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Archive for the ‘Latin Land of Chile’ Category

Powerful earthquake shakes Chile, no deaths reported

December 25, 2016

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A powerful earthquake shook southern Chile on Sunday, but there were no immediate reports of deaths and only minor known damage. The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.6 quake struck at 11:22 a.m. local time (9:22 a.m. EST; 1422 GMT) near the southern tip of Chiloe Island, about 25 miles (39 kilometers) south-southwest of Puerto Quello and at a depth of 22 miles (35 kilometers). The area, some 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) south of the capital of Santiago, is relatively sparsely populated.

National emergency director Ricardo Toro told a news conference that some 4,000 people were evacuated for fear of a possible tsunami following the quake, but the alert was eased about 90 minutes after the temblor.

“There is no information of loss of life,” Toro said, though he said some highways were damaged. The local electric company reported that power was cut to about 22,000 customers. Taxi driver Luis Ramirez told The Associated Press by telephone from the town of Ancud that he was washing his car when the quake hit. “I’m 48 years old and I’ve never felt anything so strong,” he said.

Ramirez said cars equipped with loudspeakers roamed the streets urging people to evacuate beach areas. A much stronger magnitude 8.8 earthquake in February 2010 generated a tsunami and killed 524 people in Chile.


Chile to countersue Bolivia at UN court over water dispute

March 28, 2016

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said Monday that her government is ready to countersue Bolivia over a water dispute at the International Court of Justice. Bolivian President Evo Morales said Saturday that his country would sue Chile in the Netherlands-based court seeking to force Chile to pay compensation for using the Silala river in a border region.

Bachelet said that Bolivia is claiming ownership over shared water resources and that the Silala flows into Chile by the simple law of gravity. She said Bolivia has recognized the Silala as an international river for more than 100 years.

Landlocked Bolivia asked the international court in 2013 to order Chile to negotiate over Bolivia’s claim for access to the Pacific. The case is being heard by the court, whose rulings are final and binding.

Chile plans hydropower plant — in desert

Santiago, Chile (AFP)

Dec 10, 2015

Building a $400-million hydroelectric power plant in the world’s most arid desert may seem like an engineering debacle, but Chile sees it as a revolutionary way to generate green energy.

The idea is to take advantage of the Atacama Desert’s unique geography to solve one of the most sticky problems of renewable energies like solar and wind power: inconsistency.

The sun is not always shining and the wind is not always blowing, but in long and narrow Chile, there are always mountains next to the sea.

Chilean energy company Valhalla wants to use solar power to pump water from the Pacific Ocean into two reservoirs high in the Andes mountains.

Then it will be allowed to rush back down into a hydroelectric plant with a capacity of 300 megawatts — enough to power three provinces in Chile, a net energy importer that relies mainly on fossil fuels.

“This is the only place in the world where a project of this kind can be developed,” said Francisco Torrealba, the company’s strategy manager.

The two mountaintop reservoirs will hold as much water as approximately 22,000 Olympic swimming pools, enough to generate electricity around the clock.

“The technology has been super well tested around the world. It’s this particular combination that has never been tried,” said Torrealba.

The plant got the green light from environmental authorities last week.

Valhalla is seeking investors and hopes to break ground in late 2016, with an estimated construction timeline of three and a half years.

It is also studying three other areas with similar characteristics.

Source: Solar Daily.


A New “Republic” to Save Chile’s Glaciers

By Marianela Jarroud

SANTIAGO, Feb 4 2015 (IPS) – Chile’s more than 3,000 glaciers are one of the largest reserves of freshwater in South America. But they are under constant threat by the mining industry and major infrastructure projects, environmentalists and experts warn.

The lack of legislation to protect them allowed the global environmental watchdog Greenpeace to create the Glacier Republic in March 2014 – a virtual country created on 23,000 sq km of glaciers in the Chilean Andes, which already has over 165,000 citizens and 40 embassies spread around the world.

“The Glacier Republic emerged in response to a need, because the glaciers in this country aren’t protected,” the executive director of Greenpeace Chile, Mat?as As?n, told Tierramérica.

