Chile's Pinera safe after Senate votes down impeachment bid

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Chile's senators gather to vote on a motion to impeach President Sebastian Pinera over allegations of irregularities in the sale of a mining firm, in Valparaiso, Chile November 16, 2021. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

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SANTIAGO, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Chile's Senate voted against removing President Sebastian Pinera from office on Tuesday, ending an impeachment process that had successfully passed a lower house vote last week over alleged irregularities in the sale of a mining company.

The Senate vote fell short of a two-thirds majority, or 29 votes, needed in order to oust Pinera, who is set to leave office in March next year. Chileans will vote in presidential elections on Sunday, in which Pinera is not a candidate.

After fierce debate and speeches defending and attacking the center-right president, Pinera's allies reached the threshold needed to block the opposition from getting the necessary number of votes, a higher bar than the simple majority in the lower house.

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The vote saves Pinera - a billionaire businessman - from being removed from office and being disqualified for five years from holding public office.

The impeachment proceedings spring from the so-called Pandora Papers leak, a cache of documents that revealed offshore transactions involving global political and business figures.

Among them were documents that appear to outline a deal involving the 2010 sale of the Dominga copper and iron mine. At the time, Pinera was in his first year of his first term in office.

The papers suggested that the deal, involving a firm linked to Pinera's family, was contingent on favorable regulations. The sale was examined and dismissed by courts in 2017.

Center-right Pinera rejects the accusations, saying the details of the contract were in a file previously reviewed with no irregularities found.

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Reporting by Natalia Ramos; writing by Hugh Bronstein; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sandra Maler

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