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Sebastián Piñera

Assumed office 
March 11, 2010
Preceded by Michelle Bachelet

In office
March 11, 1990 – March 11, 1998
Succeeded by Carlos Bombal Otaegui

President of National Renewal
In office
May 26, 2001 – March 10, 2004
Preceded by Alberto Cardemil Herrera
Succeeded by Sergio Díez Urzúa

Born December 1, 1949 (1949-12-01) (age 60)
Santiago, Chile
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Cecilia Morel Montes
Children Magdalena
Residence Santiago, Chile
Alma mater Pontifical Catholic University of Chile
Harvard University
Profession Investor
Religion Roman Catholicism
Website Official website

Miguel Juan Sebastián Piñera Echenique (Spanish pronunciation: [miˈɣel ˈxwan seβasˈtjan piˈɲeɾa eʧeˈnike]; born December 1, 1949) is the current President of Chile having won the second round of the presidential election that took place on January 17, 2010, and subsequently taking office on March 11, 2010. He is a well-known economist, investor, businessperson, politician, former Senator, and leader of the presidential and parliamentary electoral coalition Coalition for Change.


Personal life

Piñera family portrait.

Piñera was born in Santiago to Magdalena Echenique Rozas and José Piñera Carvallo who worked for CORFO and was Chilean ambassador to Belgium and to the United Nations. His maternal lineage is of Basque[1] descent and his paternal lineage is of Asturian[2] descent. He is the third child of five, with three brothers and two sisters: Guadalupe, José (a former Minister of Labour under Augusto Pinochet), Pablo, Miguel (a well-known Chilean performer), and Magdalena. He is married to Cecilia Morel Montes and has four children: Magdalena, Cecilia, Sebastián and Cristóbal.


One year after his birth, Piñera's family moved abroad to Belgium and later to New York City where his father was the Chilean ambassador to the United Nations. Piñera returned to Chile in 1955 and was enrolled in the Colegio del Verbo Divino ("Divine Word High School"), from which he graduated in 1967.[3]

Piñera then matriculated at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile to undertake his undergraduate degree in Economics, from which he graduated in 1971 with one of the highest grade point averages in the history of the university. Upon graduation, he was awarded the Raúl Iver Oxley Prize which is given to the best overall student of each class.[4]

Piñera continued on to study at Harvard University on a partial Fulbright Program for his postgraduate studies in economics. During his time at Harvard, Piñera and a classmate co-authored an article entitled, "The Old South's Stake in the Inter-Regional Movement of Slaves" for the Journal of Economic History.[5] He also worked as a teaching fellow during 1975 and 1976. After three years at Harvard, Piñera graduated with both a Master's and a doctorate in Economics. His thesis was entitled, "The Economics of Education in Developing Countries."[6]

Piñera returned to Chile in 1976.

Teaching career

Once graduated, Piñera was an educator from 1971 until 1988. He was Professor of Economics at the University of Chile, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and Adolfo Ibáñez University. In 1971, he was professor of Economic Political Theory in the School of Economics at the University of Chile and in 1972, was a professor at the Valparaiso Business School.[7]


In 1989, accompanied by Cecilia Morel, Danica Radic, and Paula Délano, Piñera created the Enterprising Women Foundation (Fundación Mujer Emprende), originally called The House of Youth (La Casa de la Juventud). The foundation aims to assist in the development of young women of lower-income.[8]

In 1993 Piñera created the foundation Fundanción Futuro, of which he is president and whose directors are Cristián Boza D., María Teresa Chadwick P., Hugo Montes B., Cecilia Morel M., Renato Poblete S.J. and Fabio Valdés C. The head director of the foundation is Magdalena Piñera. The foundation’s mission is to help in Chile’s development of justice, freedom and democracy.[9] The foundation was renamed to Fundación Cultura y Sociedad following Piñera's presidential election win.[10]

Under the Fundación Cultura y Sociedad (formerly Fundación Futuro) the Grupo Tantauco is created with the mission of environmentalism, and is administered by Juan Carlos Urquidi. It was created to support the proposals brought forth by Piñera, which he plans to make effective during his presidency.[11] An additional project titled Grupo Tantauco: Derechos Humanos was proposed with the hope of beginning a reconciliation between the Chilean people who suffered human rights violations in Chile's past history.[12]


Piñera owns 100% of Chilevisión, a terrestrial television channel broadcasting nationwide; 27% of LAN Airlines (LAN), 13% of Colo-Colo,[13] a football (soccer) club; and holds significant stock positions in companies such as Quiñenco, Enersis, and Soquimich.

