Sebastián Piñera, the two-time former president of Chile, tragically passed away on Tuesday in a helicopter crash at the age of 74. The news was confirmed by Chile Interior Minister Carolina Tohá, although further details regarding the cause of the accident were not immediately available.
Piñera, who served as president from 2010 to 2014 and again from 2018 to 2022, led Chile during tumultuous times, including the aftermath of a devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake and tsunami. His leadership gained international recognition during the successful rescue operation of trapped Chilean miners in 2010.
While Piñera’s administration was praised for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with Chile achieving high vaccination rates, his legacy is also marked by controversy. In October 2019, violent clashes erupted between protesters and police over issues such as education, health, and pensions. A United Nations investigation later accused the police of using excessive force, leading to injuries and allegations of torture against detainees.
The social unrest prompted calls for constitutional reform, although efforts to update the constitution inherited from the military dictatorship ultimately faltered.
Piñera’s death comes at a challenging time for Chile, as the country grapples with devastating wildfires in the central region. President Gabriel Boric paid tribute to Piñera, describing him as a leader who always sought the best for his country and highlighting his commitment to democracy.
Leaders and former leaders across Latin America expressed their condolences, with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva expressing sadness over Piñera’s sudden passing and recalling their positive dialogue during their respective presidencies.
The tragic loss of Sebastián Piñera leaves a void in Chilean politics and marks the end of an era for the country. As Chile mourns the loss of a former president, tributes pour in from around the world, honoring his contributions and legacy.