Saturday, May 21, 2011

Farewell Santiago

Well obviously my blog is being read far and wide and having an effect on the Minister of the Interior. No sooner did I complain about tear gas than they suddenly  passed a law banning its future use:
(it can cause abortions, which of course the right can't justify, and can cause heart problems...the israeli form, which they use here, is apparently the most toxic)
I was happily surprised at first until I realized that might mean hand-to-hand combat because it's not like the carabineros are going to just let demonstrators express free speech whenever and for however long they want. Overreaction is what they do. Oh, but it gets better. The analysis among my teachers at school was that Pinera is very poll-driven and made this move simply for political points. A bit late for that after tear gasing students for 5 straight days on the heels of his about face and perceived railroading of the Hydroyasen dam project.
But it was also in anticipation of his big state of the union address today at the Congreso in Valparaiso where they also celebrate the naval victory over Peru in the 1800s, which was sort of like the Mex-Am war, a land grab of Bolivian and Peruvian territory. The ridiculous 'nationalism' of Chile revolves around this unjust war since there are no other such events to explain the embarrassing military and naval pomp this country seems intent on displaying. This isn't just a Chilean problem of course, it's the embarrasing lowbrow manifestation of militaristic nationalism you can find anywhere (the US was involved in the same kinds of adventures in the same period..Spanish-Am war, TR in Morocco, endless invasions of Central America, etc.)
Anyway, Valparaiso went to absolute hell as the guanacos were hosing people down like animals...and guess what...they pulled out the tear gas finally. So much for the rule of law. It's hard to follow all this with halting spanish but I've been told they had a sudden realization tear gas wasn't toxic or something and legally suspended the law. Whatever the case, when it comes to 'controlling' the population, this country is a circus. I attended the demonstration here in Santiago the night before...40k people...the Carabineros backed off and let people fill the Alameda and march all the way to La Moneda, the presidential palace. I was suspicious. What have they got up there sleeve tonight? All I can be sure of is that it won't end well. It never seems to and that is the saddest part of it all. I decided to get ahead of the march and reached La Moneda before the masses of marchers. As I suspected, it was surrounded by barricades, and in fact, the whole area in front of it was as well. That's when I knew to leave. It was basically a trap. I'd seen this before in SF and fell victim to it once. Never again. When things turn you're basically trapped like cattle in a slaughteryard and you can't escape. So I left before the crowd arrived and watched the rest on TV and sure enough, it suddenly went crazy. The police claim rocks were thrown, but of course they would. And rocks are just rocks when you're in full riot gear. And the majority of the people were peacefully marching. Well, next came the guanacos hosing people down, who had nowhere to run, then the paint balls started flying toward the guanacos, more rocks, several of some kind of non-exploding molotov cocktail. Then two by fours started going through windows and it just deteriorated into the usual rock throwing and hosing. But no tear gas.
What would you expect for the next day in Valparaiso? When people are treated this disrespectfully, what really can you expect? Well, Valparaiso, that's what. The guanacos attacked with water, then the students counterattacked with rocks and paint bottles, and on and on til the tear gas flew. ...
you can see it all here on video:
the beginning:
the full-on battle:
Talk about mismanagement. Pinera should resign. But that would never happen. The rightwing here is shameless; really shameless. And everyone I talk to says they're still in control, always have been, even after 20 years of the center-left, they are there behind the scenes, keeping things on track (sound familiar?). When I saw the president with the naval officers and bishops all on stage for the military celebration, I just turned it off. There are flags for the army and the carabineros (with rifles on them no less) in churches. Good old fashioned Spanish, the rich and the army....same as it ever was. One constantly wonders what could have been....the ghosts of Pinochet and Allende hover over it all.
But the fish is good....Julie Connery hooked up 3 of us (the woman knows everyone on the planet) who were down here with various connections to SF and we had a lovely evening, courtesy of Koichi's extraordinary culinary skills and Maggie's great storytelling:

Peruvian restaurants are the best here and I've been to a few, with Felipe and with fellow student Tamara and her husband Juey. Lots of cerviche (raw fish), great sauces, octopus, etc.
A lot of people don't like this sculpture, but I do:

And farewell to my favorite statues:

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