Sebastian Piñera.
“He will have all the honors and recognitions he deserves,” said the Minister of Interior and Public Security, Carolina Toha, in a brief appearance before the media from La Moneda Palace, the seat of the Presidency.
Since February 2, Chile has been facing an emergency due to fires in the Valparaíso region, which are spreading rapidly due to the strong winds in the area and the high temperatures in recent days, leaving more than 130 people dead thus far.
The high population density in hard-to-reach areas, combined with the prolonged drought in Chile, complicates firefighting tasks. So far, according to the National Forestry Corporation registry, the fires have burned nearly 10,000 hectares in the port region.
Since the beginning of the forest fires, firefighters and authorities have pointed to arson. Chilean President Gabriel Boric insisted on February 6 that security forces “will search everywhere for anyone setting a fire” and that those responsible “will face the full weight of the law and the repudiation of an entire society” because the damage caused is “immeasurable.”
Sebastian Piñera had recently ruled out seeking a third term
On January 17, the former president ruled out the possibility of running for a third term, in statements to the local radio station Duna, thus opening up the race among potential right-wing candidates in the next presidential elections, scheduled for the end of 2025. Piñera was president from 2010-2014 and from 2018-2022.
“My decision today is that I will not run for the presidency for a third time, but I will remain very active, very committed, very passionate in the debate,” he said.
Piñera belonged to the Chilean conservative party Renovación Nacional (RN), which is part of the opposition platform “Chile Vamos,” and also includes the Independent Democratic Union (UDI), a party created and a majority during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1989).
With the announcement by Piñera to not seek another term, “Chile Vamos” must decide whether to seek a single consensus candidate or if each party would go separately to face the left and the far right, led by the president of the Republicanos party and former member of the UDI, Jose Antonio Kast.
This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.