Opposition politicians have launched indictment charges against Chilean President Sebastian Piera for possible irregularities in the sale of a mining company after new details about the deal were leaked to Pandora newspapers.
Lawmakers cited an ethical duty to hold the president accountable for alleged irregularities in his involvement in the controversial Dominga project.
Earlier this month Chile’s public prosecutor said it would open an investigation into possible corruption allegations related to bribery and tax-related sales violations, which ended in the British Virgin Islands.
The move is the latest blow to center-right Piera as he approaches the end of a tumultuous four-year term. Presidential and legislative elections will be held in November, with polls suggesting left-wing candidates are likely to gain ground.
The Pandora Newspapers, the largest treasure trove of offshore leaked data in history, revealed new details of the controversial mining deal.
The Pieras family sold their shares in the Dominga mine project in 2010 to his close friend and business partner, Carlos Alberto Dlano. The investigation of Pandora’s documents found evidence suggesting that the third installment of payment contained a clause urging the government not to strengthen environmental protection in the proposed area for the mine in northern Chile.
Jaime Naranjo, a left-wing lower house lawmaker and one of the instigators of the impeachment process, said Piera had openly violated the constitution by seriously compromising the nation’s honor.
Piera, whose fortune is estimated at $ 2.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine, has denied the allegations and argued that no irregularities were found in the deal.
Amid scrutiny of his business affairs, Piera on Monday announced a state of emergency in four provinces in the south of the country where tensions have risen between the Mapuche people, Chile’s largest indigenous group and police and powerful landowners. Riots have rocked the region since the 2018 killing by police of an unarmed Mapuche man and the ensuing hiding sparked angry protests across the country.
The new measures will restrict movement and the right of assembly after the recent arson attacks, and will further increase the military and police presence in the area. Local activists have questioned the timing and purpose of the move, announced on the anniversary of Christopher Columbuss’ arrival in America.
They say the state of emergency, which will last for 15 days but can be extended to 30, has been approved to cynically divert attention from investigations into the president.
Piera is still under pressure over the brutal crackdown on anti-inequality protests in 2019 and 2020. His former interior minister, Andrs Chadwick, was blamed by congress at the height of the protests in December 2019, and Piera himself narrowly avoided blaming in a similar vote a few days later.
In April, Baltasar Garzn, the Spanish judge who worked to hold dictator General Augusto Pinochet accountable for crimes committed during his 1973-1990 regime, indicted the International Criminal Court in The Hague, alleging Piera’s complicity in the crimes of alleged human rights during the riots. The president has denied any wrongdoing.
The latest motion to blame the president could be voted on in Congress ahead of the first round of Chile’s November 21 general election. If approved by the lower house, it goes to the senate, where it must be approved by a two-thirds majority if Piera is to step down.
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