Tag Archive | "Chile"

Chile: Government Announces Free University Education from 2016

Interior Minister Rodrigo Peñailillo (photo: Wikipedia)

Interior Minister Rodrigo Peñailillo (photo: Wikipedia)

Interior Minister Rodrigo Peñailillo announced that Chile will provide free university education from 2016, heeding a demand that has mobilised thousands of students over the last few years.

“In March 2016 we’re going to start with free university education, we have the resources, because we passed the tax reform,” said Peñailillo.

The tax reform was signed into law by President Michelle Bachelet in September, and it will allow the Chilean government to collect the US$8.3bn necessary to finance the education reform and other social expenditure.

Talking to Radio Cooperativa, Peñailillo said that “education issues, facing inequality, they are the people’s main concerns and that’s what we’re working on as a government.”

He added that the country will face an interesting debate in 2015 about the meaning of the new public education that the people need and demand.

The announcement came a day after an opinion poll showed that support for the government dropped to 38%, in the midst of the debate regarding the education reform.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Chile: Mine Closed over Environmental Concerns

Mine location map (image courtesy of SMA)

Mine location map (image courtesy of SMA)

Santiago de Chile’s Environmental Tribunal ordered that a mine in the district of Maipú be temporarily shut down on environmental grounds.

Court sources indicated that Minera Panales, located west of the capital, in the Santiago Metropolitan Area, posed an imminent threat to the environment. The measure to shut down the mine’s operations was requested by the Environment Superintendence (SMA), which stated the area where the mine is located is rich in “protected animal and plant species, and contains threatened and proportionally unprotected ecosystems.”

According to the supporting documents provided by the SMA, the company Minera Española Chile Limitada has been operating in the Quebrada de La Plata area for over four years without authorisation, and with two court sentences against it for illegal logging.

The court document detailing the suspension states that “the continuation of mining activities, due to its nature, extension and location, generates imminent environmental risks, which is particularly relevant when said activity is carried out in an area with the environmental characteristics previously mentioned.”

The mine will remain closed for 30 days. The suspension can be renewed upon request.


Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (1)

Chile: Government and Opposition Discuss Changes to Anti-Terrorism Law

President Bachelet headed the meeting with representatives of the opposition (photo: José Manuel de la Maza/Chilean government)

President Bachelet headed the meeting with representatives of the opposition (photo: José Manuel de la Maza/Chilean government)

President Michelle Bachelet and Interior Minister Rodrigo Peñailillo met with representatives of the opposition to discuss changes to the anti-terrorism law, in the aftermath of the bomb attack on the Santiago metro on Monday.

“A united country is always very important, because what some groups seek with these kinds of actions is not to destabilise a certain government, but to destabilise a democratic system,” said Bachelet.

During the meeting, which took place at the government house, La Moneda, representatives from parties across the political spectrum discussed the possibility of introducing changes to the national intelligence system and to give more power to the police. One of the main changes proposed by the government consists of defining an act as terrorist only if it was carried out by an organised group and not by a lone person.

“Today, the [opposition] parties have given us their word that they will fast-track [proceedings] in Congress so that Chile will soon have an efficient anti-terrorism law that’s been legitimised by society [and] a National Intelligence Agency with the right conditions and built within this political context,” said Peñailillo.

The minister also pointed out that the decision to modify the anti-terrorist law was not made after the Santiago bombing, but it is part of the government’s platform, and that a team of specialists has already delivered a report on the subject, which will soon be reflected in a bill.

The recent attack has left the country in a state of tension, with numerous false reports of bombs in the metro over the last couple of days. On Tuesday night, a home-made bomb exploded at a supermarket in Viña del Mar, injuring one person.

Within that context, the commemorations of the 41st anniversary of the coup that deposed president Salvador Allende were taking place in Santiago, with an official ceremony headed by President Bachelet at La Moneda and rallies on the streets. A total of 1,600 police officers were spread around the 38 points in the city defined as “critical”.

