Santiago Days (After the Quake)

By 18 March, 2011

Firstly my condolences go out to any one involved in last week’s earthquake in Japan, which at the time of writing potentially includes eleven Chilean families whose kin have so far remained out of contact. Memories of last year’s February 27th 8.8 magnitude earthquake here in Chile are still fresh, and, as you would expect, Japan has dominated the headlines over the past week.

On Friday morning a tsunami warning was issued for the Chilean coast and residents on Easter Island were evacuated by plane. But thankfully the tsunami warning was lifted hours later with no threat to lives or property.

Aside from the huge scale of the damage, and the tremendous loss of life, the fate of the nuclear power plants is of particular concern here at the moment as Chile is in the mist of worsening energy crisis.

Over 40 percent of the country’s energy is supplied by hydro-power (this has been as high as 70 percent during the last decade), but is also experiencing a yearlong drought.

The result has been blackouts in cities with more antiquated power grids. The government has even issued measures that allow for energy rationing, including the lowering of the voltage from the mains. It has stressed however that it hopes that by encouraging people to conserve energy better it won’t come to rationing.

The prospect of nuclear energy being introduced to Chile has become a very real one over the last few months. This had stirred up all the usual debates with stalwarts on both sides.

Now however, all eyes are on the Japanese reactors damaged in the earthquake. With its own history of earthquakes the fear is any reactor in Chile could face the same or worst damage than those in Japan.

The country has already signed information agreements (including the training of technicians) with the United States and France. The deal breaker was due to be, and may still be, Barack Obama’s trip to Chile next week.

The president of the United States will meet with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and nuclear power is sure to be high on the list of topics discussed.

This trip is a big deal for Chile, it represents the first time a US president has been on an official visit to the country, and Obama will use Chile as the scene for a grand speech offering the hand of friendship to Latin America.

Chileans are immensely proud of their country and this is seen as a little vindication of that pride.

No less important in this sense of national identity, the national football team faces their first game under a new manager in two weeks time. The game is against Portugal and has been keenly anticipated with the new coach Claudio Borghi announcing his starting 11 a fortnight before the match.

We wrote, back in December about the previous incumbent Marcelo Bielsa’s departure. However, it wasn’t as simple and clean cut as it first appeared.

Despite saying he would quit if his ally (Harold Mayne-Nicholls) didn’t win the vote for president of the football association; Bielsa stayed on. The election was re-run twice, and still Bielsa wasn’t happy with the new man elected.

It all got very complicated, but basically (deep breath) Bielsa wanted to allocated prize money (from the national team’s success at the world cup) and TV revenue in a more egalitarian manner. The larger clubs, whose vote effectively counts twice, decided they didn’t want this and voted for a presidential candidate who would agree with them.

That man was Sergio Jadue. He begged Bielsa, who was extremely popular, to stay. Power and mind games ensued, however the long and the short of it is; Bielsa has gone and Jadue got a shoe thrown at him by a fan in an airport for not doing enough to keep him.

There is also a very strange video of a man singing like Shakira on a reality TV show that is doing the rounds on Facebook pages across the country. He has been dubbed Shakiro. Sign of the times. If you can take it here’s the video:

Anyway that’s it from me for now. Hope you enjoy the website and feel free to leave any comments or questions at the bottom or @briggsma on twitter.

Tsunami photo by Joaquin Marquez Correa

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