Saturday, February 28, 2009

US State Department 2008 Report on Human Rights in Chile

US State Department 2008 Report on Human Rights in Chile

This is the US report on Chile. Chile replied.

SANTIAGO -- The Chilean government questioned the "moral authority" of the United States in criticizing the human rights situation in other countries, local media reported Friday. "There is no Guantanamo in Chile," Francisco Vidal, a spokesman for the Chilean government, said in a statement.

The US State Department pointed its fingers at the human rights situation in other countries without checking its own behavior first, he said, in reaction to the 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices presented to the US Congress by the State Department on Wednesday.

The detention center at the US military base in the Guantanamo Bay has been repeatedly criticized as several detainees there have claimed that they were tortured and subjected to inhumane treatment. Most of the detainees there have been accused of having engaged in terrorism but have spent several years in prison without trial.

Vidal said Chile's tragic experience during the military dictatorship has made the country "realize that violations of human rights is not a local issue."

"When a human being is tortured in any place of the world, the dignity of the rest six billion human beings is also violated," he said.

China received a scathing report, and was not happy, so published a "back-at-ya" report on the US. You can read that report here:

The sad thing is the China report is mostly correct. I know we get a pretty one-sided view in the US but I swear it gets worse. I've never been to China but the US was heavily involved in backing the Pinochet coup in Chile. Under the Pinochet dictatorship, they got the first privatized pension system in the world(see Jose Pinera at the Cato Institute, the brother of Sebastian Pinera who is running for President here again)and a school voucher system here.

Chaiten Volcano Erupts Again

No worries for us, we're far away but awful for the South of Chile. I have an online friend building a house in Futalefeu. Imagine the luck of moving to the most beautiful part of Chile and a volcano nearby (that has not erupted in 9000 years-yes 9 thousand.) erupts (the first time last May). These are a few of her comments back then.

May 2, 2008 This is an odd thing...

I'm accustomed to earthquakes having lived along fault lines is Costa Rica and Panama, and I know that Chile is an active quake country. However, I find no evidence of quakes over the past two days to explain the jumps and bumps we've felt each evening for the past two days. I go on the usgs site, but nothing shows. Both nights between midnight and 1 am, we've felt the rental house here is Futa jump, and the windows traffic (uh, in Futa there is no traffic or large trucks that can travels at speeds to shake the earth). So, I'm wondering what could cause the three very significant earth-shaking events we've felt in these two days. Jokes aside, you jokers!


2:28 am...another significant jump with windows rattling and the otherwise fearless dog scrambling under the bed. But still no notation on the USGS site for a quake. Odd, because these seem like BUMPS, as opposed to shakes. The pueblos animals are all a buzz, with roosters crowing and dogs barking. Maybe someone is dynamiting around here.

3:55 am.., You know, strange things do seem to happen here. I have started to take my camera, batteries charged, all the time with me, because I'v'e seen some of the oddest cloud formations ever....a single cloud in the air with a perfect hole in the center. Cool things like that. So, if for no other reason that to have a cool picture...

The USGS just shows a quake of 5.0 listed in Chubut (a vast province east of here) Argentina.


And then....

Don't know where but a volcano blew. Silly me woke up and thought it snowed. I went outside in my jammies to take a picture of my first snow, but it was volcanic ash.


...It is confirmed that the Chaiten volcano has erupted near Futaleufu in the Patagonia.

Nine thousand years. You never know. What followed was a mad scramble for information and links(the volcanism blog is a good one) and the Chilean government evacuation of Chaiten and the decision to re-build elsewhere. And Vick's trials and tribulations and humor amongst the ash. Listening to her experiences make me really take a look at what I whine about. They are currently building hydro power for their house because after a year, electricity is out of the question. The worst part about Chile is that things are slow here-but that's also the best part.

ABC News
Published: February 26, 2009

Chaiten, Chile—Chile’s Chaiten volcano erupted again, on Tuesday, the third time in less than 24 hours.

The blast forced the remaining residents to flee their homes…

Vulcanologists are warning that this most recent explosion could push the lava flows in reach of the city.

It was devastated last May, when the volcano erupted for the first time in 9,000 years.

It rained today!

