President's popularity soaring after slick handling of media
THE popularity of Chilean president Sebastian Pinera -- and his chances of re-election -- have soared as a result of the triumphant outcome to the mining accident, thanks in no small part to his peerless ability to utilise the media.
Until he took office in March, Mr Pinera was the outright owner of Chilevision, a national TV channel, which he sold to Time Warner to avoid a conflict of interest.
He knows better than anyone how to turn in a polished performance for the cameras, and his regular appearances at Camp Hope, where he has announced almost every scrap of good news, have been behind a rapid rise in his approval ratings from 46pc before the accident to 57pc now.
Such is Mr Pinera's mastery of the mass media that the emergence of the first of the miners was reported to have been stage-managed by him to coincide with Chile's evening TV news bulletins.
The slick blanket coverage of every possible angle in the rescue, including live images of the men entering the escape pod 2,000ft underground, has also been attributed to the president's influence, as has a decision to post official photographs of the rescue on the file sharing website Flickr, making them instantly available to all newspapers around the world. Mr Pinera said of the media coverage: "This rescue operation has been so marvellous, so clean, so emotional that there was no reason not to allow the eyes of the world -- which have been watching this operation so closely -- to see it."
Mr Pinera (60) has a personal fortune estimated at €685m, making him one of Chile's richest men and the first dollar billionaire to be elected president.
The son of a former Chilean ambassador to the UN, he built his fortune by being at the forefront of the introduction of credit cards to Chile in the 1970s, then diversified into the media and airlines, acquiring 27pc of the Chilean airline LAN.
The only man who has outshone the president during the San Jose rescue mission is Mining Minister Laurence Golborne, the photogenic 49-year-old who has become a firm favourite with female voters during the ongoing crisis.
Immediately before the mine collapse, a national poll showed only 16pc of Chileans knew who he was -- the lowest name recognition of any of Mr Pinera's government.
Today his approval rating stands at 86pc, leading to rumours that he might run for the presidency in 2014. The women's magazine 'Para Ti' ('For You') hailed him as Chile's "Superstar Minister" while souvenir shops have started selling T-shirts with his face on them.
Mr Golborne, a qualified civil engineer and former oil company executive, was the man responsible for the day-to-day running of the rescue operation, and will take a large slice of the credit for its spectacular success. (© Daily Telegraph, London)