TIME Chile

Chile Declares First Environmental Emergency Since 1999 Over Air Pollution

Smog shrouds Chile's capital Santiago, June 22, 2015.
Ueslei Marcelino—Reuters Smog shrouds Chile's capital Santiago, June 22, 2015.

About 40% of the country's 1.7 million automobiles must be off the road

Air pollution in Santiago is so bad that Chile declared a state of environmental emergency on Monday for the capital and the surrounding metropolitan area.

The decision forces around 40% of the country’s 1.7 million automobiles off the road, Reuters reports, and more than 900 factories must also cease operations. Chile’s first environmental emergency since 1999 is expected to last for 24 hours but can be extended if conditions don’t improve.

“We’re currently facing unusual conditions, with one of the driest Junes in over 40 years as well as really bad air circulation conditions in the Santiago valley in recent days, which boosts the concentration of contamination,” Chile’s Environment Ministry said in a statement.


TIME politics

The Untold Story of How the Reagan Administration Got Rid of Pinochet, Chile’s Ruthless Dictator

Augusto Pinochet
Robert Nickelsberg—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Chilean leader General Augusto Pinochet, in 1985

It’s a victory story, but a little more complicated than people think

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Throughout the Cold War era the United States periodically confronted the problem of dealing with Latin American allies whose regimes were collapsing due to mismanagement and/or popular disaffection but who were unwilling to relinquish power in ways that provided an opportunity for Washington to influence the political transition in a manner favorable to its interests—politically, economically and regionally. The Reagan administration’s dealings with the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile, though the regime was not at risk of collapse, is often cited as an exemplary case of a successful democracy promotion strategy. But how was Reagan’s State Department able to pursue this approach and what kind of democratic transition was the administration willing to support?

President Reagan’s publicly declared support for freedom, democracy and human rights generally–a position most comprehensively outlined during a June 1982 address to the British Parliament and directed primarily at the Soviet Union–gave pragmatic conservatives in the State Department an opportunity to contemplate policies beyond the strictures laid down by a group of hardline Cold War warriors who initially monopolized senior foreign policy positions. Their eventual replacement or retirement from Reagan‘s inner circle of advisers provided opportunities to make the case for a policy less driven by reflexive anti-communism. Additional personnel changes during Reagan’s second term further strengthened the position of Secretary of State George Shultz as the President’s most trusted and hence influential foreign policy adviser.

By 1983-84, the resurrection of civil society in Chile produced a consensus among key State Department officials on the need to re-evaluate the administration’s approach to Pinochet. The emergence of social movements in Chile (across the social class, occupational and political spectrum) offering a direct political challenge to the military regime eventually led to a consensus calculation within State that the time had arrived when it might be in the best long-term U.S. interests to promote a return to civilian rule. Regional developments also entered into this policy rethink: transitions from dictatorship to democracy were occurring across much of Latin America to a point where Chile was beginning to stand out like a ‘sore thumb,’ and had become an international pariah with whom the U.S. was most closely identified.

Following Reagan’s inauguration for a second term, the bureaucratic debate over Chile policy moved decisively in favor of Shultz and his key State Department advisers who were opposed to Pinochet’s indefinite rule and keen to see practical steps taken to culminate in a transition to democracy. To achieve what Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs James Michel termed the ultimate goal of facilitating “the emergence of a centrist political consensus and a soft transition into democracy,” State was able to convince Reagan to publicly reject Pinochet’s constant declaration that Chileans faced a stark choice between the order and stability provided by the military and the chaos he associated with his opponents. Not only did this rejection strike a crucial blow at the dictator’s defense of his rule but simultaneously boosted the influence of junta members who had tired of both the military’s adventures into politics and Pinochet’s own ambitions.

Meanwhile, administration officials had settled on a two-track policy approach: on one hand, prodding Pinochet with a mix of quiet diplomacy, public criticism and largely symbolic economic pressures to cajole him to return Chile to a restricted democratic political order; on the other, coaxing ‘anti-regime’ social movements and political parties of the center-right–that Washington associated with moderation,’ ‘dialogue,’ ‘compromise,’ and limited ‘reforms’—and discouraging their involvement with ‘anti-system’ forces of the Left viewed as synonymous with ‘violence,’ ‘polarization,’ ‘radicalization’ and other activities that ‘endangered’ democracy.

Washington’s support for a democratic transition, in other words, did not reflect a sustained and principled commitment to the promotion of democratic norms and values; rather, the application of the policy revealed a highly conditional and qualified support based on calculations that bilateral and regional U.S. interests would be best served by a return to electoral rule but under circumstances that would leave little to chance, much less to ‘democratic adventurism.’ The revival of an inclusive, multiparty system that characterized Chile prior to 1973 was never considered an option warranting U.S. support and encouragement. This approach dovetailed perfectly with the junta’s non-negotiable preconditions for a transfer of power: a civilian governing alternative that would preserve the essential objective of the September 1973 coup — which was to eliminate the threat from the Left – maintain the junta’s political and economic structures, and forego recriminations against the armed forces over their brutal methods of governance.

