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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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SPITTING ON A DEAD DICTATOR (Category: Chile and Argentina)

Juan-Pablo with miners (marching in support of the famous 33)
On September 10, 1006, Francisco Quadrado Prats,  General Prats’ grandson, cooly walked into the grand hall of the Military College in Santiago, Chile where General Augusto Pinochet was lying in state,  in full general’s uniform. He bent down and spit on Pinochet’s face, and just as cooly, he then walked out of the building where he was pummeled and kicked by mourners. He had to be rescued by military police. His grandfather, General Carlos  Prats was Chief of Staff when Allende was elected President of Chile. Prats fled to Buenos Aires after the coup, where was murdered in 1974 by DINA, under the direction of General Manuel Contreras. A metaphor of Chile today.

On August 8, I was surprised by big bold headlines in the morning paper, GENRAL MANUEL CONTRERAS DIES. He was serving a 500 year term for the murder of thousands of Chileans while head of Pinochet’s secret torture squads. He was reported to have personally murdered some prisoners in the basement of his home. Few Chileans mourned his death. In fact, thousands eagerly followed his prolonged agony in a military hospital by joining in a popular twitter account praying to Our Lady of Mercy (Chile’s patron saint and national holiday) to prolong his life. Why? So that he might suffer longer, in a common prison. Also, a petition was circulated to have him stripped of his rank as general. Metaphors of Chile today.

On August 5, 2010, 33 miners were buried 2,300 ft, underground in Copiapó, Chile. Finally, 69 days later they were all safely rescued through a dramatic effort to bring them to the surface.  I joined Chileans as they celebrated the 5th anniversary of that rescue. The attached picture shows Juan-Pablo Sanchez, a dear family friend, in an earlier, public parade of thanksgiving in downtown Santiago. Surely, you didn’t expect me to post a picture of Prats spitting on Pinochet’s body, did you? The movie of that rescue, “Los 33” is showing in Santiago and will soon be at your neighborhood theaters. Another metaphor of Chile today.

Two weeks ago, as I walked into the main courtyard of the Business and Commerce building of the University of Chile, where I was giving lectures, I was startled to hear a former Christian Democratic senator praising the nationalization of Chile’s copper during Allende’s presidency. About 150 students stood passively listening. When he finished, a young lady raised her hand and sarcastically asked if he was accompanied by one of the young boys he was accused of molesting. He was quickly ushered out of the courtyard to jeering students. Another metaphor?

Today, Chile’s economy is suffering from an abrupt and unexpected downturn. President Michelle Bachelet, the daughter of another, famous general murdered under the dictator Pinochet, is struggling to manage a fractious cabinet. Her popularity has plummeted, after only one year into her 4-year, second term.  She was elected last year with an unprecedented program of reform in education, health and administration, promising a new Constitution. It is doubtful if she can deliver on most of these promised policy reforms.

And finally —really finally — when Chileans have nothing else to discuss, they  recall their victory over Argentina
  in the Copa América, on July 4 of this year. Yes, July 4th. And what do they all talk about?  A notorious incident in the semi-finals when Chilean  defender, Gonzalo Jara “fingered” the butt of a Uruguay defender, Edison Cavanini. Jara then faked an injury (to his finger?) and the ref, who failed to see the “infraction”, gave Cavani a yellow card. OK, so Jara was finally given a 2-game penalty. Yup, it’s on google, ginger-incident and all.

Millions of Chileans are now finding consolation in this moment of humor, in this “catrasca”
— Chilean for “one crappy event after another”. Too bad “ Le Theatre du Grand-Gignole” closed in Paris in 1962. This would have made a great puppet show.

Permalink | Thursday, August 20, 2015