By Sebastian Aguilar, Staff Writer
Chilean President Sebastián Piñera is facing impeachment proceedings for bribery and corruption charges over business deals revealed in the Pandora Papers. Amid last week’s impeachment proceedings, Piñera has called for a state of emergency over clashes between the Indigenous Mapuche people and police.
The business deal under scrutiny was over the sale of a copper and iron mining project that occurred in 2010. The mine has seen mass protests over environmental concerns and led activists to call for stronger environmental regulations. The Pandora Papers leak suggested Piñera’s family had sold its stake in the mine to his business partner Carlos Alberto Delano.
The Pandora Papers are an assortment of leaked documents released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which exposes offshore financial transactions from influential political and business figures.
The payment happened in three installments. The third payment contained a clause stating that the government would not create a new natural reserve on the land upon which the mine stood. Piñera’s government never created the reserve, even under duress from environmental activists.
“(Piñera) openly infringed the Constitution, seriously compromising the honor of the nation,” Jaime Naranjo, a lower house lawmaker and one of the driving voices for impeachment, said.
Marta Herrera, the head of the state’s anti-corruption unit, said the agency would start an investigation over bribery-related corruption charges and possible tax evasion.
Piñera has denied any wrongdoing and rejected the allegations, asserting all details of the contract were divulged in a file already reviewed by the state and no irregularities were found.
Senior political science major Joshua Jones argued that the Pandora Papers exposed corruption endemic to Piñera’s government.
“The Pandora Papers have allowed the discovery of President Piñera’s nepotism. Only time will tell what other corruption the documents will unveil,” Jones said.
Piñera is at the end of his four-year term as president. Polls suggest that Piñera’s center-right allies are losing ground to left-wing parties ahead of the November election this year.
Amid the corruption allegations, Piñera also faced criticism over the state of emergency he declared on Columbus Day. The state of emergency was declared due to clashes between Mapuche Indigenous rights activists and security forces in the capital.
The activists demand the right to self-determination for the Mapuche people, autonomy for the Mapuche nation and the repatriation of land from farms and logging companies back to the Indigenous communities on which they reside.
The Mapuche, the largest Indigenous group in the country, have increased their anti-government protests over the years and many anti-government groups have been labeled as terrorists by the government.
Piñera has faced calls from the conservative faction of his party to declare a state of emergency in the Araucanía region of the country. Piñera deployed troops to both the capital of Santiago and the Araucanía region in order to keep the peace. Luciano Rivas, governor of Araucanía, backed the decision.
“Today we are living in a very complex situation where the police are overwhelmed by groups with high caliber weapons,” he said.
University of Santiago political analyst Lucia Dammert disagreed with the Piñera government’s policy.
“The government has been unable to generate an effective and fair policy to solve the problems that exist in Araucania,” she said.
Dammert also criticized the troop deployment, noting that deploying troops could “lead to an escalation of violence.”