Born in Santiago in 1949, Sebastián Piñera earned a bachelor’s degree in commercial engineering from the Catholic University of Chile, and master’s and doctorate degrees in economics from the University of Harvard, USA. He began his career as a Professor of Economics, and later served as Economic Adviser at the Interamerican Development Bank and at the World Bank. In 1976, Piñera founded the credit card company Bancard, bringing credit cards to the country for the first time.
He served as a Senator between 1990 and 1998 and became the President of the National Renewal Party in 2001. In 2010, Piñera was elected President of Chile and served a four-year term, having kept his campaign promise to sell his holdings in various companies, including his 26% stake in the national airline LAN, the TV channel Chilevision to Time Warner, and his share in the football team Blanco & Negro. His net worth as of 2017 is reported to be $2.7bn with a broad portfolio of investments in banking, media, airlines, and sports. Since leaving office, he has spent some of his time working for the charities he founded, including Fundación Futuro, which supports educational, cultural and conservation projects in Chile. Piñera has described himelf as “a Christian humanist and a compassionate conservative.”
Shortly after his election as President in 2010, and the dramatic rescue of 33 trapped miners, Piñera commented, “I hope that from now on when people around the world hear the word Chile, they will not remember the coup d'etat or the dictatorship, they will remember what we had done, all the Chileans together.”
In a 2011 speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in the United States, Piñera spoke of his enthusiasm for open markets and the market economy, saying “…we are still working on more agreements. (…) we reached an agreement, which basically was to undertake these efforts as a -- as a national goal. And therefore we were able to start signing all these agreements with the U.S., with Mexico, with Canada, with Europe, with China, with Japan, with India, with Malaysia, with many other countries. And we're still working on that. For instance, we're now working on this Trans-Pacific Partnership, where the U.S. will be part of it, but it could become the largest free trade agreement in the world, with countries at both sides of the Pacific Ocean. (…) I'm absolutely convinced that free trade is good for all the countries. I am fully aware that it's not good for everybody within each country, but it's good for the whole country.”
In the same speech, he stated, “we are working also with Mexico, Colombia, Peru … in what we call the Pacific Alliance, to really have a third-generation integration effort, not only goods and services but investment, people, physical integration and many things like that, because, at the end of the day, for a small country like Chile, openness and having a real open approach to the world is the only way to become developed country, but not only for small countries … We have united or unified our … stock exchange with Peru and Colombia and we hope that we would do with that Mexico, too, very soon: [this] means that our capital market [becomes] more profound and therefore Chilean companies or foreign companies can go to our local markets to raise money for equity or for loans, and therefore that's another advantage to invest in Chile.”
“For instance, in the U.S: if you don't have a free trade agreement with Chile, somebody else will trade with us. So some other country will take part of our markets which should be with the U.S. That's why I think the free trade agreement that we signed with U.S. -- Peru has also signed a free trade agreement with the U.S., Colombia is struggling to sign a free trade agreement with the U.S. I think it's good for Chile. It's good for U.S. It is good for the whole world.”
Piñera has also spoken favourably of increased trade and investment between Latin America and Europe, stating that “…we want to achieve a new chapter in the relations between Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean nations, for us it is more than about a harmonious relation, we also want to contribute concrete proposals. (…) Latin America is awakening and its revival will take us much more further if it has a wise continent like Europe on its side.”
On trade with China, Piñera has commented that “…we have huge expectations and I am sure that the best is yet to come. (…) China is an emerging country and it is growing so fast with so much enthusiasm that really we have a lot to learn from China. (…) China has become our most important trading partner by far. (…) I hope that it is just the beginning and I am really enthusiastic and looking forward to what we can do together to improve the quality of life of the Chinese people and the Chilean people.”
Piñera has stated that “…terrorism is not left or right. To fight terrorism with force and will is the difference between civilization and barbarism.”
His presidential campaign is predominantly focused on domestic issues: he lists 13 domains which he has promised to prioritise if elected, including such topics as citizen security, the creation of a united and peaceful Chile, the promotion of a more ambitious infrastructure plan including the extension of the Santiago Metro, and quality health services and education.