At around 10am on Monday, the Chilean MP Jaime Naranjo of the Socialist Party began his speech in Parliament to support the approval of the impeachment of the center-right President of Chile Sebastian Piñera for his involvement in the related scandals. to the investigation known as “Pandora Papers”. Naranjo began reading the 1,300-page report advocating the removal of the president and went on until 1.30am Monday through Tuesday, speaking for a total of 14 hours and 56 minutes.
His goal was to buy time to allow Congressman Giorgio Jackson to arrive in the courtroom, who would guarantee the opposition the necessary vote to approve the impeachment. The fact is, Jackson was in quarantine for COVID-19 and couldn’t show up in court until Tuesday. Naranjo’s initiative was successful: just before 8 am on Tuesday, Piñera’s impeachment was in fact approved with 78 votes in favor, necessary to obtain a majority of the 155 deputies in the House (now the matter goes to the Senate).
It is the first time that the lower house of Chile has approved an impeachment request against an active president.
Piñera, 71, has been president since 2017, but had already ruled the country between 2010 and 2014. For some time he had ended up at the center of a lot of criticism, accused of fueling inequalities in the country and then harshly and violently repressing protests. The publication of the so-called “Pandora Papers” – the large international journalistic investigation into the affairs of hundreds of politicians, public figures and famous people who over the years have accumulated large amounts of money in so-called tax havens – has worsened his situation.
The documents revealed that Piñera had founded two companies in the British Virgin Islands through some of his own companies, while a company in the mining sector in which he owned about a third of the shares had carried out some transactions for the sale of shares through another company. offshore.
The request for “constitutional indictment“- the name of the impeachment in Chile – has reached the end of Piñera’s mandate, which will end on 11 March 2022. On November 21 there will be elections, which will not be re-nominated: according to analysts, the favorites are Gabriel Boric, candidate of the Wide Front on the left, and José Antonio Kast, on the far right, who is not part of the current government alliance.
President of Chile Sebastian Piñera, Monday, November 8 (AP Photo / Esteban Felix)
Monday’s discussion was broadcast live on television and by the country’s media, and was expected to end on the same day. The outcome of the vote, however, was not certain, because 4 of the 83 opposition deputies had said they would not vote in favor of the removal of the president, and in addition Boric could not participate in the vote because he tested positive for coronavirus and in isolation.
Videos of the session show opposition MPs supporting Naranjo, who allowed himself a few glasses of water and a little raisins during the very long speech, only being absent on a couple of occasions to go to the bathroom. In his nearly 15 hours of speech, he did everything to try to postpone the vote, extending into various “I repeat and repeat” or telling the opposition deputies to leave the room, so that there was not the minimum number for hold the vote, while making himself heard by all because his microphone was active.
Naranjo concluded his speech shortly after the expected arrival of Jackson, who was a close contact of Boric and had waited for midnight – that is, the end of the quarantine – to leave the house. Another opposition parliamentarian who was waiting for the result of a test to ascertain the negativity of the coronavirus managed to enter the courtroom to vote, avoiding the checks. The vote took place after another five-hour speech by a deputy who supported Piñera and ended with 78 yes, 67 no and 3 abstentions (148 out of 155 deputies voted). The debate lasted a total of 22 hours.
Now the impeachment procedure goes to the Senate, which will have to vote to decide whether to start the trial against the president. It is not certain that this will happen: because the request passes at least 29 votes out of 43 are needed, and theoretically the opposition has only 24.
Naranjo’s behavior was criticized by various right-wing deputies, who accused him of having obstructed at all costs and called the impeachment process “a sad political spectacle for democracy” and “shameful”.
After the vote, Naranjo said that the country “is experiencing a historic moment and that this is only possible thanks to the unity of the opposition”. In a press conference, he then added that he had done what he did “for justice”, alluding to all the people “who have seen their rights violated during this government”. He then said he would be “honored” to be reported to the House Ethics Commission.