October 16, 2010 (KATAKAMI / BBC) — Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera is due to arrive in the UK ahead of European tour, riding on the crest of a wave after the rescue of the 33 miners.
Mr Pinera will be bringing fragments of rock from the San Jose mine as presents for Prime Minister David Cameron and the Queen.
The billionaire president is due to visit Churchill’s War Rooms in London and have talks with Mr Cameron.
The rescue of the miners after 69 days has made headlines worldwide.
Thirty-one of the miners have now been released from hospital, with the remaining two being transferred to other hospitals.
One is suffering from a dental infection and the second is suffering from the symptoms of vertigo.
Mr Pinera, 60, said Churchill’s “blood, toil, tears and sweat” speech had provided inspiration to him during the battle to save the miners.
He also said he ignored political advice to steer clear of the rescue effort: “Many people thought the rescue was impossible and advised me not to get involved, to keep my distance.
“I decided to take full responsibility without any political consideration… We made a commitment to look for the miners as if they were our sons.”
Like Mr Cameron, Mr Pinera was only elected this year, and his visit to London is thought to have been planned many months ago.
He is thought to be hoping to persuade more British companies, including mining corporations, to invest in Chile.
Mr Pinera, who greeted the miners with a hug after their rescue, told The Times: “Chile will now be remembered and recognised not for Pinochet but as an example of unity, leadership, courage, faith and success.”
He also told the newspaper he had a “very strong admiration” for Mr Cameron.
Mr Pinera will arrive at London’s Heathrow Airport later and, after sightseeing in London on Sunday, he will meet Mr Cameron and have an audience with the Queen, who has extended an invitation at the last minute following the mine rescue.
He is visiting France and Germany later this week.
Mr Pinera revealed that his father-in-law died only hours before the miners were rescued and he had told the president: “Don’t give up. Keep working to rescue the miners.”