A Chile news summary

The BBC Spanish language network, noting the 15-year anniversary of General Augusto Pinochet’s detention in London, asks what real effects his arrest had.  According to Amnesty International, the case gave a boost to the principle of universal jurisdiction in human rights cases: http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/noticias/2013/10/131015_chile_pinochet_arresto_vs.shtml

Bloomberg reports that a Pinochet-era business and investment system is being abused by very wealthy Chileans to avoid paying taxes, with only 0.3 percent of taxpayers paying the top rate: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-16/pinochet-era-investment-lure-at-risk-in-chile-election-taxes.html

The Financial Times reports on Chile’s presidential race, where former president Michelle Bachelet leads a field of nine candidates with 44 percent and her opponent Evelyn Matthei with only 12 percent. But the election is likely to go into a second round, as Bachelet seems unlikely to win a clear majority in next month’s voting. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/17c47e14-3266-11e3-91d2-00144feab7de.html#axzz2hvN2YX9M

The Heritage Foundation has an admiring article on Chile’s economic development over the past 25 years: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/10/chiles-path-to-development-key-reforms-to-become-the-first-developed-country-in-latin-america

The Christian Science Monitor reports on President Sebastian Pinera’s visit to the San Jose mine on the third anniversary of the miners’ rescue, an event which marked the high point of his administration. He attended the opening of a museum at the site, attended by 13 of the 33 miners and said the rescue changed the meaning of the “Chilean way.”

“Before, the Chilean way meant something half-baked and improvised. It transformed into doing something with faith, unity, and hope,” he said.


Nostalgia for the dictatorship

Nostalgia for the Light

Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzman has sent a letter to his country’s education ministry denouncing an incident in which a screening for students of his award-winning documentary, Nostalgia for the Light, was interrupted by the school’s director. The film, shot in Chile’s Atacama Desert, links the work of astronomers researching the origins of the universe with efforts by relatives of the disappeared to locate remains of their loved ones. One reviewer described it as “remarkably lyrical, strikingly beautiful documentary reflecting on memory, mortality and the inexorable passing of time.”http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/332584/Nostalgia-For-The-Light-official-review-and-trailer/

Nostalgia for the Light was awarded best documentary by the European Film Academy and the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010, among other international film prizes. Here’s a trailer for the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ok7f4MLL-Hk

And here’s a translation of Guzman’s letter:

Sra. Carolina Schmidt Zaldivar

Minister of Education


París, October 6, 2010.

Dear Madam Minister,

On September 28 a history teacher at the Farmland School in central Chile (Curacavi), Daniela Moraga, Zavala, mother of two children and gradúate of the :Metropolitan University Education Sciences department, showed her students my award-winning film, “Nostalgia for the Light.”

She selected this work in particular because it seemed a “sensitive and altruistic” way of discussing the issue of the detained and disappeared, a subject which, according to the teacher, “is approved by current [Chilean education ministry] plans and programs.”

During the screening the school’s director violently burst into the room, turned on the lights and put an end to the showing, telling the students (who were astonished) in a very aggressive way that “her school” did not permit videos alluding to the time of the dictatorship because these “are things that cannot be dealt with in schools.”  She added that it was “political material of politicizing effects for third-year high school students.”

The director convened the Council of Teachers where she repeated the same accusations before the teacher, threatening her with dismissal without severance pay.

Fortunately the young teacher Daniela Moraga Zavala is a well-informed person who possesses a serene personality. She is a professional with experience who knew how to defend herself calmly until she had refuted the arguments of the director, who is also the establishment’s proprietor.

Madam minister, I will take it upon myself to divulge in detail this regrettable incident in the cities I will visit in the coming weeks during the showing of this same film: Berlin, Hamburg, Lyon, Rennes, Lisbon and Grenoble. And I will repeat this example during all public appearances in the future because it is a symptom of the Chilean situation.

For your information, “Nostalgia for the Light” has received 32 prizes and distinctions around the world (I attach a list at the end) and it is not a work that spreads anger but on the contrary, puts the everyday fascism which still reigns in many corners of Chile in its proper place, to the shame of everyone.

Distinguished madam minister, I cannot stop writing this simple letter because it is not possible to remain indifferent in the face of offenses received by a decent teacher like Mrs. Daniela Moraga Zavala, who is part of the ministry which you direct.

With my respectful greetings,

Patricio Guzman

Chilean filmmaker

Hollywood Academy member

The triumph of “el No”

The logo of a successful campaign to defeat Pinochet in his one-man presidential plebiscite.

The logo of a successful campaign to defeat Pinochet in his one-man presidential plebiscite.

It was 25 years ago today that Chileans (and foreigners with at least five years’ legal residence in the country, including this blogger) went to the polls to cast ‘yes’ or ‘no’ votes in a one-man presidential referendum to extend General Augusto Pinochet’s rule for eight more years. The actual balloting was clean, but the regime delayed releasing the results, announcing very partial returns that suggested Pinochet was ahead. At midnight Chile’s air force commander decided to “pull out the detonators,” as he put it, and told a group of reporters that the ‘no’ vote had won.

Here is a link to a short BBC’s Spanish language interview with former air force commander and junta member Fernando Matthei recalling that moment: http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/noticias/2013/10/130930_video_chile_plebiscito_aniversario_matthei_pea.shtml

In Bangkok, where he just signed a free trade agreement between Chile and Thailand, President Sebastián Piñera said that October 5, 1988 was “a great day for Chile and a great day for our democracy.”http://noticias.terra.cl/nacional/politica/pinera-y-el-triunfo-del-no-fue-una-decision-sabia,d248fcf032881410VgnCLD2000000ec6eb0aRCRD.html

And Chile’s national television channel is preparing a miniseries based on Pablo Larrain’s Oscar-nominated film No, about the campaign to defeat Pinochet, to be aired next year: http://entretenimiento.terra.cl/television/serie-sobre-la-pelicula-no-llegara-el-2014-a-tvn,b415fd6320481410VgnVCM10000098cceb0aRCRD.html