sábado, abril 30, 2005

2 Women Eye Chilean Presidency

For the first time in its history, two women politicians are in the running for the nation's top job
Por María Pastora Sandoval Campos
(Publicado en Oh my News International)

Chile has changed in recent decades. Women, virtually powerless for years, have conquered a piece of the government, and some have directed whole ministries. Two of these women, Michelle Bachelet and Soledad Alvear, are the first women in Chile's history to run for president. Both from the coalition, Concertacion, they are running for the party's nomination to be decided in a primary election July 31.

Because time is short before the election, the debates have been planned so that the women would present their visions for running the government. Though they hail from the same political group, they express the values of different parties: Alvear has the support of the conservative Christian Democracy Party (PDC), while Bachelet of her Socialist Party (PS), the Party for Democracy (PPD) and the Radical and Social Democracy Party (PRSD).

The women decided the contest should not "be a war," but current left-leaning President Ricardo Lagos some time ago insinuated he favors Bachelet. But because of the recent division in the coalition, some observers say the candidates are making a show of "fair play." Wednesday, April 27, was their first television debate.

Who Are They?

Michelle Bachelet wants more social dialog in government. In this photo she is meeting voters in the north of the country.

©2005 michellebachelet.cl
PS member Michelle Bachelet Jeria, 54, is divorced with three children. A pediatrician, she has done post-graduate studies in military sciences.

Bachelet was a leader of the Socialist Youth during the government of Salvador Allende. After the Pinochet military coup of 1973, her father, Alberto Bachelet, an Air Force general closely aligned with Allende's government, died as a result of torture. Bachelet and her mother were detained by intelligence officers in Chile, before being forced into exile in Australia and then East Germany. Bachelet returned to Chile in the 1980s.

Following medical school and various posts in the government, Bachelet worked for Lagos' presidential campaign, and following his election in 2000, was named health minister. In 2002 she became the first woman in Chile to become defense minister. If elected president of Chile, she wants to reform the pension system and pre-school education.

Soledad Alvear talks with poor people about her government plan.

©2005 soledadalvear.cl
Maria Soledad Alvear Valenzuela, 55, of the CDC is married to former parliamentarian and CDC leader Gutenberg Martinez. The couple has three children. A lawyer, Alvear holds a degree in development sciences from the Latin American Institute of Development and Social Studies.

Alvear led a student movement against the military government, and began her own government career in 1990, when she became minister for women's affairs. During her tenure she initiated reform of the country's criminal justice system.

Like her rival Bachelet, she also worked for President Lagos' campaign and became the first woman to be named foreign relations minister. Under her watch, Chile signed trade agreements with the United States and the European Union.

Her platform includes improving wealth distribution in Chile, abrogating the Copper Law, which finances the armed forces, and providing free education for all citizens.

The Debate

The meeting took place in Hualpen, Concepcion, 500 kilometers south of Santiago. Of the five journalists who attended the debate, one of them was from a local television station, an attempt to engage provincial voters in this very centralized country.

Though both candidates appeared tense at first, it was Alvear that was asked the hard questions. Reporters brought up accusations by the opposition that a government contract her husband had landed for public defense work was unlawful.

"It is not an irregular judicial or ethical problem," Alvear answered. "My husband is a correct and honorable person. We have lived in the same house our whole lives ... I am the candidate. Attack me if you want. Do not attack another."

When asked why her husband or her party's leader were not in attendance, Alvear bristled.

"I think your question is a little chauvinist," she said. "If I were a man you would not ask this question."

About the president of her party, Alvear said, "I do not feel alone," explaining that although he was travelling on business, past party leaders were in the audience.

Another question addressed her poor survey ratings, to which she responded she was not worried about winning the primary.

"I like challenges. I had to take a lot of risks in my career and nobody supported me," she said. "For example, for reform of the penal process just one minister agreed, and nobody believed in the trade agreements with the United States and Europe. I believed in them and I did it."