Piñera has built an estimated fortune of 1 billion USD as of March 2009, according to Forbes magazine.[14] His wealth is attributed in great part to his involvement in the introduction of credit cards to Chile in the late 1970s and his subsequent investments, mainly in LAN Airlines stock. Piñera acquired shares of the formerly state-owned company from Scandinavian Airlines in 1994, as part of a joint venture with the Cueto family.[14][15]

In 1982, an arrest warrant was issued against Piñera. He was accused of violating the Banking Law during his time as general manager of the Bank of Talca. Piñera spent 24 days in hiding, while his lawyers appealed the order. A writ of habeas corpus was first rejected by the Appeals Court, but then approved by the Supreme Court, acquitting Piñera.[16]

In July 2007, Piñera was fined approximately 680,000 USD by Chile's securities regulator (SVS) for not withdrawing a purchase order after he received privileged information (an infraction similar to insider trading) of LAN Airlines stock in mid-2006.[17] Piñera denied any wrongdoing and asserted that the whole process was part of a political attack to damage his image. He did not appeal, stating that the court process could take years and interfere with his intention to run again for president in late 2009. Later that month, he resigned from the boards of LAN and Quintec.[18]

Political career

Piñera declared he voted No in the 1988 plebiscite on Augusto Pinochet. However, in 1989 he headed the presidential campaign of Hernán Büchi, a former finance minister of the Pinochet government. During the same election process, Piñera was elected as Senator for East Santiago (1990–1998) and soon after, joined the center-right National Renewal Party. During his term as Senator he was a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

In 1992 Piñera's attempt to become his party's candidate for the following year's Presidential election would end dramatically after he was involved in a scandal known as Piñeragate, wherein a wiretapped conversation between himself and a friend was revealed during a political television show he attended. In the conversation—made public by the television station's owner, Ricardo Claro—he conspired to have his rival for the party's nomination, Evelyn Matthei, cornered during the show by a journalist close to Piñera. The tape was then revealed to have been illegally recorded by a member of the military and given to Matthei, who then gave it to Claro. Matthei stepped down from the presidential race as well.

Piñera was president of his party from 2001 to 2004. He tried to run for Senator in 2001, but resigned his campaign after the presidential candidate of his alliance -and member of the allied party, the Independent Democrat Union (UDI)-, Joaquín Lavín made it clear he would not support candidates from Piñera's party, insisting on supporting retired Admiral Jorge Arancibia instead.

On May 14, 2005, in a surprise move Piñera announced his candidacy for the 2005 presidential election (RN was supposed to support UDI's Lavín.) He has described his political philosophy as Christian humanism. In the first round of the election, on December 11, he obtained 25.4% of the vote, which placed him in second place. Since no candidate achieved an absolute majority, a runoff election was held on January 15, 2006, between himself and Michelle Bachelet of the governing coalition. Bachelet won the presidency with over 53% of the vote.


Presidential Elections 2009–2010

Piñera celebrates win alongside wife and family.

Piñera ran for President of Chile in the 2009-2010 election. Since August 2009, he led in opinion polls, competing with Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, Marco Enríquez-Ominami and Jorge Arrate; all of whom are left-of-center candidates. In the election of December 13, 2009, Piñera placed first in the results by obtaining 44.05% of the votes, while Frei placed second by obtaining 29.6% of the votes. Since neither candidate received more than half of the total votes, Chileans returned to the polls for a final run-off election on Sunday, January 17, 2010.[19]

On January 18, 2010, the third and final preliminary results were announced by the Deputy Interior Ministry. These showing accounted for 99.77% of the total ballot boxes. Of the votes, Piñera received 51.61% and Frei received 48.39%.[20] Eduardo Frei conceded after the first preliminary results, making Sebastián Piñera the new President-elect of Chile. Further preliminary results will be made available by the Electoral Service on January 25, 2010. Official and final results sanctioned by the Election Qualifying Court will be published on the Official Gazette on February 1, 2010.

Piñera's invested an estimated 13.6 millions USD on his Presidential campaign, which included items such as a campaign anthem[21] and "Thank You" banners[22]. Piñera's banners and billboards have carried statements throughout the country such as "Delinquents, your party is over," and "Small businesses, Big opportunities"[23]. Amongst his promises are increasing education rates and improving international relations with the neighboring country of Peru[24].

