Biography of the President of the Republic
Sebastián Piñera Echenique
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Piñera Echenique was born in Santiago, Chile, on 1 December 1949. His parents
were José Piñera Carvallo (1917-1991) and Magdalena Echenique Rozas
(1919-2000). In 1973 he married Cecilia Morel Montes; they have four children
and four grandchildren.
He is a Commercial Engineer majoring in Economics from the Pontificia
Universidad Católica de Chile, and has Masters and Doctoral degrees in
Economics from Harvard University, U.S.A.
He is the third of the six children of José Piñera and Magdalena Echenique.
They gave him a Christian, pluralistic education with an emphasis on personal
freedom, a sense of duty and a strong vocation for public service.
In 1950 he and his family went to live in the United States, where his father
was named representative of the first office of the Corporación de Fomento abroad.
On his return to Chile, he was accepted at the Verbo Divino school, run by
German priests, where he completed his primary and part of his secondary
education (1955-1964). He excelled as one of the best students in his class and
participated actively in the scout movement.
When President Eduardo Frei Montalva (1964) took office, he named José Piñera
Chilean Ambassador to Belgium. The family moved to Europe, where Sebastián
studied at the Saint Boniface school in Brussels. While there, he got caught up
in the spirit of the great university movements that were occurring in Europe
at the time. In 1967, when his father was named Chilean Ambassador to the
United Nations, Sebastián returned to Chile and completed his last year of
secondary school at the Verbo Divino.
In 1968, he entered the Faculty of Economics at the
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. From the start, he understood that
this social science offered great opportunities to improve the quality of life
of the more dispossessed. In 1971 he received his degree as a Commercial
Engineer. He was distinguished with the Raúl Iver award for the best student of
He traveled to the U.S. (1973) to obtain a PhD in Economics at Harvard
University. The title of his doctoral thesis was: “Economics of Education in
Developing Countries. A Collection of Essays”.
In his years as a student at Harvard he was able to meet and exchange ideas
with renowned economists, several of them Nobel Prize winners. He was an
assistant professor and came to appreciate the value of freedom, democracy and
the opportunities offered by a country like the U.S.
In 1973 he married Cecilia Morel Montes, a family and youth counselor from
the Instituto Carlos Casanueva with a degree in Family and Human Relations from
the Universidad Mayor. They are parents of Magdalena (1975), teacher of History
and Geography; Cecilia (1978), Pediatrician; Sebastián (1982), Commercial
Engineer, and Cristóbal (1984), Psychologist.
In his spare time, Mr. Piñera enjoys a variety of outdoor, sports and culinary
activities with his family and friends. He is a great reader and has a passion
for world history.
He returned to Chile in 1976, and devoted his time mainly to teaching at the
Faculties of Economics of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile,
Universidad de Chile, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez and the Escuela de Negocios de
At the same time, he was a consultant to the Inter-American Development Bank
(IDB) (1974-1976) and the World Bank (1975-1978), and worked at the Economic
Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
In 1979 he obtained the representation for Chile of
the Visa and Master Card credit cards. He then created Bancard S.A. that
allowed Chileans to have access to this new form of payment and credit. He also
participated in the creation of CMB S.A., Inmobiliaria Las Américas S.A. and
Aconcagua, Editorial Los Andes S.A. At the same time he was the official
representative of the Apple transnational corporation in Chile. Years later, he
became a shareholder in companies such as Lan Chile, Chilevisión, Blanco y
Negro, among others.
For the plebiscite that was held on 5 October 1988, he participated, together
with a majority of Chileans, in the recovery of democracy by voting NO to the
continuation of the military regime.
In 1989, together with his wife Cecilia Morel, he created (and still maintains)
Fundación Mujer Emprende.
The objective of the foundation is to promote entrepreneurial skills and
development in young women with scant resources.