Asked about her position on taxes, Alvear said she wanted to adjust them so that middle class people can afford to pay them.

Alvear emphasized her commitment to the middle class, who are provided very little in Chile, especially in the way of funding for higher education, and said she wanted to form a "middle-class government."

Damage to the environment by businesses was also raised. "I want to create an independent bureau, like the Central Bank, independent of the government, to watch out for technical and ecological problems," Alvear said.

"If a company does not behave according to the law it will have to be shut down."

She was asked about her similarities to Joaquin Lavin, the candidate of the conservative Independent Democratic Union (UDI), the opposition party.

"I am not the same," she said, describing how she differed with the UDI on issues such as cutting school hours for children who are needed on family farms.

On energy policy, Alvear said it is necessary that Chileans sacrifice some natural sources to provide energy to the country. She said the country needs to think of new ways to get gas, and not rely principally on Argentina.

A question to Michelle Bachelet focused on her erstwhile relationship with a man who was a part of an armed opposition to the Pinochet government.

"That was 20 years ago, so he had his ideas and I had mine. It does not mean I prefer the army's way to get power." Asked if she were a Marxist, she said, "I have my ideas and I do not add a description. I only want a better country."

Answering a question on Chile's vote last year in the United Nations on Cuba's human rights record, she said, "I studied the situation in Cuba, and if I were president -- and if it were necessary -- I would vote against it, like I'd do with all such countries in the world."

On homosexuality, she said that though she doesn't agree to homosexual marriage, she has no problem with having a gay man or woman on her staff.

"To me, what is important is the attitude toward work."

Bachelet said she would not increase taxes, but she would work to improve the way the government distributes money.

"I want to abrogate the Copper Law," she said. "It is not democratic, so we have to find another way. If it is necessary, I will conduct a public debate."

Bachelet made it clear that lowering taxes is not a good solution, but that the situation requires further study.

"We have to improve family income and income distribution in our country, if we want children to go to kindergarten so that mothers can go out to work."

The army pension fund was posed as an issue for the former defense minister.

"We cannot execute a significant change, except to fix some distortions, because if we approve a law about it ... the medicine would be more costly than the disease."

After the Debate

The outcome of the debate is all the rage in the media. According to a headline in El Mercurio newspaper, "Surveys Say Bachelet Wins the Debate," but in the newspaper's online poll people say Alvear was the winner. La Tercera, another important Chilean newspaper, asserted that the candidates set forth poor arguments and that they talked about more about themselves than their platforms.

Four million people watched the debate, but many missed the confrontation, the whole difference between them. People feel the candidates have to be clearer in their positions and accept the risk of being different, before they decide who they will choose July 31.

viernes, abril 29, 2005

Chile's Mining Past Draws Tourists North

[Photo essay] The north of this fascinating country is extremely arid, but it is rich with history
Por María Pastora Sandoval Campos
(Publicado en Oh my News International)

Late last month, citizen reporter Maria Pastora Sandoval Campos took a trip to the far north of her homeland -- Chile.

Getting there is no easy task. From the captial of Santiago, in the middle of the 6,000 km-long country, it takes 24 hours by non-stop bus to the port city of Iquique. Two drivers alternate on the long, monotonous drive through flat, arid land that on first inspection seems devoid of vegetation and animal life.

Forty-seven kilometers east of Iquique, in the heart of the Altiplano (high plains) and near the driest desert on earth -- the Atacama -- she and a tour group visited the late 19th, early 20th century saltpeter mining site called Santa Laura.

Saltpeter (NaNO3) was mined from caliche ore and was used in explosives before World War 1. At that time it was Chile's main export item. Following the introduction of artificial nitrates after the first war, the world market for saltpeter collapsed and Chile's economy and history took a very different turn

This abandoned mine is nonetheless a significant landmark in Chile's history and many tourists visit there annually. The following is her photo essay of the mine. -- Ed.