This morning, military organisations published an open letter in newspaper La Tercera defending the coup led by General Augusto Pinochet and criticising the judicial processes against those who participated in the dictatorship. “We salute all Chileans in the day that marks the foundation of 21st century Chile. The work of reconstruction carried out around the nation by the Armed Forces from 11th September 1973 onwards, is still recognised by those Chileans that love order and safety,” said the text.

The open letter was widely condemned by human rights organisations.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

On Now: Allende, Death of a President

Today marks the 41st anniversary of the death of Chilean president Salvador Allende, during the coup led by General Augusto Pinochet. What better excuse for an outing to the theatre, to see a play based on the socialist president’s final moments?

‘Allende, Death of a President’, on every Thursday until the end of the month in Teatro La Máscara, San Telmo, is an austere, one-man show. The set consists of little more than a desk, a Chilean flag, and a chess board. The play itself is based around a monologue in which Allende reflects on the situation himself and his country are going through — both on a political and a personal level. A certain degree of knowledge by the spectator on the history of the coup is helpful, though the play is also an opportunity to learn more about the events that brought about the demise of Allende and the socialist experiment in Chile.

The austere set of 'Allende, Death of a President' (photo courtesy of allendelamuertedeunpresidente.blogspot.com)

The austere set of ‘Allende, Death of a President’ (photo courtesy of allendelamuertedeunpresidente.blogspot.com)

The reflections, expressed by actor Jorge Booth with an ever-so-slight Chilean accent, range from political definitions, doubts and regrets, to personal matters concerning Allende’s wife, children, and lover. The use of violence, the role of the US in the coup, Allende’s vision of socialism, the deep love he felt for his secretary — they all get a mention.

The play was written by Rodolfo Quebleen, an Argentine journalist who has lived in the US for over 45 years and who interviewed Allende in the early ’70s. The team made up by Booth and director Norberto Gonzalo staged the play here in Buenos Aires in September 2013 (it was first shown in New York in 2006). In the last year, the play travelled to Santiago de Chile’s Museum of History and Human Rights and to Venezuela, and it was recently declared a “work of cultural interest” by the newly-created Culture Ministry.

In an interview with The Indy, Jorge Booth highlighted the historical significance of Allende and the importance of keeping his memory alive.

In what way do you wish to contribute to the memory of Allende and the reflection about that historical period through the play?

I have always considered Allende to be an immense figure, a president that put his convictions before his own life, but nonetheless did not get that much recognition in Latin America, or at least not as much as he should have. I think this has to do with the strong campaign waged against him in Chile. They showed, for example, the problems with food shortages suffered in the last few months of his government, but concealed the true factors that caused them, intentionally, in order to overthrow him.

I think Allende was a man ahead of his time, a visionary; he proposed a model for a democratic socialism that only now is being somewhat applied in other countries in Latin America, each in its own way, such as Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina. I remember the attacks that Allende suffered for proposing more equality, the recovery of national wealth, and a fairer distribution of wealth — something that is today fundamental for the South American countries, which receive the same kind of attacks from the concentrated economic and media powers.

We also show Allende the human being, with his obvious doubts, contradictions, and desires; his loves and his passions.

Actor Jorge Booth (photo courtesy of allendelamuertedeunpresidente.blogspot.com)

Actor Jorge Booth plays Allende (photo courtesy of allendelamuertedeunpresidente.blogspot.com)

There are parts of the play in which you include words actually pronounced by Allende (such as the last speech on Radio Magallanes). How much of the script uses concepts expressed by Allende during his life, and how much of it is ‘speculation’ about what his opinions, regrets, etc. may have been?

There are real phrases and also speculation about his thoughts. The author of the play, Rodolfo Quebleen, was also a journalist and he interviewed Salvador Allende at the United Nations in 1972. He then did research on his life and talked to people who were close to him, in order to finally write this play.

The farewell speech is a fragment of the original, broadcast live by Radio Magallanes.

