Chileans pick up the pieces
The good news from Chile is that the death toll actually declined to about 800, and it may not even reach 1,000 when the final reckoning is made. In the province of Maule, the epicenter of the quake, authorities realized that 200 missing people should not be included among the confirmed dead. The country's resilient spirit and national pride have been symbolized by a photograph of a man holding up a muddy and tattered Chilean flag that he found in the rubble. The scenes of devastation remind one of New York City after September 11, 2001. President Michelle Bachelet, whose term expires this week, declared three days of national mourning beginning today. See CNN.com
The bad news is that major sectors of the Chilean economy, such as winemaking, have been devastated. Also, looting has broken out in some of the worst-hit areas, and over 10,000 Chilean soldiers were sent in to the coastal city of Concepcion to maintain order. The people of Chile see themselves as having risen above the chaos that is typical of Third World countries, but as the Washington Post reported:
... the pillaging was carried out largely by poorer Chileans, and it left some horrified onlookers wondering whether their country had really advanced as much as the economists and government officials had believed.
This, despite the fact that Chile has the lowest poverty rate in Latin America, at 14 percent. Some blame inequality, but Chile has a huge middle class and has less class conflict than most other countries in the region. Perhaps the underlying social resentments were instigated by the Socialist governments of the past two decades.
Mrs. Clinton visits Chile
By pure coincidence, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was on her way to South America when the earthquake struck Chile last week. The first item on her agenda was attending the inauguration Uruguay's new president, Jose Mujica, and she later paid a brief visit to Santiago de Chile, where she met with outgoing President Bachelet and President-elect Piñera. Clinton brought a load of cellular telephones to help in the emergency response, and promised power generators, water treatment equipment, and similar items. See state.gov. It must have been quite a scene when the two popular, high-profile women leaders got together for a talk at such a heart-wrenching moment.
Social media & Chile
In a sign of the times, I was kindly invited to join a Facebook group focused on sharing photographs and experiences of the earthquake survivors. It provided me with a window into the awful situation in Chile that you just can't get through mainstream media. I guess my skepticism about the relative benefits of the new "social media" has been taken down yet another notch.