©2005 M.Sandoval

We arrive at the old saltpeter mining company Santa Laura, which operated from 1872 to 1958, to learn about how saltpeter was processed. The company's first owner Guillermo Wendell, named it in honor of his wife, Laura. The company was up for auction in the 1960s, at the same time that Humberstone, another major saltpeter company of the time, was bought by Isidoro Andia, who collected wood and metal from the site to sell.

In 1970 it was declared a national monument, but people still obtained material from the building. If you wanted to visit the company you had to pay a ticket. The company went bankrupt and was sold to the Saltpeter Committee, which began the very slow process of restoring the two sites as remnants of Chile's industrial age.

On the right is a large funnel, where workers would place the caliche, beginning the production process for saltpeter.

Before entering the mill, the mineral would pass along a conveyor belt.
©2005 M.Sandoval

Here the caliche was broken up into smaller pieces. According to legend, Indians discovered saltpeter and presented it to a priest. It was first used as a combustible. Then he realized saltpeter was a fertilizer.
©2005 M.Sandoval

A machine would smash the caliche, and the finer product would be transferred to the conveyor belt, on the right.
©2005 M.Sandoval

Caliche would pass along the belt.
©2005 M.Sandoval

The caliche would move along to a second building, where it would go into gigantic recepticles, called nitre-beds, or cachuchos, in Spanish.
©2005 M.Sandoval

Cachuchos, where the minerals and water were put over high heat. Some workers, called derripeadores cleaned up, wearing special shoes, and put the water in wagons.
©2005 M.Sandoval

The wagons carrying "old water" from the cachuchos would run along shafts.
©2005 M.Sandoval

Walking by the crystallized fields laced with canals of Oregon pine wood, where the process ended.
©2005 M.Sandoval

A complete view of the building where the process would finish. In the middle is the chimney, where the smoke from the heating process would be released.
©2005 M.Sandoval

domingo, abril 24, 2005

In Chile, Students Will Be Students

[Opinion] Lack of government funding enrages Chilean youth this month, but it's nothing new
Por María Pastora Sandoval Campos
(Publicado en Oh my News International)

Student from all the public Chilean universities march together.
©2005 M.Pastora

Being a student is difficult enough, but being a Chilean student is particularly challenging, because higher education in Chile is close to impossible to finance.

Only 30 percent of people between 18 and 24 go to university. In Chile, the best universities are public, but they are not cheap. Some students try to work to offset the financial strain, but wages are low. So for many young Chileans, to study after high school is but a dream.

The demonstrators make their way down the principal avenue in Santiago, Chile, April 19.
©2005 M. Pastora

On April 19, more than 3,000 students from public universities and high schools gathered in Santiago and elsewhere to protest a lack of government funding for low-income students and an increase in the price of bus tickets. Among their demands were improvements to the bus card system that allows students to pay approximately 1/3 of the whole ticket. They want the cards to be provided to all students. Currently, the reduced-price tickets are available to only the neediest students.

The students amassed in the front of the Diego Portales Building in Santiago, in front of the Catholic University headquarters, at 2 p.m. They walked to the Education Ministry, where they gave a letter to the minister of education, Sergio Bitar, asking that he petition President Ricardo Lagos Escobar to find a solution to their problems, and especially, veto a unpopular education bill now in Congress.

The demonstration was peaceful at first.
©2005 M. Pastora

The students blocked the principal street in Santiago. At the Education Ministry, students clashed with police, and police responded by firing a water canon to disperse the crowd. There were protests the same day in the port city of Valparaiso, in Temuco, south of Santiago, the following day, and in other cities throughout the country over the last two weeks.

Dissatisfaction about government money for students is a theme that goes back decades, and the protests are always the same. Reading an article in an old newspaper, it is nearly impossible to guess what year it is from. In 1999 students met with transportation directors about the same bus ticket problems (PDF).