The chronological time of the events that took place that morning is broken. We also include comments expressed by Allende in other opportunities.

The opening dialogue between General Augusto Pinochet and Admiral Patricio Carvajal is an original recording, and so is the voice of Salvador Allende at the end of the play.

At the end of the play, you show Allende’s character grabbing the rifle and leaving the office, with an almost bellicose attitude, instead of insinuating the suicide. Did you not think about modifying that, in light of the confirmation by the Chilean Supreme Court of the suicide hypothesis?

The author, Rodolfo Quebleen, leaves the ending open to different interpretations. As far as I’m concerned, myself and director Norberto Gonzalo believe that Allende died fighting, a theory that is supported by a number of people.

The issue is not clear, despite the ruling by the Supreme Court, which is based on very confusing information, including the autopsy which was carried out in a very shady way by the same military officers that were trying to kill him. Pinochet clearly says: “the plane will fall down…” [in a conversation with Admiral Carvajal, when they offer to take Allende out of the country but insinuate he will not survive the escape], which shows they were not willing to protect his life.

In any case, Allende fights until the end, and if it was a suicide, it was forced by the circumstances; he chose to take his own life, instead of allowing the murderers to carry out their crime.

It would not have been a depressive-melancholy suicide, quite the opposite, it would have been a brave act during combat. A death that was as dignified as the rest of his life…


‘Allende, la muerte de un presidente’ (in Spanish) is on every Thursday of September at 9pm. Teatro La Máscara, Piedras 736, Buenos Aires (ph: 4307-0566). Tickets $80.
Saturday 27th September, Teatro de Empleados de Comercio, Rosario, Santa Fé.
Wednesday 29th October, Teatro Nacional Cervantes, Buenos Aires.
Sunday 9th November, Teatro Municipal Niní Marshall, Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego.

Posted in The Arts, TheatreComments (0)

Chile: Security Council Convenes after Santiago Bombing

Firemen at the scene of the bomb attack in Santiago, Chile (Photo: Xinhua/Francisco Castillo/AGENCIA UNO)

Firemen at the scene of the bomb attack in Santiago, Chile (Photo: Xinhua/Francisco Castillo/AGENCIA UNO)

Chilean president Michelle Bachelet convened an extraordinary meeting of the Security Council today in Santiago following yesterday’s bombing of a fast-food restaurant in the capital’s underground which left 14 injured.

The blast occurred yesterday afternoon at the busy Escuela Militar station in the neighbourhood Las Condes. Interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy has confirmed that security cameras showed that two suspects planted the device in a rubbish bin outside the restaurant and escaped in a car.

After today’s meeting, Bachelet confirmed that the incident would be investigated as a “terrorist act” and announced a series of legal reforms “to strengthen the powers of the police and prosecutors in the fight against terrorism”. These are set to include modifications to Chile’s anti-terrorist law, which has caused controversy in the past for its use against indigenous groups involved in land conflicts.

“Our hand will not shake … we are not going to allow a group of cowardly terrorists alter our peaceful lives,” she said in a press conference held in La Moneda presidential palace. Bachelet added that she would increase security presence in public spaces.

Yesterday’s bombing was the second such attack in a matter of months – in July a bomb exploded on an empty underground carriage. Nobody was injured in that incident. c

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Chile: Several Injured in Santiago Bomb Attack

Firemen at the scene of the bomb attack in Santiago, Chile (Photo: Xinhua/Francisco Castillo/AGENCIA UNO)

Firemen at the scene of the bomb attack in Santiago, Chile (Photo: Xinhua/Francisco Castillo/AGENCIA UNO)

At least seven people were injured after a bomb exploded at a fast food restaurant in an underground station in Santiago, Chile.

The blast occurred at the busy Escuela Militar station in the neighbourhood Las Condes at around 2pm today. Initial reports say the bomb was left in a rubbish container at the restaurant.

