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Bulletin 2 March 2010


 Chile: international aid arrives – people and authorities organise against looting

altBrazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has arrived in Santiago to discuss international efforts to help Chile after the weekend’s devastating earthquake. Lula spent 19 hours in talks with outgoing President Michelle Bachelet (pictured visiting an affected town) and members of her administration.

Lula said: “Thank God Chile is a well-structured country. Chile is better prepared than other countries for earthquakes”. He promised aid for survivors.

Argentina is sending a mobile hospital and other countries, too, have promised help. President Alan Garcia from neighbouring Peru, with whom Chile has a border dispute, will travel to Santiago to offer help and has offered to send a temporary hospital, along with a medical team, to help the injured. García will meet President Bachelet and President-elect Sebastián Piñera.

US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, will also visit the country. The US has promised to send medical help.

The distribution of aid will be facilitated by the establishment of an air link between Santiago and Concepción. Many roads have been destroyed and the only way to reach some communities is by air.

In the meantime, police and the population at large have been organising to stop the looting of shops and private homes. Looting has become one of the main problems in the affected areas. The government declared a curfew in towns like Bio Bio, in the south. Gangs of well-organised looters have been mobilising in lorries and buses.

Many people are genuinely hungry and in need of basic supplies of food and medicines. In some towns, the police have allowed people to take food from supermarkets destroyed by the tremor but have arrested those stealing computers or electrical appliances.

In Iloca, a small fishing town in the badly-affected region of Maule to the south of Santiago, many people had their homes destroyed either in the earthquake or by the tsunami that followed it, and neighbours decided to get organised to stop looters. A “citizens’ committee” has been patrolling the worse-affected areas to stop thieves looting abandoned houses.

“We had to get tough here because, as soon as the tragedy hit us, thieves arrived. We haven’t received any help from the authorities to stop them”, said Leticia Maldonado, the owner of a leisure centre destroyed by the earthquake.

La Tercera (Chile, Spanish)

El Mercurio (Chile, Spanish)

RPP (Peru, Spanish)

Argentina: welcome US mediation

altThe Argentinean government hopes that Hilary Clinton is not Alexander Haig. The recently deceased former Secretary of State at first promised support for Argentina’s military government after it invaded the Falklands Islands in April 1982, but in the end backed Britain. Many believe that it was the beginning of the end of Argentina’s military adventure in the Islands.

Hilary Clinton met President Cristina Fernández on Monday evening and promised to help to break the deadlock created by the British decision to explore for oil in the waters around the Falklands. Clinton said that she wants to “promote negotiations” because that is “the best way to solve conflicts”.

The US Secretary of State decided to include Argentina in her tour of South America, after President Fernaádez told the press last week that Barack Obama had not fulfilled Latin America’s expectations. This statement prompted Arturo Valenzuela, the Under Secretary for Hemispheric Affairs, to travel to Argentina to speak to Fernández. Valenzuela said that Obama was probably “the most popular person in the Americas”. Fernandez was expressing the views of the most radical governments in the region, like Venezuela and Bolivia, which believe that Obama has in many ways continued the “imperial” policies of his predecessor.

There are fundamental differences between Argentina in 1982 and Argentina today. A democratically elected government is now in power and it has made it clear that it does not intend to undertake any kind of military adventure to recapture the Islands. At the same time, the US is making efforts to improve its image in a region that many believe was neglected by Washington, especially during George Bush’s “war on terror”. And although all Latin American nations have expressed their support for Argentina’s claim to the Falklands Islands, they would oppose any kind of military action.

President Cristina Fernández could do with some international support, because her government has lost its fragile majority in the Senate and both her and her husband, former President Néstor Kirchner, have been accused of benefiting from insider trading, something they both deny.


Clarín (Argentina, Spanish)

La Nación (Argentina, Spanish)


Chile: earthquake will not stop economic growth

altThe Chilean earthquake will clearly affect the economy but some analysts believe that the impact will not be severe. According to Merrill Lynch Global Research, the tremor will have a short-term effect on exports but the economy will nonetheless grow by 4% in 2010, just 0.7% less than was forecast before the tremor hit Chile.

Merrill Lynch Global Research believes that Chile is well equipped to withstand the economic impact of the earthquake. David Beker, from Merrill Lynch, says that Chile has $US24.9 billion in international reserves and another $US10 billion in so-called “stabilisation reserves”. This is equivalent to 6% of its GDP.

Chile’s copper mines, the biggest in the world, were not affected by the earthquake. They had to close temporarily due to lack of electricity but they are working again at almost at full capacity. Despite diversification into other products, copper is still, by far, Chile’s main export.

La Jornada (Mexico, Spanish)


Bolivia: Rains destroy communities

altThe rainy season on the Bolivian highlands continues to cause severe damage to people and crops. In the province of Lareja (pictured), near La Paz, the flooding of the Mapiri y Tipuani rivers has left 400 families homeless. According to local radio reports, the waters rose by two metres in the lower stretches of the valley (pictured left).

Many shops were completely flooded and their owners lost their livelihoods. “We lost TV sets and fridges, the water took us by surprise and the local government did not come to our aid”, said one of the business people affected by the floods.

Floods and landslides are occurring throughout the Bolivian Andean region. They have been mainly caused by the El Nino current.

El Diario (Bolivia, Spanish)

Credit photos

Chile: Portal of the Presidency of Chile

Argentina: Fabián Morelli

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