The Reagan White House was under no circumstances prepared to countenance a re-democratization process that might result in an ‘unacceptable’ segment of the opposition (left social movements and their militant political party allies) from heading a newly elected government. Thus, in contrast to the requests for ‘soft’ changes asked of the junta, U.S. policymakers demanded a wide-ranging set of major concessions from the ‘responsible’ opposition, including acceptance of the legitimacy of the coup and the generals own 1980 Constitution, and the armed forces’ demand for amnesty from prosecution for human right abuses perpetrated during their 15 year rule.

Undeniably, this represented a political victory for the forces that carried out the 1973 military coup and a personal triumph for Pinochet himself. The armed forces presided over a political transition at a time of its own choosing, with its internal cohesion, sense of honor, and institutional power unaffected, if not strengthened; the country was now governed by a popularly elected civilian regime dominated by the moderate and conservative opponents of military rule committed to maintaining generals’ neoliberal economic model; and those opposition forces posing the greatest threat to the state – the social movements of the left – were politically marginalized. If the Reagan White House played a less than decisive role in wresting political power from the armed forces, what ultimately transpired was the best possible outcome from the perspective of U.S. bilateral and regional interests.

Morris Morley and Chris McGillion are co-authors of the just published “Reagan and Pinochet: The Struggle Over U.S. Policy toward Chile”(New York: Cambridge University Press).

TIME Chile

See Chile’s Villarrica Volcano Light Up the Night Sky

The Villarrica Volcano at night in Pucon town, Chile on May 10, 2015.
Cristobal Saavedra—Reuters The Villarrica Volcano at night in Pucon town, Chile on May 10, 2015.

The active volcano glows through the night

The Villarrica Volcano in southern Chile is the most active volcano in South America.

In March the volcano, which is located near the tourist resort Pucon, erupted and caused thousands of people to evacuate. This photograph was taken May 10, and depicts the view of the volcano from the city.

TIME Chile

See 9 Stunning Photos From the Volcano Eruption in Chile

It was the volcano's first eruption in more than four decades

Last week’s eruption of the Calbuco volcano in Chile was its first in more than four decades. Officials issued a red alert for a nearby city, Puerto Montt, and evacuated more than 1,500 people in a six-mile radius of the volcano—some 600 miles south of Santiago—as ash began to spew into the air.

Read next: Life and Death in One Picture After Quake Hits Nepal

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Chile

See the Eruption of Chile’s Calbuco Volcano Paint the Sky

The Chilean Calbuco volcano seen from Puerto Montt, located 600 miles south of Santiago de Chile, Chile on April 22, 2015. The eruption caused a column of smoke over ten miles high. Authorities declared a red alert and ordered the evacuation of around 1500 residents in the area surrounding the volcano.
Alex Vidal Brecas—EPA The Chilean Calbuco volcano seen from Puerto Montt, located 600 miles south of Santiago de Chile, Chile on April 22, 2015. The eruption caused a column of smoke over ten miles high. Authorities declared a red alert and ordered the evacuation of around 1500 residents in the area surrounding the volcano.

Its last known eruption was in 1972

The Calbuco volcano in Chile erupted for the first time in more than four decades on Wednesday, prompting officials to issue a red alert for the city of Puerto Montt. Authorities evacuated around 1,500 residents within a six-mile radius of the volcano after it spewed ash into the air, according to the Associated Press. The volcano, located some 600 miles south of the capital, Santiago, last erupted in 1972.

This is the second eruption in Chile this spring. In early March, the Villarrica volcano expelled ash and lava. Chile has the second-largest chain of volcanos in the world, following Indonesia.

TIME Chile

Heavy Rains Wreak Havoc in Northern Chile, One of the Driest Places on Earth

Residents watch the rising flood waters of the Copiapo River, in Copiapo, Chile, March 25, 2015
Aton Chile—AP Residents watch the rising flood waters of the Copiapo River, in Copiapo, Chile, March 25, 2015

Officials order evacuation ahead of further storms

Heavy rains in the Andes sent flash floods through Chile’s Atacama desert Tuesday evening, leaving thousands without power or running water. The area is normally one of the driest in the world.

Overwhelmed by runoff, the river that runs through Copiapo, Atacama’s capital city, overflowed its banks with more rain predicted over the next 12 hours.

Authorities, fearful of mudslides, urged locals to seek safety elsewhere. Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo advised “anyone in an at-risk zone in the Atacama region” to evacuate, the BBC reports.

Northern coastal towns were hit especially hard. The government described the coastal town of Chañaral as in a “critical” state, while the Antofagasta and Coquimbo regions were affected seriously enough to warrant health alerts.