None of those taken to hospital, including one Venezuelan citizen, are in grave danger, according to local doctors, though some suffered serious injuries, including amputations.

The government confirmed that the explosion was caused by a bomb, and pledged to find those responsible for the attack.

“This is, without doubt, a terrorist act that warrants our contempt,” said government minister Álvaro Elizalde. “The government will invoke the anti-terrorist law to sanction those responsible.”

Interior Minister Rodrigo Peñailillo said the government would use all of its resources to catch the perpetrators. “This is a very serious act that needs the country to act forcefully and apply the maximum penalties.”

President Michelle Bachelet cancelled her activities for today and tomorrow to visit some of those injured and chair a special security meeting.

The bombing comes just days before the country marks another anniversary of the 1973 military coup led by Augusto Pinochet.

Events to remember the coup and those that were killed or tortured during the dictatorship that followed have sometimes turned violent in recent years.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Book Review: The Militant Song Movement in Latin America

militant song“Without an understanding of the emotional component of political involvement it is impossible to fully understand a movement for social change such as the one operating in Latin America at that time. Without an account of how music was pervasively used in the construction of these emotional components, the political and social explanation of what occurred in Latin America during that period will be always inexcusably partial.”

Pablo Vila’s introduction to ‘The Militant Song Movement in Latin America: Chile, Uruguay and Argentina’ (Lexington Books, 2014) succinctly defines the complexities of a movement whose narration differs across the three countries discussed in the book.

The militant song, which emerged as a powerful movement from the 1950s until the mid 1970s, swiftly became an expression of “el pueblo” – the people. The political mobilisation of the masses, constructed upon the validation of subaltern experience and memory, incorporated traditional folklore, as well as the ramifications of poverty and social injustice. The triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 increased anti-colonial sentiment in Latin America and emphasised the importance of cultural dissemination which, in Cuba, was epitomised by its own variant of militant song known as “Nueva Trova Cubana”.

The book incorporates history and memory, as well as the processes that have constructed divergent forms of remembrance with regard to the militant song movement. While the militant song departed from common objectives – namely the repudiation of colonial and imperialist influences – the memory frameworks in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina differed following the brutal dictatorships and subsequent transitions towards a democratic framework.

Thus, while political mobilisation against oppression provided a common foundation in all three countries, the memory processes in the aftermath of their respective dictatorships reflected the variations in remembrance of the militant song. In Argentina, songs that nurtured the militant song yet lacked a militant element took precedence within the country’s collective memory. The de-politicisation of songs, aided by the emphasis upon aesthetics and poetry, became a characteristic of Uruguayan memory. On the other hand, militant song in Chile emerged as the strongest with regard to memory, owing to the dictatorship-imposed rupture on society.

La nueva canción chilena was the militant song movement that had a profound impact on Chilean society (Photo courtesy of Memoria Chilena)

La nueva canción chilena was the militant song movement that had a profound impact on Chilean society (Photo courtesy of Memoria Chilena)

Three phases characterise Uruguay’s militant song: the triumph and inspiration of the Cuban Revolution, cultural resistance to dictatorship, and the 1985 return to democracy. While the emphasis upon resistance to colonial influence and the incorporation of local traditions remained for a time, within a limited audience, exposure to the intellectual society and the international left by Daniel Viglietti aided dissemination. Viglietti, a radical Uruguayan singer who collaborated also with Chilean nueva canción musicians, stands out as the epitome of the militant song genre in Uruguay.

Uruguay’s militant song encouraged dialogue between the singer and the audience, placing value upon aesthetics and the literary quality of the songs as the primary means through which to combat dictatorship oppression. As the inspiration of “el pueblo” becomes a disseminated collective experience, political oppression is challenged through “simultaneous and complicit engagement”, according to Maria Figueredo. The prominence of aesthetics in Uruguay’s militant song, while failing to act as a deterrent for the exile of more radical singers such as Viglietti, enabled the manoeuvring and rewriting of songs in a manner that challenged authority within censorship restrictions. However, the shift in focus is also testimony to the later trend of depoliticisation, thus minimising remembrance of Uruguayan militant song and its fusion with politics.

