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Father Claude

As I was saying.....

I embrace the world from my backyard at the University of Portland, January 1, 2018. I again invite you to "clod-hop" with me on my journeys to Latin America via this blog. More...

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Got your attention, I hope. Chile recently attracted international notice for being the latest country-trend in South America to move from the political left to right Sebastian Piñera (with a surprising large majority), will become president in mid March for the next 4 years. It is he second 4-year term. I was fortunate to join Senator Patrick Leahy in a meeting with President Michelle Bachelet in November 2016.

The proposed, new cabinet of President-elect Piñera (whom I have not yet met) is totally weighted to business and conservative party interests. An observer from USA might think this is a response to anticipated politics from the big, Northern Neighbor. Wrong. It is a trend throughout Latin America, and is an anticipated response to the intense increase of investments by China and Russia in all of South America. China can be seen everywhere in Chile.

Bienvenidos Señor Tillerson, who, as I write this, is "touring" South America. I don’t expect to see many “Yankee Go Home” signs (although some will be seen), but tongue-and-cheek and sarcastic editorials already fill the pages of the Santiago and Buenos Aires press for the visit of this sad Secretary of State, his first to South America. Tillers is avoiding Chile and that has its reasons, Tillerson follows on a recent, disastrous visit by VP Pence. The Santiago papers were dominated by criticisms of “the most incompetent foreign government representative to visit Chile that we can remember” (La Tercera). He was totally unaware of any diplomatic protocol. Or, as "The Clinic" put it: "He came to deliberately insult and succeeded brilliantly" But then, new insults to Chile by US White House are coming fast and furious. The latest is the new, designated US ambassador to Chile: Andrew Gellert, business partner of Trump family, who knows nothing about Chile and doesn’t speak Spanish. His company, The Gellert Global Group based in Atlanta imports processed raisins from Chile. Chilenos remember, and still praise, Harry Barnes, the US ambassador of the 1980s who was instrumental in helping to bring democracy back to Chile.

Chile's press, and table conversation, is filled with scandals that have rocked this country to the core. Of the many — and there are so many — from sex scandals in the Catholic Church and unfortunate statements by Pope Francis during his recent visit, to widespread graft and corruption among most of Chile's First Families. However, the most shocking and enduring scandal that will challenge President-elect Piñera is that of the “Carabiñeros”, the National Police. Beginning with the Director General Bruno Villalobos and down to a local captain in Punta Arenas (the tip of Southern Chile) a fraudulent tradition of faking salaries from generals at the top, to most local captains, was accidentally uncovered, last year. Most shocking for Chileans is that this comprehensive fraud scheme had been occurring for years to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars (billions of pesos). General Villalobos (more "lobos" and less "villa", as Chileans like to say) is still in office, as Director General. Indeed. He says that he wants to see more evidence before he "takes action".

Chile’s economic future is far from grim, however, since Chile and China contain 3/4 of the world"s known lithium reserves, copper prices are rising again, and US citizens love Chilean salmon, berries, wines and wood products. Also, Chile is home to the first all-electric car race, Chile's version of Le Mans 24 hour race. Not bad for the future Saudi Arabia of lithium.
Permalink | Monday, February 5, 2018