And that's not all. From the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio:

April 6 and 24, 2001:In Temuco, disorder erupted after students demanded free student transportation cards. Eighty-three students were apprehended by police for damaging windows, public buildings and shops.

April 29, 30 and 31, 2001: In Santiago and Valparaiso, students stirred disorder over the amount of education financing from the government. In Valparaiso, 225 students were arrested and damages were estimated at around $35 million pesos.

August 1, 2002: In Santiago, high school students vandalized shops and public buildings, and clashed with police over a bus ticket increase. A cameraman, two policemen and 21 students were injured.

May 5, 2004:Approximately 100 students protested in front of the Education Ministry because of a late issuance of student cards.

President Lagos spoke about the student protesters in his annual national evaluation speech. That the president would mention student anger (PDF) in a national forum shows that student issues are a government concern.

Carabineros, the Chilean police, watched the demonstrators closely at all times.
©2005 M. Pastora

A truck-mounted water cannon is put into action to break up the mass of protesting
©2005 M. Pastora

The situation concerning government funding for students is bad. It was always bad. But I think students in Chile look for reasons to be angry, to take to the streets and scream, or seize the universities. Of course, it's natural for youth to rebel, but news should also be new. Pick up this article a year from now and you will see what I mean.

- Student Demonstration (1) (.mov)
- Student Demonstration (2) (.mov)

jueves, abril 21, 2005

My Country for a Latin Strongman

[Opinion] Ecuador asks for a new government to replace its deposed leader, but how "new" will it be?
Por María Pastora Sandoval Campos
(Publicado en Oh my News International)

South America was the paradise that European conquerors dreamed of, and I think this image still lives in the collective mind here. People want to breathe the air of freedom, but they want to do so in their own special disorder, like a kind of magic.

The disorder in South America (which, believe it or not, we enjoy) is a mark of our land, and of our governments. We have always dreamed of order, of the paths of our European friends. We always want to be better than we are now. But we live a contradiction: We want to be like others, but we are not them.

I was surprised when I discovered that the phrase coup d'etat has no English equivalent. Language is an indicator of people's minds, and I thought, "We have a Latin way of thinking." We love the magical solution, the "start from zero," the "we want to break all the old things to make them new."

That's why in Ecuador, in our special style, the desire of being better today is the feeling of the Ecuadorians. Happy about the removal of President Lucio Gutierrez, they don't care about international opinion, because their intent is to improve the country.

Former president Lucio Gutierrez

The decision to vote out Gutierrez, a former army colonel accused of mismanagement and nepotism, was made by Congress, which had concluded he violated the constitution by twice dissolving the Supreme Court. Vice President Alfredo Palacio has taken the helm saying, "Today has ended the dictatorship, the immorality, the great power, the terror of fear."

My Ecuadorian friends tell me they want a Contreras, a Pinochet, or a Suarez in their country, and I think today will not be the end of the dictatorship. Latinos want strongmen who are able to end corruption, and don't care if it is the people who have to pay the price. And the price is what they have just finished paying.

The fantasy about advancing in Latin America is always in our minds, but we want to do it by doing like others. The magic formula is not being like Europeans or having the army control the government; the solution is making a deep change to our mindset.

This is very difficult because our culture urges us to take the easiest paths in life. We think discipline comes from the head of the government and we have a need to be constantly watched. But the way to improve ourselves is within us, and is not the magical solution we always dreamed of.

We in South America want the world to notice us, to see we can better ourselves, but in the process we are not being ourselves. Is the solution near? But another contradiction about South Americans is that, despite the upheaval, we are happy. We still have our style: the Latin one.

martes, abril 19, 2005

El nombre correcto es "Benedicto dieciséis", no decimosexto

Así debe leerse el nombre del nuevo Papa, según precisa la Fundación del Español Urgente (Fundéu). Sepa por qué
Fuente: http://www.infobae.com

(EFE) - En su análisis del uso del español en los medios de comunicación, la Fundéu, patrocinada por la Agencia EFE y el BBVA, ha advertido que en algunas emisoras de radio y televisión se está leyendo de manera incorrecta el nombre que ha elegido para su mandato el nuevo papa.