Piñera's victory means a shift towards the right,[25] breaking the two-decade hold by center-left politics and becoming the first elected right-wing leader in 52 years.[26]

On January 28, Piñera renounced his political affiliation to National Renewal, becoming an independent. Within the party bylaws, it is stipulated that members who are elected to the presidency must renounce their association in order to govern the country fairly, foremost with the interest of the people, not with the interest of a political party or particular political philosophy.[27]


Private to public transition

The Piñera Cabinet
President Sebastián Piñera Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Interior Rodrigo Hinzpeter RN Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Foreign Affairs Alfredo Moreno Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Defense Jaime Ravinet Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Finance Felipe Larraín Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Secy. Gen. of
Cristián Larroulet Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Secy. Gen. of
Ena von Baer UDI Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Economy Juan Andrés Fontaine Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Planning Felipe Kast Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Education Joaquín Lavín UDI Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Justice Felipe Bulnes RN Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Labor Camila Merino Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Public Works Hernán de Solminihac Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Health Jaime Mañalich Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Housing &
Magdalena Matte UDI Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Agriculture José Antonio Galilea RN Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Mining Laurence Golborne Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Transport &
Felipe Morandé Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
National Assets Catalina Parot RN Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Energy Ricardo Raineri Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Women Carolina Schmidt Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Culture & the
Luciano Cruz-Coke Ind. Mar. 11, 2010 – 
Environment María Ignacia Benítez UDI Mar. 11, 2010 – 

Piñera will become the first billionaire to be sworn into the Chilean Presidency.[28] He has vowed to sell his shares in corporations before being sworn in on March 11, 2010, in order to avoid conflicts of interest. Piñera has placed 400 million USD in blind trusts. [29]

The Monday following Piñera's election, expectations of sale from his largest holdings created a surge in trade of Axxion and LAN shares, causing three brief suspensions (January 19–20, 22, 2010) in the Santiago Stock Exchange in order to ease trade. Axxion shares more than tripled before falling 39% on Friday, January 22.[30] This outraged Chile's leftwing-dominated media and outgoing government. Finance Minister Andres Velasco urged Piñera to get the sale "sorted out quickly."[31] The value of Piñera's interest in Axxion was estimated at 700 million dollars USD, of his 1.2 billion dollar USD fortune at the beginning of that week[32].

On February 5, Piñera confirmed plans to sell his 26.3% stake in LAN airlines at an extraordinary shareholders' meeting for his main holding company, Axxion. Under the pact, Axxion shareholders have agreed to fix the price of the sale, estimated at 1.5 billion USD. The Cueto family, who currently hold 25.5% of LAN through their holding company Costa Verde Aeronautica, have the first option to purchase the stake and must decide within 20 days.[33] On February 18, Axxion posted a statement on their website confirming the sale of a 21.18% stake in LAN Airlines to the Cueto family for 1.23 billion USD. Announcement regarding the sale of the remaining 5.16% stake is pending.[34]

Piñera sold his 9.7% stake in an upscale private hospital Clinica Las Condes at a price of 25,113 CLP per share (48.00 USD) through his holding company Bancard on Tuesday, February 16. The total sale of the 792,000 shares grossed 37.85 million USD and was purchased by the brokerage firm Celfin.[35] The proceeds from the sale will go to paying off Bancard debt.[36]

Piñera announced Monday, February 8, he will transfer 100% of his stake in Chilevision to a non-for-profit organization called Fundación Cultura y Sociedad (formerly Fundación Futuro), of which he is owner.[37] The foundation's board will be comprised of some of the station's current executives. Under the proposed outline, Piñera maintains the right to remove and replace the foundation's president at any given time.[38] Cristián Larroulet, the future Minister of the Secretariat of the Presidency of Chile, has stated Piñera is honoring his promise of removing himself from private corporations, as Chilevision will become the property of a non-profit organization. MP Cristián Monckeberg (RN), stated there is no law obligating Piñera to do otherwise and thus this decision is legally legitimate.[39]

Piñera will not sell his 12.5% stake in Blanco y Negro, company that owns the nation's popular soccer team Colo-Colo. He has stated, "We want big things and not only achieve local victories. The idea is to return the Copa Libertadores to Chile. That is our great goal."[40] Although he will remain part owner, he will take no administrative duties or role while President.[41]

Council of Ministers

Sebastián Piñera and his Council of Ministers in Chile's National Historical Museum.

Piñera announced what he calls his "cabinet of unity" on Tuesday, February 9, 2010, at 18:00 hours (local time), in Chile's National Historical Museum. The list of names was presented the previous day to the leader of the National Renewal Party, Carlos Larraín, and the leader of the Independent Democratic Union, Juan Antonio Coloma. The cabinet is made up of 16 men and 6 women, with an average age of 49. Amongst Piñera's nominees is Jaime Ravinet, who is defense minister of the current president's cabinet and a former member of the Christian Democratic Party, from which he resigned upon accepting Piñera's cabinet offer. Also a nominee is Cristián Larroulet, who was an economic planning adviser under Pinochet.[42]

During his first official meeting with his Council of Ministers on Wednesday, February 10, Piñera issued a formal memorandum calling upon all members to renounce their positions in all private companies by the 28th of February in order to avoid conflicts of interest. The memorandum also said that in regards to national heritage, secretaries of state whose affiliation with companies having direct receipt of fiscal monies must either remove themselves from those associations or honor the restrictions of their competitors.[43] Ten of his 22 ministers have involvement in companies with significant financial means.


