Chile

Chilean activist Manuel Olate Cespedes was arrested in Santiago on October 29 after the Colombian government alleged he is linked to left-wing guerilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Below is an abridged statement issued by the Latin America Social Forum (LASF) Sydney that calls for Cespedes’ release and opposes plans to extradite him to Colombia. *** The LASF (Sydney) wishes to express its opposition to the arrest and detention of Manuel Olate Cespedes. We also express our grave concern regarding Colombia’s request to extradite Cespedes.
Remembrance Day, on November 11, was celebrated again this year in the Australian media with pictures of red poppies and flag-draped coffins and historic photos of Australian soldiers who gave “the ultimate sacrifice” from the human-made wasteland of Flanders to the stony deserts of Afghanistan. Paying tribute to the ten soldiers killed this year in the long war in Afghanistan, Governor-General Quentin Bryce said that Australians were good at remembering: “We seem to know what we ought to hold onto and what is best let go.”
The rescue of 33 miners in Chile on October 14 is an extraordinary drama filled with pathos and heroism. It is also a media windfall for the Chilean government, whose every beneficence is recorded by a forest of cameras. One cannot fail to be impressed. However, like all great media events, it is a facade. The accident that trapped the miners is not unusual in Chile and the inevitable consequence of a ruthless economic system that has barely changed since the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.
The rescue of 33 miners in Chile is an extraordinary drama filled with pathos and heroism. It is also a media windfall for the Chilean government, whose every beneficence is recorded by a forest of cameras. One cannot fail to be impressed. However, like all great media events, it is a facade. The accident that trapped the miners is not unusual in Chile and is the inevitable consequence of a ruthless economic system that has barely changed since the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Copper is Chile's gold, and the frequency of mining disasters keeps pace with prices and profits.
Indigenous Mapuche political prisoners in Chile continue to stand firm, more than two months into a hunger strike against the repression against their people and the militarisation of their lands. The hunger strike, which began on July 12 and has been joined by four opposition parliamentary deputies and a dozen activists from student and social organisations, is the latest step in the campaign by the Mapuche people to demand the repeal of anti-terrorism laws.
Thirty-three miners trapped 700 metres underground in northern Chile have been told they will not be paid in coming months, despite the fact it is expected to take close to two-and-a-half months to pull them out. Representatives of the San Esteban mining company told the workers’ union that no guarantees can be given that the wages of those miners stuck underground since August 5 will be paid. The company insists it is bankrupt.
More than 20,000 people marched on April 22 through the streets of Santiago to demonstrate their rejection of the Constitutional Court’s ruling, which last week banned the distribution of the morning-after pill through the public health care system.
Violent police repression mixed with President Michelle Bachelet’s bizarre assertion that the right to protest still exists in Chile has been the government’s response to the national Unitary Worker’s Council (CUT) day of protest against neoliberalism, held on August 29. Claims by the governing Socialist-Christian Democrat alliance to be politically “centre-left” now look weaker than at any point in its 16-year reign, given its incapacity to address the underlying political and economic causes that lead to the CUT protest.
Protests involving more than a million students shook the streets and classrooms of Chile in mid-2006. This movement, also known as the “penguins’ revolution” (after high school students’ black jacket and white shirt uniform), arose in response to the continued neoliberal approach to education in the country.

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