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September 22, 2014
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Outgoing Piñera slammed by his own party

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera seen in a file photo.
Leader blamed for electoral losses as Chilean right faces worst crisis in its history

SANTIAGO — The Chilean ruling coalition slammed outgoing President Sebastián Piñera yesterday and blamed him for recent electoral losses that have left the right in the lowest point in its history.

The unusually harsh criticism came from members of Piñera’s own party, Renovación Nacional — a moderate rightist party that makes up the ruling Alianza.

Members of RN lashed out at Piñera during a dinner to honour outgoing lawmakers, claiming that Piñera had failed to recognize his government’s mistakes and accusing him of having “little respect” for the parties that comprise Alianza: RN and the more conservative Unión Democrática Independiente (UDI).

RN leader Carlos Larraín was the first to voice his criticism. “We would like to say ‘we also contributed to this’, we would like to have some kind of recognition because we have worked like crazy.”

But Senator Manuel Ossandón was a lot harsher. “A mea culpa is missing. This is the first government in Chile’s history that lost three elections in a row — municipal, legislative and presidential — in a landslide. The country is doing better but the right is completely destroyed,” he said.

Ossandón went as far as to say that “politically, Piñera’s government has been one of the worst in Chile’s history” and that he opposes the idea of “honouring” the outgoing president.

As president-elect Michelle Bachelet prepares to take office next week, the future ruling-party — the Nueva Mayoría coalition — added to the criticism against Piñera and said that the outgoing government tweaked economic numbers to present “an improved picture.”

Rodrigo Peñailillo, designated to be Chile’s next Interior Ministry, noted that “citizens must be aware (...) that the economy is losing steam. It is part of a reality that we will have to handle as the future government.”

Senate President Jorge Pizarro, a Christian Democrat, underlined that “the economic numbers presented by the government are not real. During the last trimester, growth didn’t surpass 2.7 percent.”

Pizarro accused Piñera of carrying out a “propaganda campaign, pretending to say goodbye but actually trying to gain points and position himself” for 2017.

The right, divided over human rights

The legacy of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship and its human rights record have been a conflictive issue for Piñera during the four years that he spent in office.

He faced-off several times with the more conservative wing within the coalition, which is openly pro-Pinochet.

Last year, Piñera ordered the closure of the controversial Cordillera prison, where several high-ranking officials from the dictatorship enjoyed privileged conditions.

“What happened during the Presidency of (Socialist) Salvador Allende doesn’t justify the grave and systematic abuses” that took place during the dictatorship, Piñera told ADN radio yesterday.

When the country commemorated the 40th anniversary of the coup against Allende last year, Piñera condemned the coup’s “passive accomplices.” He is one of the few within Chile’s right that voted “No” in an 1988 referendum to decide if Pinochet should continue ruling over Chile.

Evelyn Matthei, the ruling-party’s presidential candidate last year, faced question during the campaign regarding her support of the dictatorship. But Piñera defended her yesterday, praising her “courage” during a “difficult campaign.”

On Monday night, Piñera called on the Chilean right to reorganize and reclaim power in 2017, urging the rightist coalition “to build a real option” for the next presidential term .

Government Spokeswoman Cecilia Pérez said that Piñera wasn’t planning on running, but claimed that he is “the greatest leader the centre-right has.”

Herald staff with Télam, AP

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