SANTIAGO -- The rescue of the 33 miners in Chile's Atacama Desert last year catapulted Laurence Golborne from relative obscurity to worldwide renown. As mining minister, he was the public face of the remarkable operation. He spent days at the San Jose mine, comforting the miners' families during their ordeal and relaying information to them about their relatives below ground.
With his easy-going manner, fluent English and film-star looks, he became a media celebrity. Before the accident, one poll showed that Golborne was the least-known member of the Chilean cabinet: Only 16 percent of the people knew who he was. By the time the miners had been hauled from the ground three months later, that figure had jumped to 87 percent.
The months since then have been difficult for the Chilean government, but Golborne's approval rating has remained high. A poll published in August, for example, showed that Chileans regard him as the most important figure in the ruling coalition, aside from President Sebastian Pinera himself Golborne's approval rating is 71 percent, way above that of anyone else in government.
As a result, many observers view Golborne as a potential presidential candidate for elections due in late 2013. But he insists he is not interested. "I have never in my life suggested that I could be or have the intention of being president of the Republic, or of putting myself forward as a candidate," he tells Latin Trade in an interview. "I came into the government of President Pinera to cooperate, to build a good government and to add my grain of sand in service to my country. But I'm not aiming for more than that." Asked if he might change his mind nearer the election, Golborne says: "Life takes many turns, and you can't be sure of anything, but I have no aspirations to be president, and that's the truth."
Unlike most of his fellow cabinet members, Golborne comes from a humble, middle-class family. The youngest of six siblings, he grew up in the Santiago suburb of Maipu, the son of an iron-monger. In the 1970s, he experienced firsthand the political strife that ripped Chile apart and culminated in the 1973 coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power. Golborne's sister was a Communist who had to hastily burn her Marxist literature after the coup, and his brother was a right-wing extremist with ties to the paramilitary group Patria y Libertad (Fatherland and Freedom).
Golborne considers himself lucky to have come...