Se habla de "Benedicto decimosexto", cuando lo correcto es "Benedicto dieciséis".

La numeración romana que sigue al nombre de los papas sólo se lee como ordinal desde el número I (primero) hasta el X (décimo).

A partir de ahí se leen como cardinales, como en Juan XXIII Juan veintitrés. Ese es el caso del nuevo papa, Benedicto XVI, que debe leerse "Benedicto dieciséis".

domingo, abril 03, 2005

Hambre de líderes

Por María Pastora Sandoval Campos
(Publicado en Jóvenes Cristianos por Chile)

La muerte del Papa Juan Pablo II me hizo reflexionar sobre muchos asuntos. Me detuve a ver la televisión que repetía las imágenes de cuando el pontífice vino a Chile, también de su vida, su trayectoria y sus innumerables particularides. Una de ellas es que él no era "más papista que el Papa" porque a veces se salía de protocolo y se atrevió a ir acuerdo a los tiempos. Me sorprendí de que mucha gente lo lloró e incluso algunos lo consideraban como un padre y declaraban su sentimiento de orfandad.
Mirando más en perspectiva, pude darme cuenta de la necesidad que tenemos en el mundo de líderes confiables y consistentes. Las personas siguen a aquéllos que tienen ese don de liderazgo, que muchos quizás no usan para lo que Dios lo puso en ellos, aunque otros lo usan para su obra sintiendo la bendición que eso significa y experimentando al Señor en sus vidas. El Papa era, sin duda, un líder respetable y es por eso que la gente lo seguía y le tenía tanto afecto.
No por nada, el recién extinto Papa se dirigía mucho a la juventud, porque es allí donde están los futuros líderes del país, los que construirán ese mundo nuevo que sueñan. Son los jóvenes los que tienen la energía suficiente para echar a andar las ideas que rondan en las mentes de aquellos idealistas ansiosos por vivir. Y, con mayor razón aún, somos los jóvenes cristianos los que debemos ir en conquista del mundo que el Señor nos ha regalado para enseñorearnos de él en su nombre y prepararnos para la eternidad, que es el fin de esta vida terrenal.
Somos los jóvenes cristianos los encargados de soñar y llevar a los hechos esa realidad que soñamos y debemos declararla para que sea el Señor el que nos ayude a cumplir los anhelos de nuestro corazón, y los propósitos que Él tiene para nuestra vida. No debemos limitarnos al soñar, porque es nuestro Padre Celestial el que nos hace llegar donde nunca siquiera lo pensamos.
Todas las obras humanas que hay en este mundo nacieron con el sueño de alguien que se atrevió a llegar más allá de lo que existía: Microsoft debe haber sido el sueño de un jovencito anteojudo, Sábado Gigante el de un sastre que no sabía de televisión, ministerios numerosos partieron con la decisión de un joven cristiano de ser siervo de Dios. Más aún siendo hijos de Dios, entonces, no nos encarcelemos en los temores y confiemos en que si hemos sido llamados al liderazgo dentro de la obra tenemos el respaldo de aquél que nos ha llamado para que sea su poder, a través de nosotros en disposición, a que haga su voluntad.
Soñar es un bien que tenemos los jóvenes en el que podemos descubrir para qué estamos en este mundo. Es el motor que tenemos para no detenernos en el camino que nos lleva a la adultez, a la concreción de nuestras metas. Si sientes el llamado a ser líder en cualquier área, no dudes en poner allí tus energías, porque el mundo te necesita y es por eso que existes, pues el Señor ha puesto en ti algo que no puso en nadie más, eres único e irrepetible, una pieza necesaria para que cada día más en el mundo sea anunciada la Buena Nueva de Jesucristo.

sábado, abril 02, 2005

viernes, abril 01, 2005