SANTIAGO – President Michelle Bachelet’s chief of staff stepped down after questions were raised about payments he received from a mining company while he chaired the mining committee in Chile’s lower house.
Jorge Insunza was appointed on May 11 as part of a major Cabinet overhaul aimed at restoring confidence amid a flurry of corruption scandals involving parties across the political spectrum.
“I deeply regret having caused her (Bachelet) a problem,” he told reporters in announcing his departure.
Insunza, who resigned his seat in Congress to become chief of staff, accused the right-wing opposition of “attacking the president through me,” though even his own center-left PPD party had joined the calls for his resignation.
He has acknowledged that until late last year, he received honoraria from Antofagasta Minerals in exchange for providing the miner with political analysis.
Insunza recently published the reports he wrote for Antofagasta, at least partly to document that the money he received had been for actual work.
Prosecutors investigating campaign-finance scandals have found that some companies sought to disguise political donations as honoraria for non-existent services.
Those firms also deducted the honoraria on their tax returns.
Chilean law allows members of Congress to combine outside activities with their duties as legislators, but Insunza’s decision to accept money from Antofagasta Minerals during his tenure as head of the mining committee has been criticized on ethical grounds.
“I must practice what I preach: I believe deeply in the principle of political accountability,” Insunza said in his appearance before the press.
“There was no illegality,” he said. “I go with a clear conscience.”
“If public trust is damaged or put in question, sovereignty must return to its sources in order to restore confidence in the institutions,” Insunza said.
“Under that standard, which for me is fundamental, I have submitted my resignation to President Bachelet,” he said. “I deeply regret having caused her a problem. I pledged to help her in this phase and she deserves that support from all of us.”