SANTIAGO – A Chilean lawmaker who used explosive language to criticize a powerful business tycoon during a session of Congress said on Monday at the start of his slander trial that he would not retract his remarks.
“I’m convinced I’m in the right ... I’m not going to retract. Like a good Chilean, I’ll die on my feet,” Gaspar Rivas said upon arrival at a courthouse in Santiago.
Andronico Luksic, whose family owns mining company Antofagasta Minerals, Banco de Chile, beverage maker CCU, vineyards and other companies, sued Rivas for calling him a “son of a bitch” and a “criminal” during a congressional session in May.
“He’s never apologized,” Luksic said at the hearing. “I’m extremely hurt, surprised. I find it very troubling that we’re falling into these types of things, a lawmaker.”
“It’s very important that we stop this escalation of attacks, insults,” he added.
Rivas said on the Congress floor that a hydroelectric dam that one of Luksic’s companies was building near Santiago had caused the Mapocho River to overflow its banks, resulting in millions of dollars of flood damage in the capital.
“The biggest criminal we have in recent days is Mr. Andronico Luksic. So powerful, so rich and with so much influence that he feels free to flood Santiago,” Rivas said then.
“I hope to see him in jail because he’s a criminal ... He’s a son of a bitch!” the legislator added.
Luksic asked the judge at the end of Monday’s hearing if he could leave the courtroom via an alternative exit to avoid a group of people protesting the Alto Maipo hydroelectric project, but the request was denied.
As he walked to his car, demonstrators hit Luksic in the head with a lemon, struck him with a poster board and repeatedly hurled insults.
“I hope justice is served. We have to accept whatever the court decides,” Luksic said amid a chaotic scene in which at least one protester was arrested.