A glacier is a huge mass of ice and snow that forms where snow in the wintertime gathers faster than it melts in the summer and flows slowly over an area of land. Most of the world’s freshwater — 69 percent — is locked away in glaciers and ice caps.

“These are strategic reserves of water that contribute in a significant manner during periods of drought and are found not only in the high mountains but also in the south of the country,” As?n explained.

“Many glaciers have been buried and conserve important reserves of water,” he added. “These supply water to the river basins, and not only the most basic human activities but also agriculture and the economy of the country depend on the basins.”

Chile, a mining country whose main source of wealth is copper, has 82 percent of South America’s glaciers, according to Greenpeace. However, most of them have visibly retreated due to the impact of climate change and large-scale mining activities.

Addressing the Chilean legislature in 2014, glaciologist Alexander Brenning, from the University of Waterloo, Ontario said the magnitude of interventions on glaciers in Chile was unparalleled in the world, and urged that the cumulative effects be assessed.

“The experts are emphatic: Chile has one of the worst records in the world in terms of destruction of glaciers,” As?n said. “This is the sad situation that forced us to found the Glacier Republic.”

“Because the glaciers were in no man’s land, we used that legal vacuum to found the Glacier Republic. We took possession of the entire surface area of glaciers in Chile and declared ourselves an independent republic,” he added.

The Glacier Republic, created as an awareness-raising campaign, was founded on the basis of the Convention on Rights and Duties of States, better known as the Montevideo Convention after the city where it was signed in 1933. The first article of the convention establishes four requisites for declaring the creation of a state: a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states.

The aim of the Glacier Republic is to push for what the citizens describe as a “five-star” law on glaciers, which would guarantee the total protection of Chile’s glaciers.

The activists want protection of the glaciers as a national asset for public use to be introduced in the constitution.

They also argue that the law should establish that “the glaciers represent strategic reserves of water in a solid state,” and that it should include a legal definition of glaciers and descriptions of the different kinds of glaciers and their ecosystems, and specify what kinds of activities are permitted and prohibited in each ecosystem.

In addition, the idea is to establish in the law a grace period and specific timeframe for activities currently carried out in protected or potentially protected areas to adapt to the new law.

In May 2014, lawmakers from the self-described “glacier caucus”, which includes the former student leader and current Communist legislator Camila Vallejo, introduced a draft law in Congress to create a legal framework to protect the country’s glaciers.

The current legislation allows activities like mining or the construction of infrastructure to affect a glacier, if the impact is spelled out in the environmental impact assessment and compensated for in some way.

In August, Congress agreed to try to move towards passage of a new law. But the draft law, which has drawn criticism from different sides, has not yet been approved.

Chilean glaciologist Cedomir Marangunic, who works with different technologies to save and create new glaciers, told Tierramérica that he believes certain well-regulated activities, such as tourism or development projects, can be allowed in the areas of the glaciers, unless prohibiting all human activity is indispensable for the survival of a specific glacier.

But he said glaciers, especially the ones located on privately owned territory, should be in the public domain by law.

Marangunic, a geologist at the University of Chile with a PhD in glaciology from Ohio State University in the U.S., said that although “some mining” hurts glaciers, “the pollution caused by large cities like Santiago or the smoke from the burning of grasslands and forests” also damage them.

But for the Diaguita Community of Huasco Valley in the arid northern region of Atacama, where the Canadian company Barrick Gold’s Pascua Lama gold and silver mine is located, there is no room for doubt.

“Glaciers are the reservoirs of water that we have had for thousands of years. And today, in times of drought, it is the glaciers that keep us alive and supplied with water,” the indigenous community’s spokesman, Sebasti?n Cruz, told Tierramérica.

Huasco Valley, in the Atacama desert, the driest in the world, runs across the Andes mountains to the sea and is fed by water from the glaciers, added the representative of the Diaguita native community, who live in that vulnerable ecosystem.