Atahualpa Yupanqui, pioneer of the militant song movement in Argentina is considered to have vindicated previously inaccessible social commentary departing from the subaltern and the consciousness of the indigenous, marginalised for a long time by successive governments. A reflection also of the silence imposed upon the indigenous, Yupanqui’s militant song is immediately distanced from the “hegemonic collective imaginary”, particularly with regard to the song “El arriero va”, which is considered to be the first song endorsing critical commentary about social conditions in 1944.

As Carlos Molinero and Pablo Vila state in their chapter, the recognition of difference from within strikes the first challenge against the hegemony, thus bringing social inclusion of the masses to the fore. This also aided in the expansion and exploration of socio-political themes by other singers such as Mercedes Sosa, thus making the change from political representation to using song as a political weapon. With the singer as protagonist, the song is allowed the freedom to become the epitome of struggle – one particular reference and inspiration for the genre being Che Guevara’s utopian metaphor of the “new man”.

However, unlike the continuous experience of Chile, Argentine militant song was less widespread – a fact reflected in the remembrance of non-militant repertoire that nurtured the movement, rather than an affinity to militant song itself. For example, despite its lack of militant content, “Gracias a la Vida”, authored by Chilean nueva canción pioneer Violeta Parra but mostly associated with Mercedes Sosa, remains at the helm of Argentine remembrance of the genre.

A mural for Victor Jara in Santiago, Chile (photo: Wikipedia)

A mural for Victor Jara, one of the leading singers in Chile’s militant song movement, in Santiago. (photo: Wikipedia)

Chile, on the contrary, remains the embodiment of militant song. ‘La nueva canción Chilena’, incorporated within Salvador Allende’s Unidad Popular campaign, was an active movement of political mobilisation and consciousness that rendered the masses participants in political events. Vehemently shunning commercial snares, the nueva canción movement proved formidable in countering imperialist culture at a time when Chilean society was riddled with turbulence, military violence and the resonating clamour for social change. Nueva canción artists willingly pledged their support to Allende’s campaign, with groups and singers such as Inti Illimani and Victor Jara becoming deeply involved the process of rendering the song a viable political vehicle.

Perhaps the most poignant of all was the composition of ‘El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido’ (The people united, will never be defeated’) in August 1973 by Sergio Ortega and Quilapayun, just a few weeks prior to the brutal US-backed military coup led by General Pinochet. The immense inspiration generated by the movement led to the detention and torture of several nueva canción singers such as Angel Parra and Victor Jara – the latter being brutally tortured and murdered in the aftermath of the coup. Other singers and groups, such as Patricio Manns and Inti Illimani, were forced into exile. Records pertaining to the nueva canción movement were destroyed along with other material that reflected the mobilisation of the subaltern, such as literature and indigenous instruments. The fusion of militant song with politics in Chile remains evident – particularly in the ongoing battle for memory and the challenging of dictatorship oblivion – a characteristic that is still enshrined in Chile despite the return to democracy.

Drawing upon valuable historical resources, interviews and a vast repertoire of songs, the book is a valuable reference that highlights not only the role of the singers in this enduring movement, but also the political dimension that is allowed to preserve its emotive aspect. A movement that “has outlived the historical conditions that engendered them,” as Nancy Morris states in her contribution, the relevance of the militant song, epitomised in particular by the Chilean experience of memory in relation to the epoch, needs a constant regeneration to avoid the pitfalls of the political periphery.

The Militant Song Movement in Latin America: Chile, Uruguay and Argentina‘ (Lexington Books, 2014)

Posted in LiteratureComments (2)

Chile: Three More Charged over Víctor Jara’s Murder

Víctor Jara was one of the xxx (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Víctor Jara was one of the fathers of Chile’s New Song Movement (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

A judge in Santiago has charged three more former military personnel with the murder of Chilean singer Víctor Jara who was killed on 16th September 1973, just days after Augusto Pinochet’s military coup ended Salvador Allende’s government.