In 1993, he created Fundación
Futuro. Its objectives were (and continue to be) to provide and make
culture more accessible to all Chileans. This led to the creation of
educational programs such as “Art in close contact with people”, “I discover my
city”, “Museums close to hand” and “Cultural internships for teachers”. The
foundation also set in motion citizen projects such as “Navigable Mapocho”, “Transformation of the
Estero Margamar” and “Stadiums for Chile”.
The Fundación Futuro has also developed environmental initiatives. In 2005, it
inaugurated the Parque
Tantauco in the south of the island of Chiloé. In this park extending over
140,000 hectares, including 220 km of paths and camping sites, visitors can
enjoy trekking, fishing, bird watching and sighting of blue whales. The park
seeks to conserve and protect ecosystems and species in danger of extinction.
It also carries out research work and promotes sustainable ecotourism programs.
In addition, Mr. Piñera was a counselor to the Hogar de Cristo welfare
institution and participated in many commissions ad honorem. Among these, he was a member of the Advisory Council of
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Bicentennial Commission created by
former President Ricardo Lagos.
In 1989 he was an independent candidate for senator of the Democracy and
Progress Pact for the 8th. District in the Eastern Metropolitan Region and was
elected for the 1990-1998 period. He then joined the ranks of Renovación
Nacional, a center-right political party.
During his period as a senator, he was part of permanent commissions for the
Treasury, Human Rights, Health and Environment and National Property. His
concern for the environment was reflected in the presentation of a bill
regarding the Protection of the Environment and Nature.
His democratic spirit became manifest in the bill that modifies the
Constitutional Basic Laws of the political parties, popular voting, counting of
votes and Municipal votes. The aim of the bill is to allow presidential,
parliamentary and municipal elections to include independent candidates as part
of political parties, and also to simplify the formalities for establishing a
Another project in which he participated was the bill that regulates the juridical
and ethical principles of human and
assisted reproduction techniques, and establishes penalties for those who
breach the principles.
During his legislative period he was elected Best Senator by his peers,
together with the then Senator Andrés Zaldívar.
He was president of Renovación Nacional between 2001 and 2004. In the
National Congress of the party in May 2005, he was proclaimed presidential candidate
for the elections held in December 2005. In the first round, Sebastián Piñera
obtained 25.4% of the votes against Michelle Bachelet’s 45.9% and in the
run-off election of January 2006 Michelle Bachelet won by 53.5% of the votes
against Mr. Piñera’s 46.5%.
From then on, he focused his work on three major activities: he traveled
throughout the country listening to the needs and demands of the people; he
accompanied the candidates of the Alliance for Chile, a center-right political
coalition, during the municipal elections of 2008 and created the “Tantauco
Groups”, made up of more than 1,200 professionals integrated into 37 working
commissions dedicated to studying and proposing public policies for the future
In May 2009 the Coalition for Change was founded. This new political alliance
brought together the Renovación Nacional and Unión Demócrata Independiente
political parties that were part of the Alliance for Chile, as well as new
partners such as Chile Primero, Humanismo Cristiano, Norte Grande and
Independents. This new coalition proclaimed Sebastián Piñera as their official
candidate for the presidency of the Republic in the 2009 campaign.
The presidential campaign was marked by Mr. Piñera’s direct contact with the
Chilean people under a call for “Change, Future and Hope” and “Become Part of
Change”. Although there was no law governing the issue, in April 2009, while he
was still only a presidential candidate he handed over the management of his
share in open stock companies to four investment fund administrators, thus constituting
a Voluntary Blind Trust Fund.
In the first round of the presidential elections of 13
December 2009, Sebastián Piñera obtained 44% of the votes, and participated in
a run-off election with the Concertación candidate Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle. The
result of the run-off held on 17 January 2010 led to Sebastián Piñera being
elected President with 51.6% of the votes.
On 11 March 2010, Sebastián Piñera was invested as the 47th President of the
Republic of Chile at a ceremony held at the National Congress building in