Far from living up to the commitment expressed in the environmental impact study, the Pascua Lama gold mine has destroyed “nearly 99 percent of the Esperanza glacier and the Toro 1 and 2 glaciers,” Cruz said.

The Diaguita community argues that a new law on glaciers must guarantee protection for certain conservation areas and must ban any extractive or mining activities in the glaciers and the surrounding landscape.

Socialist President Michelle Bachelet promised to protect the glaciers, in a May 2014 speech to the nation. But since then she has not referred publicly to the issue. A group of legislators from the governing Nueva Mayor?a have backed the draft law.

The citizens of the Glacier Republic promise they won’t back down until a strong law on glaciers is passed.

“For the time being, the glaciers belong to the Glacier Republic, and we will be in a dispute with the Chilean state until we see a determined commitment to a real law,” As?n said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

Source: Inter-Press Service (IPS).


Spain playing for World Cup survival vs Chile

June 18, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The magnitude of Spain’s opening 5-1 loss to Netherlands comes into sharper focus Wednesday when the defending champions must fend off World Cup elimination against Chile, less than a week into the tournament.

Spain and 2010 runner-up Netherlands were expected to advance from Group B, but plenty of pundits — including Brazilian great Pele — tipped Chile as a genuine contender to progress at the expense of one of the European powers.

The Chileans opened with a 3-1 win over Australia, and a second straight victory by the South Americans almost would certainly knock Spain out of the competition. The Dutch play Australia, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, in the first of Wednesday’s three matches. That is followed by Spain vs. Chile and the Group A match between Croatia and Cameroon.


Spain coach Vicente del Bosque stuck with the core group of players who have helped deliver two European championships and a World Cup in a tremendous streak starting in 2008. But after the humiliating loss to the Netherlands, he has forecast changes. Spain needs at least a draw against Chile to remain in contention.

There’s speculation that Cesc Fabregas could replace Diego Costa and Pedro Rodriguez could come in for David Silva. Captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas’ spot is also under close scrutiny.

“In life, there are solutions for everything,” Del Bosque said. “It’s still in our hands.”

Chile hasn’t beaten Spain in 10 games.

“A draw is not bad, but this group of players does not come with the idea to draw a game,” midfielder Marcelo Diaz said. “We came out with the idea of winning.”

Big games by Arturo Vidal and Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez are crucial to Chile’s chances. Vidal, the creative midfielder from Juventus, is recovering after knee surgery and played for an hour against Australia.


Even after its stunning win over Spain, Netherlands doesn’t want to leave anything to chance when it comes to qualifying for the next stage. That means Australia could be in serious trouble.

Wesley Sneijder put it bluntly: “We have three points, and we want six more.”

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal’s strategic masterstroke of playing a 5-3-2 formation worked perfectly against Spain as his team blunted their attack and then made the most of the counterattacking opportunities. Forwards Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben capitalized by tearing the Spanish defense to shreds.

Even so, van Gaal may revert to a more traditional Dutch 4-3-3 system against Australia, which has had two injury setbacks since its opening loss: defender Ivan Franjic and veteran midfielder Mark Milligan are ruled out with hamstring injuries.

Australia coach Ange Postecoglou doesn’t want his team to sit back and try to defend the whole match, and he has given them orders to attack at every opportunity. Getting the ball to Tim Cahill, the Socceroos’ all-time leading scorer, is the key for Australia.


Both Cameroon and Croatia are looking to bounce back from defeats, with Cameroon losing 1-0 to Mexico, and Croatia enduring a 3-1 loss to Brazil in the tournament’s opening match. It appears Croatia has come out of defeat in better shape than its African rival.

Chelsea striker Samuel Eto’o had a brace on his right knee as the Cameroon squad left its training base to travel to Manaus and already has posted on social media that he’s unlikely to play against Croatia.

Losing the captain is a big setback for Cameroon, which has won just one of its 13 World Cup games since reaching the quarterfinals in 1990.

Barcelona’s Alex Song will have to take on extra responsibility in midfield, while Mainz forward Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting is likely to cover for Eto’o and 22-year-old Lorient striker Vincent Aboubakar may get his chance at the World Cup.