Former military officers Hernán Chancón Soto and Patricio Vásquez Donoso were charged with taking part in the killing, whilst ex-army prosecutor Ramón Melo Silva was charged as an accomplice. They join a list of eight other former army officers who were charged in late 2012 and early 2013 with the killing of Jara, who was a singer, songwriter, poet, political activist, and member of the Communist Party.

“This decision has to be celebrated and we hope this investigation can continue,” Jara’s widow, Joan Jara, said at a press conference. “We know this marks a milestone.”

Jara was arrested the morning after the 11th September coup and taken to the Estadio de Chile along with thousands of others. He was tortured and ultimately shot dead, and his body, riddled with 44 bullet bounds, was dumped outside the stadium. He was 40 years old.

Jara became famous in the 1960s for his protest music. He was one of the founding fathers of Chile’s “New Song Movement” which was instrumental in bringing Allende’s left-wing administration to power in 1970.

The contrast between the themes of his songs on peace and social justice and the way in which he was killed transformed Jara into a symbol for the struggle for human rights and justice during the Pinochet regime.

Jara was one of around 5,000 political prisoners taken captive during the dictatorship, over 3,000 of whom have never been seen again.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Peru: Police Stop Demonstrators from Entering Disputed Territory

The disputed 38 hectares (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The disputed 38 hectares (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Peruvian police have blocked demonstrators from entering a triangle of land that is at the centre of a sovereignty dispute with neighbouring Chile. The land dispute erupted just months after a similar diplomatic spat over the maritime border was resolved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague.

The ICJ ruling granted Peru some 50,000km2 of additional territorial waters previously considered Chilean, but allowed Chile to maintain rich fishing grounds in the disputed area. 

Peru’s President Ollanta Humala set off the latest squabble with Chile earlier this month by presenting a new map that shows Peruvian ownership of a 38-hectare triangle of desert bordering the Pacific Ocean.

Peru considers the land border to be marked by Punto Concordia, on the shore, whereas Chile views it to be at Hito no. 1, some 300 metres inland. The border Chile is claiming follows the line of the new maritime border directly inland.

Chile’s foreign-affairs ministry contested that Peru had overstepped its bounds by claiming the land territory, saying that the ICJ never ruled on their land border, just on the ocean territory.

“We need to safeguard our rights,” Chile’s Foreign Affairs Minister Harold Muñoz said at a news conference last week, going on to accuse Peruvian nationalists of committing acts of provocation.


Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Chile: Students March Against Education Reform

Student protests began in 2011 (Photo: Wikipedia)

Student protests began in 2011 (Photo: Wikipedia)

Chilean students and teachers protested in Santiago yesterday against the government’s proposed education reform, which they believe will not result in the free, quality education they demand. They also urged the government to include them in the reform process.

“The government has taken our slogans, but it has not taken the content of those slogans. It’s proposing to keep the capital system within a market-based education,” said Luis Yañez, president of teachers’ union SUTE.

Ricardo Paredes, spokesman for the Secondary Students’ National Coordination (CONES), called for the executive to define the reform more clearly. “We’ll have to push the government and make them decide whether they really want an education reform that integrates all social actors, and that above all sets clear goals in terms of eliminating private, subsidised education and really strengthening public education, or whether it wants to remain chained to the neoliberal system.”

Organisers estimated that around 80,000 people participated in the protest, which ended with some incidents as students clashed with the police.


Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Follow us on Twitter
Visit us on Facebook
View us on YouTube

On the 4th anniversary of the death of former president Néstor Kirchner, we revisit Marc Rogers' 2011 article analysing his legacy.

    Directory Pick

Magdalena's Party in Palermo

Magdalena’s Party has daily 2 x 1 Happy Hour specials til midnight, and the "best onda".
Sign up to The Indy newsletter