Emotional Firewall: The Presidential Family in Piñera’s Most Difficult Days

When Cristobal, the youngest of the President’s children, I forwarded to his mother the audio in which she herself spoke, distraught, about the social outbreak, Cecilia Morel could not believe it. I had sent him to classmate chatBut now the aliens in Plaza Italia were the subject of national discussion. Morel decided to react and tweet the apologies of the case. Before, she managed to laugh at herself and her “condor”. Then she took a deep breath and went out to face him.

Now, a year later, in the Piñera family jokes about the first lady and aliens and some images circulate through their chats that lighten the burden of a heavy year. A few days ago they commented on a meme with the photo of Miguel Piñera, and the reading was that, in the end, the “Negro” was not the black sheep of the family.

There were the Rossel Piñera, children of the President’s eldest daughter, as well as Pablo “Polo” Piñera, Sebastián’s close brother. The President was not going to stop celebrating “Juanito”, even when the situation in Santiago began to spiral out of control. To doubt it would be to ignore how your head and your emotions operate. Although with the perspective of time, he himself recognized in this newspaper that it was a mistake to have done so.

If there is something in which his closest environment coincides, it is that his family has been his maximum refuge. Throughout the year, the President tries stop by to see one of his grandchildren around the office. He enters the house of Magdalena, Cecilia or Cristóbal, “messes everything up and leaves.”

Sebastián Piñera at a press point, along with his family, during the 2017 election.

The same thing happened before in Sebastián’s home, when he lived in Chile, but the third of his children settled in Sydney with his family and does not want to return. Anyway, she talks to her dad a lot. Not only because from there he is aware of family investments, but because the four children of Sebastián Piñera and Cecilia Morel, since October 18, set up a kind of “emotional firewall” for their parents. Especially in the first months, when they organized to visit them almost every day and thus accompany the Chief Executive, who at first was disconcerted with what was happening.

The four children were very concerned about Piñera, because they considered “unfair” that his father appeared as the great culprit of everything: the political and economic crisis and even the human rights violations that were denounced in those days. In fact, they say that Cristóbal, the youngest, suspended its plans to settle in the United States to be close to their parents in those moments.

That night, in La Moneda, the president was very nervous. In fact, in his immediate environment they maintain that it has been one of the most difficult decisions he has had to make in his life. And that tension was also transferred to the presidential family, who were waiting attentively for the President’s determination. The same was true for his closest brothers, Polo and Pichita.

In those days, the family was joined by the President’s second restraint ring: friends. Ignacio Cueto, Ignacio Guerrero, José Cox and Fabio Valdés they were his front line. A little further back were Carlos Alberto “Choclo” Délano and Juan Bilbao, whom he has visited in his field in Talca during this period. His closest friends have also been important political advisers, a kind of “third floor”, like the one that was talked about so much in his first government.

Who has never stopped being his great support is Andres Chadwick. In fact, in La Moneda there are not two opinions about how much the constitutional accusation against him hit the president. That, they warn, increased the most complex sensation he had to go through during the crisis: the loss of control, the belief that obtaining a result was no longer in his hands.

President Sebastián Piñera together with the former Minister of the Interior, Andrés Chadwick.  Cabinet change October 28, 2019.
Change of Cabinet, October 2019.

The social outbreak impacted on Piñera’s ability to resolve. Although he never stopped attending to other government affairs, an issue that surprised the sectoral ministers – he knew from which were the pending bridges to the amount of rations of the Junaeb-, his usual determination was weakened; Something escaped his management and that of his government team, which did not find the right tone to face what was happening, especially because there were two visions on how to deal with the social outbreak. A tougher one, focused on containing violence and public order, and another that paid more attention to the social demands of the street.

Until the pandemic arrived. “San Covid”, they say ironically in La Moneda, due to the effect it had on Piñera’s personality. Because, knowing the complexity that it would mean, the President “returned his soul to his body”, although he has never realized that it had been torn from him. “With the coronavirus it returned to its center,” they comment. This was reflected in his state of mind.

With the handling of the pandemic and its effects on health and the economy, Piñera once again threw his lines on the Colón block, to roll up his sleeves and feel somewhat more secure. The social outburst felt difficult to handle, unpredictable. With the arrival of the pandemic, at least I could get to do calculations based on data, start stepping on semi-firm territory. And return, in some way, to a relative control of his government.

These days, the presidential family is watching closely the evolution of the constituent process, waiting for what happens in the plebiscite next Sunday. They know that nothing that happens is predictable, and that the time of government ahead is not going to be less complex than these last 12 months.

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