Croatia playmaker and Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric is expected to recover from a foot injury and take his place against Cameroon.

The Croatians were furious about a penalty awarded to Brazil in their opening match, which allowed the home team to take the momentum, and are desperate to put that behind them with an important win.

Chile leader to relocate Valparaiso fire victims

April 16, 2014

VALPARAISO, Chile (AP) — President Michelle Bachelet vowed Tuesday to reconstruct this once-beautiful port city according to a master plan that would prevent many of the 12,500 victims of devastating wildfires from rebuilding on hills that cannot be protected from disasters.

The fires that started Saturday and leaped from hilltop to densely populated hilltop may take 20 days to extinguish, Chile’s forestry agency said. While Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said authorities hope to have them fully controlled by Wednesday, every stiff wind threatened to lift burning embers, putting more neighborhoods at risk.

By Tuesday night, the fires had consumed 2,900 homes and killed 15 people while injuring hundreds more, he said. “We think this is a tremendous tragedy, but … it is also a tremendous opportunity to do things right,” Bachelet said in an interview with El Diario de Cooperativa. “What we’re looking at in terms of reconstruction is how to rebuild in a more orderly manner, better and more worthy” of Valparaiso’s status as a World Heritage City.

UNESCO granted the city that honor in large part because of its unique architecture, laid out on narrow, curving streets that climb hills so steep that many people commute by climbing stairways or riding cable cars. Brightly painted, improvised wooden houses hug forested hills and ravines, which form a natural amphitheater around Chile’s second-largest port.

While the city is often blanketed by fog from the Pacific Ocean, it has been plagued throughout history by wildfires that can spread quickly when the wind blows out to sea. Indigenous Changos who lived there before the Spanish conquest called the area “Alimapu,” which means “land destroyed by fire,” said Orion Aramayo, an urban planning expert at Valparaiso’s Catholic University.

While fire victims include middle-class families, thousands more lived in primitive conditions, sharing structures built on tiny ledges of land carved into the hills. Many of these homes were built illegally, lacking water and sewer connections, with improper foundations on dangerous slopes and no way for emergency vehicles to reach them in a crisis.

With so many houses reduced to rubble and 4.2 square miles (1,090 hectares) of the compact city’s forests turned to ash, Chileans debated about whether bulldozers might help solve longstanding problems.

Urban planners called for safer structures, wider streets and better infrastructure. Some cultural representatives expressed concerns that new construction could endanger the city’s rich character. And thousands of fire victims returned to their home sites on the hills, squatting amid charred rubble on denuded slopes that could turn to landslides in the next rain.

Many experts blame the Chilean state for decades of uncontrolled growth. “The government is responsible for having allowed homes to be built in dangerous areas, and somehow it has to show these people that they’re in a place where their lives are at risk,” said architecture professor Jonas Figueroa at the University of Santiago.

Valparaiso Mayor Jorge Castro bemoaned the city’s disorderly development Sunday, saying that “we are too vulnerable as a city: We have been the builders and architects of our own dangers.” By Monday, he was acknowledging that many people would rebuild in the same vulnerable spots.

Bachelet, however, appeared firm in Tuesday’s interview. “Protecting the people comes first. And second, relocating them,” she said, suggesting that the state will expropriate land if it has to. “Honestly, I believe we have to do something more. It’s not enough to reinstall houses or support families. We have to do something more substantive.”

Just 34 days after taking office a second time, Bachelet is confronting twin disasters. Two earthquakes in northern Chile left 2,635 homes uninhabitable, and 5,000 more with lesser damage. She said the reconstruction will likely occupy her entire four-year term.

Housing Minister Paulina Saball avoided saying openly where the evacuees would go. She suggested that camps for evacuees would have to be built elsewhere to house people who had been illegally squatting on unstable land.

“They want to keep living here. The people don’t want to leave,” said Nancy Ortega, a social worker who has spent decades assisting about 100 families in Cuesta Colorada, a neighborhood on the Ramaditas hilltop that was mostly destroyed.

