Billionaire Sebastian Pinera wins Chile presidency

Pinera won Chile's presidential vote Sunday in the country's first democratic election of a right-wing ruler in 52 years.

Billionaire Sebastian Pinera wins Chile presidency

Billionaire Sebastian Pinera won Chile's presidential vote Sunday in the country's first democratic election of a right-wing ruler in 52 years.

The Harvard-educated airline magnate takes office in March.

Pinera earned 52 percent of the votes to 48 percent for the ruling coalition's candidate Eduardo Frei with 99 percent of the ballots counted, ending two decades of center-left rule since Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.

Pinera thanked his opponents and called for unity. "We need not only a good government but a good opposition, working constructively to build a country for all of us," he said as he shared a stage with Frei.

Pinera led by a wide margin throughout the race, which tightened only after Frei and Bachelet repeatedly invoked the legacy of Pinochet, whose dictatorship was supported by the same parties that back Pinera.

The biggest change may be in foreign affairs.

With Congress evenly divided, Pinera will need leftists to get anything done, and for the first time since Pinochet's 1973 coup, this includes several Communist Party lawmakers whose votes could become key tiebreakers.

An extreme sports enthusiast who flies his own helicopter, Pinera succeeded in distancing himself from the legacy of Pinochet's rule, when over 3,000 people were killed or "disappeared" and around 28,000 were tortured.

One of Pinera's brothers was a minister under Pinochet and some of his aides worked for the dictatorship.

"Pinera's victory is a clear indication that Chile is moving beyond the Pinochet era," said Daniel Erikson, a Latin America expert at the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington.

Pinera made his fortune by bringing credit cards to Chile and holds a stake in flagship airline LAN. He has vowed to sell his LAN stake before taking office in March, and has placed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investments in blind trust.


Agencies

Last Mod: 18 Ocak 2010, 14:25
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