"Oh that Laura, she's easily entertained" you say. It hasn't rained(that I can remember) in December, January or February. I do love to grow things and being without water is like trying to cook without the ONE ingredient you need. Nothing substitutes for water. We have a well for water but don't know how limited it is. We thought it was unlimited until the well briefly went dry in early spring(just before mountain snow melt).

It rained! The thunder echoed through the mountains-it was wonderful. It feels like fall here-78 F days and 50 F nights-very nice. So I won't be ranting again about water until next year! (it'll probably be about the coming cold weather).

Alejandro and water rights

We live in the country. The parcela is not huge but big enough-about 6,500 sq meters I think. This a "Mediterranean" climate which means hot days and cool nights all summer. And no measurable rainfall all summer-lots of rain in the winter, but that's another story. No rain in the summer means the canal system is very important. If we don't have canal water for a few days, our vegetable garden, flowers and grass die. There is apparently no organization of water rights or a 'ditch rider" as we had in rural Montana when I was a kid. People simply dig canals as needed and divert or shut off water as they desire. This has been a source of frustration for over a year now with no solution in sight. We talk to the neighbors, we have meetings, we cajole and beg, we get angry-all with the same result: nothing changes. Some days, we have water, some we don't. We rarely know why. If we have have water, we frantically water everything we can because tomorrow, who knows? When we don't have water, it means any trees or plants we have planted may die. earlier in the spring, I excitedly went outside in the morning to look at all the new growth around the parcela and marvel at how they had grown. Now, I check to see what has died. I have learned to plant in the fall or early spring only when the rain is still frequent.

My point here is not to complain about Chile but it made me think about that fine line between needing some organization/government intervention(the ditch rider worked for the county and had the ultimate say in water fairness-who gets water and on what days) and being left alone(in this case the neighbors argue back and forth and nothing is solved for more than a day or two).

Now about Alejandro. Alejandro is a farmer who started an alfalfa field behind our parcela. He came over to see how our canal ran through the parcela so he could make decisions about how to best water his fields. He is a little man with his pants rolled to his knees, wearing sandals, weather beaten face. In rural areas, very much like other local farmers. But he did something unexpected-he spoke some English(very few of the "country locals do)! That was nice enough. Then he told us he had been to Washington DC when Carter was President. This little old ordinary Chilean farmer had been to the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington Cemetery. Remarkable.

We see Alejandro from time to time and I always smile and imagine him as a much younger man in Washington DC. he waves at us across the field or from the road and I know he carries a fond memory of the US with him.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Back to Chile

During the long flight back to Chile, I sat next to a Chilean man who had been to the US on business(something to do with a US system for poultry processing). He knew some English so we had a long conversation-it still strikes me as funny today that his command of the English language included saying "shit" in every sentence at least once and I'm sure he didn't know it's not exactly "correct". And I didn't have the heart to mention it. So, an overnight flight and waking up to morning and sunrise over the Andes. I managed to get all the correct lines and get my baggage and was soon greeted by Chilean taxi drivers and then Michael broke from the crowd(nice to be tall!) and whisks me away.

It's summer again! Leaving Denver in the cold and then to be outside of the Santiago airport in the heat is just strange. I know it's been 12 or 14 hours is strange. We hop in the jeep(after stowing my bags of treasure) and roll the windows down and we're on our way to Pirque. The now-familiar sights along the highway and then the road to Pirque(yes, I remember-right here, left there) and we're at the house again. I open the door and there are my things and I have an urge to look and touch these items. I must be home.

Michael has been working hard while I've been gone and I'm ready to jump in and help. The strangest thing happens-I got sick. It must have been a virus combined with the change of temperature and humidity(cold, dry Colorado to hot, humid Chile) and the result was that I became quite sick with normal flu-like symptoms but as those subsided, I lost my equilibrium. I couldn't walk straight-or even at all without support. I was completely dependent on Michael to walk any distance at all. "This is what it feels like to be very, very old" I thought. "What if I don't get my balance back? What if I don't get better". But surely I will. As someone who almost never gets sick and never had to be dependent, it was life-changing. We still didn't have internet at the house so were going to the internet cafe for short periods of time. I missed the internet terribly. This was my lifeline to family and friends, to a library of information, news and current events. Combined with being an invalid of sorts and just having left my family, it felt devastating. After about a month, Helia gets a prescription from her doctor which I take for 10 days-and it does nothing. I've looked on the internet and decided it's probably caused by an ear infection and I need antibiotics. Michael hatches a plan for Helia to take me to her Spanish speaking only doctor. So I pay extra to have Helia to interpret Spanish to English and insist on antibiotics. By now, I'm worried. But the antibiotics clear it up and I'm normal again in 2 weeks or so. Whew!

