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Former Chilean president Sebastian Pinera killed in helicopter crash

 A supporter of the late Chilean President Sebastian Pinera holds a framed photo of him, in Santiago, Chile, February 6, 2024. [AP photo]

Former Chile President Sebastian Pinera was killed Tuesday in a helicopter crash.

The 74-year-old Pinera was travelling with three other people when the helicopter went down in Lake Ranco in southern Chile.

The other three passengers survived the crash and managed to swim to shore. It was unclear who was piloting the helicopter, but Pinera often flew himself in his own helicopter.

Pinera entered politics in the 1990s after amassing a fortune that began when he introduced credit cards to Chile during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, who ruled from 1973 until 1990. He invested in a variety of ventures, including real estate, banking and broadcasting.

His election in 2010 represented a return of Chile’s conservative faction to political power after the Pinochet dictatorship.

But his first term was consumed by recovery efforts from a powerful earthquake and tsunami that killed 525 people, as well as the successful recovery of 33 miners trapped for more than three months in a collapsed mine in the northern Atacama Desert.

His second term from 2018 until 2022 was consumed by his government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest triggered by a small hike in subway fares that evolved into mass protests over inequality.

Pinera deployed the military to quell the protests, which led to violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces.

The protests led parliament to agree to hold a referendum to change Chile’s dictatorship-era constitution, but two proposed charters have been defeated.

Pinera’s successor, Gabriel Boric, declared three days of official mourning on Tuesday. He said Pinera “genuinely sought what he believed was best for the country” in a televised speech announcing his death.

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