Chile: Prominent intellectuals call on Chile and Perú to choose peace
Intellectuals from Chile and Perú call for peaceful end to maritime dispute
A group of 30 intellectuals led by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa and Chilean writer Jorge Edwards released a “Call for Agreement” (“Llamado a la Concordia”) on Wednesday, urging leaders from both countries to resolve their dispute over maritime borders without the use of force. In 2008 Perú brought its claims for increased territory in the sea off the coast of Perú to the UN courts in the Hague, which are expected to return a decision in the next six months. Court hearing will begin on 13 December.
The call for peace comes as a response to fears that either Chile or Perú would not abide by the court’s decision. Last week the Peruvian newspaper La Republica quoted from a leaked copy of Chile’s National Security and Defense Strategy (Estrategia Nacional de Seguridad y Defensa—ENSYD) for 2012-2014, which told Chile’s armed forces to prepare themselves for armed conflict with Perú.
The intellectuals behind this week’s “Call for Agreement” urged the two nations to accept the ruling from The Hague and view the court’s decision as “an opportunity to take a positive step in our relations.” The manifesto said that Chile and Perú’s peaceful coexistence could “change the image of Latin America in the world,” and that discord and distrust between the two nations were “ghosts from the past.”
Tensions high in Araucanía region
Long-standing tensions between the government and the Mapuche people of Chile’s Araucanía region worsened this week, prompting increased security measures from the government and opposition calls for a UN human rights observer. On Monday nearly 150 acres of crops were destroyed in the region by protesters who feel that government and agribusiness are denying them access to ancestral lands. In the last year the region has seen a wave of such incidents, which usually involve the burning of cars, buildings, or crops.
In response to the recent violence, President Piñera and his advisors convened a security summit on Tuesday night and announced on Wednesday that more police would be sent to the region. The increased police presence did not prevent the occupation of a large estate by around 40 members of the Mapuche community in the town of Lautaro.
Government spokesman Andrés Chadwick defended the increase in police presence in Araucanía since the attacks: “There is no militarization in the Araucanía area”, Chadwick stated. Chadwick told the press that the government was doing its duty by strengthening police presence and coordinating with local prosecutors “in the face of increasing violent actions in recent times.” Chadwick denied the rumor that the police were planning to use Mapuche children as human shields.
On Wednesday politicians from the opposition Party for Democracy (Partido para la Democracía—PPD) visited the UN South American High Commission for Human Rights in Santiago to request that the UN send a human rights observer to the region. Such a visit would require both UN consent and an invitation from President Piñera.
Income inequality proves stubborn
Economic data released this week revealed that despite job growth, Chile still has the most unequal income distribution of any OECD country. In 2009 the richest 10 percent of the country earned 46 times more than the poorest 10 percent. In 2011, the richest 10 percent earned 35.6 times more, down 23 percent in two years. Minister of Social Development Joaquín Lavín credited subsidies, job growth, and higher salaries for the increased income equality. Despite the recent progress, Chile ranks 33rd in the 34-member OECD. Ireland does not provide data on income equality.
Compared with non-OECD countries Chile’s inequality picture looks more encouraging. Economist Paulina Henoch told Chile’s El Mercurio that although the country has the worst inequality in the OECD, “if we compare ourselves to countries at a similar level of development we are in the middle, not the best but not in the worst.” Other Latin American countries including Paraguay, Bolivia, Brasil, and Colombia are less equal than Chile.