Chile Impeachment Push Is On With 13-Hour Opposition Speech
(Bloomberg) -- Chile’s lower house prolonged its voting session on an impeachment motion against President Sebastian Pinera with a marathon speech aimed at giving a key opposition lawmaker time to arrive at congress.
Deputy Jaime Naranjo on Monday evening was still reading a 1,300-page document, a task that he had started in the morning and is seen taking a total of 13 hours to complete. The plan from the opposition parties is to extend the session so that lawmaker Giorgio Jackson can complete quarantine after being in contact with a person infected with Covid-19 and then go vote.
Pinera was accused of violating the constitution after the Pandora Papers revealed a potential conflict of interest in his family’s sale of a mining project. While the motion may pass the lower house by a tight margin, it is very unlikely to be approved by the senate, where it needs the support of two thirds of the chamber instead of a simple majority.
The president’s term will end in March.
“I can speak for 72 or 92 hours, 5 days,” Naranjo said, according to a video on his Twitter account. “If this is about accusing Pinera, I can speak for a month.”
The lower house’s impeachment voting deadline is Monday, but the session can be extended if speeches are ongoing. Jackson, who self-isolated after spending time with leftist presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, will be allowed to enter congress in Valpariso, on the Pacific coast, after midnight tonight.
The impeachment push comes less that two weeks before Chileans head to the polls to pick a new president in general elections on Nov. 21.
The Pandora Papers last month revealed a contract signed in the British Virgin Islands in 2010 regarding the Pinera family’s sale of a stake in a $2.5 billion iron-ore project called Dominga. Part of the payment was allegedly conditional on the government not declaring the area a nature reserve.
Pinera, a self-made billionaire, was serving his first term as president at the time, and had the last word on any change in status for the zone. He has said that his finances were placed in a blind trust at the start of that term, and that he wasn’t informed of the details of the sale.
The president has also said that a previous investigation into the deal in 2017 didn’t lead to any charges.
The impeachment motion has to be approved by a majority of deputies - translating to 78 votes in total - in order to proceed. Following that, it would need to be backed by two-thirds of the senate.
In 2019, Pinera had survived a first attempt by the opposition to impeach him over his handling of nearly two months of unrest that left more than 20 dead and caused a slump in Chile’s economic activity, with the lower house at the time rejecting the proposal.
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