The internet. The neighbor next door helps us connect to his internet(sort of-it's too far away) through the wireless router we brought. So I have internet while standing in the tool shed. Our neighbor is wonderful for helping us and I am happy to have some access to internet although it's not reliable and sometimes we still go to the internet cafe for a quick email check(3 days without internet access, I find, is my limit). Getting internet(or phone etc) has proved to be quite difficult. The utility poles(there is a one a few feet on the other side of our fence) here are not as easy as calling the company and hooking up. There are complicated rules we don't understand. You must get permission to use any poles(poles are owned by the landowner not the company) and even then other rules may preclude that use(only so many or only certain types may use certain poles). Over the months, it only gets more complicated. So no internet. We ask and ask. We get answers of "no problem" but still nothing happens. The best thing about Chile is that things are slow here. And that's also the worst. There is no sense of urgency at all. A friend in far southern Chile recently ranted about no electricity after a year-which makes my internet complaint small. Internet comes to us much later when a Chilean friend says "No problem!" and means it and through her we get a usb internet plug-in that picks up the signal from cell towers. Cell signals are easy here while home phones are rare. Since January, I've wasted untold hours on the internet. I'm like a kid in a candy store.

Back in the USA

I see my last previous post was November much happened after that. This will be my attempt to bring things up to date. Back then, we were living in a rental in Puente Alto and had internet! Soon after we moved to the new house(still under construction but with a bedroom, bath & kitchen finished) and sadly no internet. We got moved in and mostly settled and soon after I flew to the US for the coming birth of my first grandchild. Well, and also to see a few friends, do a little shopping for things that are difficult or expensive to buy here in Chile. But the main reason was to see family, hold my granddaughter, re-connect with my son and get to know the love of his life.

Going back to the states was a huge culture shock that I didn't expect. You expect it coming to Chile but going back to the US didn't feel like going "home" as I thought it would. I went through immigration/customs in Atlanta where I barely made it through long lines and security checks(during a 90 minute layover) in time to catch a plane to Denver. My son Mike came to get me at the airport and that was such a nice reunion! I was just thrilled. There was that little strangeness of going from summer to winter(I do hate the cold). I had a long list of oddities I needed to buy to bring back to Chile. An oven temperature gauge(not included on ovens here), books(in English, as many as I can carry), various kitchen utensils, pie pans, spices, well-a very long list. Not long after I arrived, so did little Josephine, on December 22nd-just in time for Christmas. Mike came back to get me(I know, I should have rented a car!) at about 11 am the 21st and Jessica's parents dropped me off at the house again at around 4 am on the 22nd. Looking back, the trip just seems like a blur. Mike was, of course, with Jessica at the hospital a lot until she came home and I did get a lot of baby holding time while Jessica slept(trying to recover from late nights with baby). My ears did perk up when they mentioned a possible shopping trip and I ran around in a frenzy attempting to cross items off my "list". The baby is wonderful and I so enjoyed that time. I also squeezed a quick trip to Seattle and Oregon in to see people. Before I knew it, it was time to go back to Chile. I packed all my clothes and oddities carefully, trying not to be overweight in any one bag. Looking back, I wish I'd spent time holding Josie that morning but such is life. Somehow I had pictured the whole family going to the airport with me and Josie in the back seat as we had before. There, I thought, I'd tell her how much I loved her and I would say my goodbyes. As it turned out, they stayed home and Mike took me alone. Of course it made perfect sense and I felt like a silly old woman. Mike hugged me tight when he dropped me off and I cried foolishly as I turned away. The baby will never remember the many times I held her, fed her, diapered her. The circle of life. And I was back on a long flight to Chile.