Many people were already leaving the city’s overflowing shelters and retaking their ruins. Hundreds of volunteers helped, climbing through the wreckage with bottles of water and shovels. “We’re going to rebuild right here. Where else would we go?” said Carolina Ovando, 22, who lost the humble home where she had lived with three small children.

All of Valparaiso remained under military rule Tuesday. About 5,000 firefighters, police, forest rangers, soldiers, sailors and civil defense workers joined the fight against the wildfires, which the forestry agency said could take 20 days to fully extinguish. More than 20 helicopters and airplanes flew overhead, dropping water on the smoldering ruins.

Aftershocks rattle Chile as military keeps order

April 04, 2014

IQUIQUE, Chile (AP) — Coastal residents of Chile’s far north spent a second sleepless night outside their homes as major aftershocks continued Thursday following a magnitude-8.2 earthquake that damaged several thousand homes and caused six deaths.

No new major damage or casualties were reported, and a heavy police and military presence kept order. The infrastructure in the area is nearly entirely intact, but with aftershocks continuing, life has been anything but normal. Power remains out in many areas, and hospitals were handling only emergencies. Schools were closed, and large supermarkets and gas stations coordinated their reopenings Thursday with police and military to avoid problems with long lines of customers.

After a magnitude-7.6 aftershock struck just before midnight Wednesday, Chile’s Emergency Office and navy issued a tsunami alert, and for two hours ordered everyone living in low-lying areas along the country’s entire 2,500-mile (4,000-kilometer) Pacific coastline to evacuate.

Among those moved inland was President Michelle Bachelet, who was in the city of Arica assessing damage in the north from Tuesday night’s powerful quake. “I was evacuated like all citizens. One can see that the people are prepared,” she tweeted early Thursday.

Chile’s evacuation order was lifted at around 2 a.m. Thursday. Some 900,000 people also were affected the night before when the entire coast was evacuated for several hours after Tuesday’s bigger quake, although the tsunami proved small.

A 6.1-magnitude aftershock 47 miles (76 kms) southwest of Iquique shook the area again late Thursday. The repeated aftershocks have shaken buildings and sent people running into the streets in the port of Iquique, the largest city closest to the epicenter. About 45 minutes before the 7.6 quake, a magnitude-6.5 aftershock also rattled Iquique. The shaking loosened more landslides near Alto Hospicio, a poor area at the entrance to Iquique where about 2,500 homes had been damaged in Tuesday’s larger quake.

The Ministry of Education suspended classes again in schools in the north for Thursday, while the region’s top prosecutor, Manuel Guerra, said his office is taking action against speculators who sharply raised prices for bread, water, milk and diapers. “They will be detained and charged,” Guerra tweeted, calling on the community to denounce “intolerable” abuses.

The largest aftershock was felt across the border in southern Peru, where people in the cities of Tacna and Arequipa fled buildings in fear. Police Lt. Freddy Cuela in Tacna said no damage or injuries were reported. Peru’s navy tweeted a tsunami alert for the country’s extreme southern coast, which is next to the Chilean region hit by the quakes.

Authorities have reported six deaths, but didn’t rule out the possibility others could have been killed in older structures made of adobe in remote communities that weren’t immediately accessible. The tsunami after Tuesday night’s quake caused the sea to rise only 8 feet (2.5 meters) in Iquique, but that was enough to sink and damage many fishing boats, lifting some onto city streets and piling others up in the harbor.

Still, as Bachelet deployed hundreds of anti-riot police and soldiers to prevent looting and round up escaped prisoners, it was clear the loss of life and property could have been much worse. The mandatory evacuations have been announced through cellphone text messages and Twitter, and reinforced by blaring sirens in neighborhoods where people regularly practice earthquake drills. But many Chileans have not downloaded the smartphone application that can alert them to evacuation orders, and some communities still lack warning sirens.

Chile is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, and tsunamis are a particular danger because the fault zone lies just offshore, where the Nazca tectonic plate plunges beneath the South American plate.

Associated Press writers Eva Vergara in Santiago, Michael Warren in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, and Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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