A funeral procession for former two-time Chilean President Sebastian Piñera wound though Santiago on Friday, past La Moneda presidential palace, as thousands of people lined streets and rooftops holding flags and photos of him.
Piñera, 74, died on Tuesday after the helicopter he was piloting crashed into a lake in southern Chile. Earlier on Friday, a state funeral was held at the former congress building.
“Today we share the shock of the tragic departure of a man, a father, husband, grandfather and public figure that was a leader in our transition to democracy,” President Gabriel Boric told mourners.
After the service, horse-mounted police saluted Piñera’s casket at the palace as a police marching band played. Then cars carrying family members and government officials escorted Piñera’s casket onward through the city to a cemetery in northern Santiago.
“I came because I felt he was a good president for Chile,” said Diego Arrayada, who watched the procession. “He was honest, he was close to the people, gave social aid, and knew the engine behind Chile was small business.”
Piñera, a conservative billionaire whose first term ran from 2010 to 2014, oversaw strong economic growth, but also faced protests. Boric himself led student protests for education reforms during Piñera’s first administration.
“These days some have remembered we were political adversaries. It’s true,” Boric said. But he said they reconciled and the day before Piñera’s death they discussed recent deadly wildfires that killed 131 people in central Chile.
Piñera also oversaw the 2010 rescue of 33 trapped miners which gripped people around the world and became the basis of a 2014 movie, “The 33.”
During Piñera’s second term from 2018 to 2022, large and often violent protests against inequality erupted, leading to attempts to re-write the nation’s constitution. Piñera also oversaw the country’s pandemic response.