Piñera was sworn in as the 35th President of the Republic of Chile on March 11, 2010, in a ceremony held in a plenary session of the National Congress in Valparaíso. In the same ceremony, Piñera's Cabinet ministers were sworn in. The ceremony was also marked by a 6.9 Mw earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that upset the invitees. Shortly after, the National Congress building was evacuated due to a tsunami alert that proved to be false a couple of hours later.


  1. ^ (Spanish) Piñera2010 [
  2. ^ (Spanish) Radiotelevisión del Principado de Asturias En Libardón todavía quedan huellas de los antepasados del nuevo presidente chileno
  3. ^ (Spanish) Universia Sebastián Piñera Perfil
  4. ^ (Spanish) "Caminos cruzados", El Mercurio, .
  5. ^ Kotlikoff, Laurence J. & Piñera, Sebastián (1977), "The Old South's Stake in the Inter-Regional Movement of Slaves, 1850-1860", Journal of Economic History 37 (2): 434–450, 
  6. ^ (Spanish) Sandoval, Roberto Castillo (July 30, 2009), "La tesis doctoral de Sebastián Piñera", Noticias secretas, 
  7. ^ (Spanish) "Sebastián Piñera Echeñique - Senador", Reseñas parlamentarias - Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile, 
  8. ^ (Spanish) Fundacion Mujer Emprende Quienes Somos
  9. ^ (Spanish) Fundanción Futuro Quienes Somos
  10. ^ (Spanish) TerraSemana clave para fundación a la que Piñera traspasará propiedad de Chilevisión
  11. ^ (Spanish) Piñera2010 Conoce las propuestas medioambientales del Grupo Tantauco
  12. ^ (Spanish) Piñera2010Grupo Tantauco: Derechos Humanos
  13. ^ (Spanish) "Piñera aumenta participación en Colo Colo", La Nación, August 21, 2007, 
  14. ^ a b "#701 Sebastian Pinera", Forbes: The World's Billionaires, March 11, 2009, 
  15. ^ "LAN Airlines 2007 annual report, p. 29" .
  16. ^ La Nacion: Inversionista en Fuga
  17. ^ Ethisphere Magazine: Insider Trading
  18. ^ (Spanish) "Piñera deja el directorio de Lan y su socio Cueto inicia apelación por multa de SVS", La Nación, August 1, 2007, 
  19. ^ Moffett, Matt (December 14, 2009), "Billionaire Leads Chile Election", Wall Street Journal, 
  20. ^ (Spanish) Republica de Chile Votación Candidatos por País
  21. ^ Piñera's Campaign Anthem
  22. ^ Piñera's Thank you Banners
  23. ^ Piñera Campaign Billboard
  24. ^ Living in Peru: Chilean candidate Piñera says he'll maintain good relations with Peru if elected
  25. ^ Gardner, Simon (December 9, 2009), "Chile right seen ousting left in first since Pinochet", Reuters, 
  26. ^ PBS Newshour Chile Elects First Right-Wing President in 52 Years
  27. ^ (Spanish) El Economista Piñera renuncia a su militancia para gobernar
  28. ^ Rohter, Larry (January 15, 2006), "Chile Is Ready to Elect a President Unlike Any Other", New York Times, 
  29. ^ Reuters UPDATE 1-Chile's Piñera begins LAN stake sale process
  30. ^ The Wall Street Journal Chile Piñera's Axxion Falls 39% After Trading Resumes
  31. ^ Bloomberg Business WeekAxxion Falls After Post-Election Surge as Halt Lifted (Update2)
  32. ^ Chile's billionaire new president profits from share surge
  33. ^ Reuters Piñera's Axxion approves LAN stake sale
  34. ^ Reuters UPDATE 2-Chile's Pinera offers Cuetos $1.23 bln LAN stake
  35. ^ (Spanish) La Universal Piñera vende acciones de clínica en Chile
  36. ^ Bloomberg Pinera to Auction 36 million USD Las Condes Stake (Update1)
  37. ^ (Spanish) La NacionCuestionan fórmula de fundación para Chilevisión
  38. ^ (Spanish) Radio Bio BioEx “Fundación Futuro” cambia de función y queda como dueña de las acciones de Chilevisión
  39. ^ (Spanish) La NacionCuestionan fórmula de fundación para Chilevisión
  40. ^ El Economista Colo-Colo, la pasión de Piñera
  41. ^ (Spanish) El Diario ExteriorEl presidente empresario
  42. ^ Financial Times Chile’s Piñera unveils ‘cabinet of unity’
  43. ^ (Spanish) Europa PressPiñera pide a sus futuros ministros renunciar a sus cargos en empresas antes del 28 de febrero

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Michelle Bachelet
President of Chile

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