Military units were deployed in Copiapo to lend assistance, and President Michelle Bachelet rearranged her schedule in order to fly to the besieged city.

Along with causing widespread flooding, the rainstorms also washed out roads and disrupted communications. Local officials say 38,000 residents are without power and 48,000 are without potable water.

TIME Chile

Forest Fire Rages in Chilean Port City

Alberto Miranda San Martin—AFP/Getty Images Smoke billows from the forest around Valparaiso in Chile, March 13, 2015.

The number of people being evacuated could rise to 16,000

SANTIAGO – Thousands of people were evacuated from around the Chilean port city of Valparaiso on Friday as a forest fire raged out of control, emergency service agency Onemi said.

Some 4,500 people were being evacuated from Valparaiso and neighboring Vina del Mar and a state of emergency had been declared, Onemi said.

The fire was advancing rapidly, and the numbers being evacuated could rise to 16,000, depending on how the fire progressed, the interior ministry said.
Three firefighters were taken to hospital with injuries and one woman died of cardio-respiratory causes, it said. The fire had begun in a rubbish dump and had burnt some 260 hectares…

TIME Chile

Watch a Volcano in Chile Spew Ash and Lava, Prompting Thousands to Flee

Columns of fiery rock and gas were sent up to 1,000m into the air

Thousands of people had to be evacuated in southern Chile on Tuesday after one of the country’s most active volcanoes erupted.

The Villarrica volcano began spewing plumes of smoke and lava at 3 a.m. local time, prompting authorities to shepherd some 3,500 people away from nearby towns, reports Agence-France Presse.

The 9,000ft-high volcano, which lies 500 miles south of the capital Santiago, is a popular tourist spot with hundreds of people hiking to peer inside its crater every summer.

After about seven hours the volcano calmed down and some residents returned to their homes.

Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet traveled to the region on Tuesday and declared an “agricultural emergency” so local authorities could deal with areas affected by the eruption.

The last time Villarrica had a major eruption was 15 years ago.


TIME Healthcare

Chilean 14-Year-Old With Cystic Fibrosis Asks To Be Allowed To Die

'I am tired of living with this disease'

A video of a 14-year-old Chilean girl with cystic fibrosis asking to be allowed to die has captured attention across the Spanish-speaking world and launched a debate about the right-to-die movement in a region with strong Catholic influence.

“I am asking to speak urgently to the president because I am tired of living with this disease, and she can authorize the injection to put me to sleep forever,” said a teary-eyed Valentina Maureira, addressing Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

The video, which Spanish media outlets said had been posted to Facebook Sunday evening, shows Maureira sitting on a hospital bed speaking directly to the camera. She explained later that she was “tired of continuing to fight,” according to a translation of a BBC interview. Cystic fibrosis—a genetic disorder that causes problems in the respiratory, digestive and reproductive systems—is a terminal illness that typically results in death in a person’s 30s. In Chile, one in 8,000 newborns has been diagnosed with the disease in recent years, the BBC reported.

Fredy Maureira, Valentina’s father, told radio station Bío Bío Chile that the video had come as a surprise to him, though he said he knew that his daughter had been unhappy in recent months.

“I told her: ‘Daughter, if you want to fight, we will fight. You know how your disease is,'” he told the BBC.

It seems unlikely that Bachelet could authorize the procedure. Presidential spokesperson Alvaro Elizalde said that euthanasia violates Chilean law. Instead, he said, the government would provide Maureira with medical and mental health resources.

“We have to be completely clear, the current norm, the current law in Chile does not allow the government to agree to a request of this nature,” he said, according to Reuters.

The story had spread throughout the Spanish-speaking world by Thursday, with major Spanish language outlets on three continents covering the news, and inspired thousands of Facebook likes.

“I did not think it would get so high,” she told the BBC. “I liked it because [it] motivates people. And this [disease] is a reality.”

TIME Chile

Chilean Poet Pablo Neruda Could Have Been Poisoned

Chile Pablo Neruda
Laurent Rebours—AP Pablo Neruda in 1971.

A fresh probe is to be conducted into his death in 1973

Chile announced Wednesday that the death of Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda will be reinvestigated to ascertain if the poet was poisoned in 1973 during the first days of the South American nation’s military dictatorship.

Neruda, a staunch communist whose love poems some consider to be among the most romantic ever written, was presumed to have died of prostate cancer following a U.S.-backed coup that led to the merciless rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet. However, many suspect that he was murdered, reports Reuters.

“There is initial evidence that he was poisoned and in that sense the signs point to the intervention of specific agents … that could constitute a crime against humanity,” said Francisco Ugas, the head of Chile’s humans rights department.

Neruda was a loyal follower of ousted President Salvadore Allende, leading to suspicions he was murdered to silence a potential powerful dissenting voice against the new military dictatorship.

Neruda’s chauffeur claims Pinochet’s operatives injected the poet’s stomach with poison while he was bed-ridden by illness.


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