Former Chilean president Sebastián Piñera, who governed Chile between 2010 and 2014 and between 2018 and 2022, referred this Friday to the social outbreak that he faced during his second term in October 2019 and described it as “a non-traditional coup d’état.” He said this in an interview with the Argentine radio Miter within the framework of his visit to Buenos Aires for the IInd meeting of the Freedom and Democracy Group, which brings together the 22 conservative presidents and former presidents of the region, which takes place in the capital. from Argentina this Friday and Saturday.
The only right-wing president who has governed Chile after the end of the military dictatorship in 1990 spoke in the interview about “the cancers” that plague Latin America: demagoguery, populism and violence (drug trafficking, organized crime and corruption), when he was consulted about “the Cuban and Venezuelan advance” of 2019 in Chile “that tried to turn it around, to carry out a coup d’état.” Piñera said that “it was indeed a non-traditional coup d’état, because it was not the Armed Forces,” which sought to “weaken the very foundations of democracy.”
The former president, who spoke of similar events in Peru and Colombia, described what he experienced as president: “They brutally used violence. It was irrational violence. They were willing to burn everything: churches, schools, hospitals, monuments, power plants and whatever came their way. “Fire was a great ally of these anarchist-terrorists who wanted to destroy our country.” For the former president, who has had a new role in Chilean politics in recent weeks, especially due to the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the coup d’état, “fortunately Chile resisted.”
The current Chilean president, Gabriel Boric, from New York referred to the words of his successor and, although he tried not to argue, he assured: “I think it is very important not to confuse and not put violent acts with mobilizations in the same bag, because there are those who “In Chile they seem to forget that there are legitimate causes of unrest and that we have to face those causes as a country.” The Chilean president added: “There are reasons for the discomfort of Chilean society and we also have responsibility for those reasons. So, I insist: more than arguing with one person or another, I am interested in finding solutions. I am on that line and they will find my Government.”
“We are in war”
The social outbreak that broke out on October 18, 2019 has been a definitive event that has marked the future of the South American country in the last four years. The Piñera Government was on the ropes, as was Chilean democracy. The political class was almost entirely about to channel discontent with the opening of a constituent process that failed in September 2021, when the majority of the country, 62%, rejected the proposal for a Constitutional Convention dominated by the left. But although there is no single view on what happened four years ago – interpretations range from a criticism of the neoliberal model and inequality, a demand for quality social goods or the trap of middle-income countries -, Piñera reopens the debate about what happened by indicating that it was an attempted coup against his Administration.
On October 20, 2019, when Chile was facing unusual waves of violence, as president he launched his first interpretation of what happened: “We are at war against a powerful, implacable enemy, who respects nothing and no one, who is willing to use violence and crime without any limits, even when it means loss of human life, who is willing to burn our hospitals, our Metro stations, our supermarkets, with the sole purpose of causing the greatest possible damage to all Chileans. “They are at war against all Chileans of good will who want to live in democracy with freedom and peace.” These words earned him strong criticism. General Javier Iturriaga himself, who was in charge of the declared state of emergency, distanced himself from the president. “I am a happy man and I am not at war with anyone,” said the one who now leads the Army as commander in chief.
Almost a year later, Piñera’s statements continued to weigh on him and in December 2020, in an interview with a Chilean television channel, he said that in Chile everything is misinterpreted: “I was referring to the war against violence and violence is a powerful enemy, as I said. Proof of this is that it destroyed our public transportation system, it destroyed churches, it destroyed national monuments, it destroyed commercial establishments, it destroyed dreams and projects. Therefore, when we are at war it is against violence and I hope that all Chileans understand that violence is an enemy of democracy, freedom and peace. Therefore he is an enemy of all of us who believe in those three values.”
This Friday’s statements have generated various political reactions: support from the right-wing opposition and rejection from the ruling party. The acting Minister of the Interior, Manuel Monsalve, assured: “Evidently I do not agree with the statements of the former president, with all the respect that a former president of the Republic deserves. We have just passed 50 years since the coup d’état and we all know in Chile what a coup d’état is. Nobody could say that during the Government of President Sebastián Piñera, his second Government, there was a coup d’état. He finished his term, Parliament continued to function. “There was no alteration from the point of view of the Chilean democratic system.”
For Monsalve, what happened in 2019 in Chile was “a political crisis” to which “an institutional solution” was given with the November 2019 agreement that proposed a constituent route.
In recent weeks, when Chile seemed taken over by the commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the 1973 coup d’état on September 11, the former president held two meetings with his successor, Gabriel Boric. In the first meeting they addressed the political climate and the reforms and then, on September 1, in La Moneda, they focused on the anniversary of the democratic breakdown. Piñera tried to serve as a bridge between the Government and its traditional right-wing political sector to promote a joint declaration condemning the bombing of La Moneda half a century ago, but he was unsuccessful. Finally, together with the Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle (1994-2000) and the socialists Ricardo Lagos (2000-2006) and Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010 and 2014-2018) they signed a declaration with Boric where they declared “for democracy, always ”.
Piñera and former Argentine president Mauricio Macri lead the IInd meeting of the Freedom and Democracy Group, which will take place this Friday and Saturday in Buenos Aires. Guillermo Lasso, president of Ecuador, participates; Iván Duque, former president of Colombia; Mariano Rajoy, former Spanish president, and Patricia Bullrich, presidential candidate of Argentina, among other former leaders. According to the Chilean, as he said in the same interview on radio Miter, this group was formed “to defend freedom and democracy that is threatened throughout the world and especially in Latin America,” because “the defenders of democracy have been little active” and it is necessary to “move from reflection and complaint to will and action.”
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