Chile round up

A view of the Andes mountains in Santiago. Photo by Samuel Silva

A view of the Andes mountains in Santiago. Photo by Samuel Silva

“In Brazil, Turkey and Chile, Protests Follow Economic Success,” is the title of an op ed piece by Moises Naim in Bloomberg Businessweek. Asking why thousands of citizens in three countries which have enjoyed strong economic growth in recent years are taking to the streets in mass protests, Naim suggests the answer may be found in a 1968 book by the Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies.

He writes that “in societies experiencing rapid change, the public’s demand for public services grows at a faster clip than the government’s ability to satisfy it. His more general point is that institutions cannot develop at the pace required by the fast-growing expectations of a population recently empowered by prosperity, literacy, more information, and a newfound expectation—indeed hunger—to shape its own better future. In Huntington’s words, “The primary problem of politics is the lag in the development of political institutions behind social economic change.”

The New York Times travel section has a piece on Valparaiso, a port city once the main trading harbour for the Pacific but which declined after the opening of the Panama Canal and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site undergoing a renaissance of sorts:

The Washington Post has a blog piece on Chile’s primary elections, in which former president Michelle Bachelet had  an easy win in the Nueva Mayoria coalition, a group that now includes Chile’s Communist Party:

Some odds and ends

James McTurk has become the first Canadian convicted of sex crimes against children in Cuba (see earlier post TheToronto Star reports that “Despite two previous convictions for child pornography — in 1995 and 1998 — and being placed on the sex offender’s registry, McTurk was free to travel. The court was told that he made 31 trips to the island, between 2009 and his arrest in July 2012.” The article includes a photograph of McTurk, 78, wearing a tartan beret and holding a picture of Che Guevara.

The Associated Press reports on the disturbing consequences to Cuba of rising sea levels, with scientists predicting that 122 towns and cities would either be serious damaged or else destroyed altogether. “In recent months, inspectors and demolition crews have begun fanning out across the island with plans to raze thousands of houses, restaurants, hotels and improvised docks in a race to restore much of the coast to something approaching its natural state.”

Foreign Affairs has a piece on the Matte family, a veritable Chilean dynasty whose family business, CMPC is the fourth largest cellulose provider in the world and whose high-achieving members can be found in think tanks, universities and the Chilean media.

And the New York Review of Books blog has a poem by Roberto Bolaño, from a complete collection of the late Chilean writer’s poetry, The Unknown University, to be published by New Directions next month:



Online in Cuba

The cost of an hour of internet access in Cuba costs about a third of the average Cuban’s monthly salary.  Will the cost go down with more access points? The 118 new internet access points recently opened in Cuba seem to be working, and a very good place to follow the country’s slow path to connectivity is the blog The Internet in Cuba, whose author has been covering the issue since the 1990s. He writes

Cuba was one of the leading pre-Internet networking nations in the Caribbean. The small community of Cuban networking technicians was like that of other nations at the time. They were smart, resourceful, and motivated. They believed, correctly, that the Internet was important — that it would have a profound impact on individuals, organizations and society. They were members of the international community of Internet pioneers.

For background on Cuba’s slow road to internet access, The Economist published this piece over two years ago:

Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez recently visited the area in eastern Cuba where the undersea fiber optic cable from Venezuela joins the island:

And here’s a New York Times blog about a blogger, University of Havana journalism professor Elaine Diaz, who supports Fidel Castro but adopts a mildly critical view in some of her writing:

More on the Neruda investigation

A laboratory in North Carolina is still studying samples taken from the remains of Chile’s Nobel Prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda, to determine whether he died of prostate cancer or was poisoned by a mysterious injection during his hospital stay shortly after the 1973 coup. (see earlier post:

Meanwhile, there has been speculation in both the Chilean and the foreign press that Neruda’s killer might have been Michael Townley, an American who worked for the Pinochet regime’s secret police organization, the DINA. Last week a Chilean judge ordered police to search for a “tall, blond, blue-eyed man” whom a doctor claimed to have seen at the hospital where Neruda died.  The physician, Dr. Sergio Draper, has changed his earlier account of the poet’s death and according to The Independent,

Dr Sergio Draper now claims a doctor called Price was with Neruda. There is no record of a Doctor Price in any of the hospital’s records and Draper said he never saw the man again after leaving him with Neruda.

The prosecutor believes that whoever the man was, “the important fact is that this was the person who ordered the injection” that may have killed Neruda. The description of Price as tall and blond with blue eyes matches Michael Townley, a CIA double agent (sic) who worked with the Chilean secret police under Pinochet.

There are a few problems with this line of inquiry. The DINA did not form until months after the coup, and neither this secret police organization nor its successor, the Central Nacional de Informaciones (CNI) worked with poisons until the 1980s. Townley, who moved to Chile with his parents as a teenager in the 1960s, is known to have been in the United States at the time of Neruda’s death.  As Peter Kornbluh, author of The Pinochet File, told the Santiago Times

“He was in Florida, a fugitive from justice in Chile where he had been part of an anti-Allende operation March 1972 that left a man dead. Only after Pinochet was well consolidated did he return and join DINA,” Kornbluh said.

He explained that officials in the U.S. undertook an extensive investigation into Townley and can verify his whereabouts for the time in question.

“Michael Townley was a prolific international terrorist who committed an act of terror and murder in the [U.S.] capital. As the target of a massive FBI investigation, the FBI retraced his movements in the years he was associated with violence in Chile,” said Kornbluh.

This blogger interviewed Townley’s ex-wife in Santiago in the late 1980s, and she remarked that her former husband had never lost his American accent. Which means that in the unlikely event he was in Santiago at the time of Neruda’s death, and managed to enter the poet’s hospital room dressed as a doctor, his accented Spanish would have made him even more conspicuous to hospital staff. And though they may be a minority, Chile does have its share of tall, blond and blue-eyed people.