Chilean pres­i­dent gam­bles on suc­cess­ful mis­sion

The Scotsman - - International - anal­y­sIs

ChILe is spar­ing no ex­pense or at­tempted in­no­va­tion in try­ing to res­cue the trapped min­ers, fully aware that the coun­try – and the world - is closely watch­ing their or­deal.

No fewer than seven govern­ment min­is­ters were roam­ing the dusty brown dirt of the makeshift camp out­side the mine in Chile’s Ata­cama desert this week, not to men­tion the count­less politi­cians, mil­lion­aire donors and ob­servers who al­most out­num­ber the fam­ily mem­bers camp­ing in tents to keep vigil.

With his pop­u­lar­ity al­ready ebbing, re­cently in­stalled pres­i­dent Se­bastián Piñera has staked his rep­u­ta­tion on res­cu­ing the min­ers, and is con­stantly brief­ing the press in a move that re­flects both his back­ground as the bil­lion­aire for­mer head of a me­dia em­pire and the strat­egy that helped get him elected.

“With a con­vic­tion that seemed to border on po­lit­i­cal sui­cide, the au­thor­i­ties bet all or noth­ing, and this time the re­turns will have in­cal­cu­la­ble reach,” Max Colo­dro Riesen­berg, a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity Adolfo Ibáñez, wrote in a Chilean news­pa­per col­umn this week.

What the trapped men do not know is that the min­ing com­pany that hired them is do­ing noth­ing to­wards their res­cue. The San este­ban com­pany has said it can’t af­ford to pay their wages and may go cop­per mine, com­pany lead­ers de­fended their safety mea­sures, but have since gone silent.

This week, the first of many ex­pected law­suits against San este­ban and the govern­ment were filed, and a judge or­dered the re­ten­tion of £1.2m of com­pany money in an­tic­i­pa­tion of fu­ture law­suits.

de­spite ad­vances in technology and in­creased em­pha­sis on safety – at least pub­licly – min­ing re­mains a dan­ger­ous pro­fes­sion in this South Amer­i­can coun­try.

Since 2000, about 34 peo­ple have died ev­ery year on av­er­age in min­ing ac­ci­dents in Chile alone, reach­ing a high of 43 mine deaths in 2008, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial data. A US col­lege stu­dent ac­cused of slash­ing a New York taxi driver be­cause he is a Mus­lim has been moved from jail to a psy­chi­atric ward.

Michael en­right, 21, is ac­cused of at­tack­ing Ahmed Sharif, a Bangladeshi, on Tues­day night. The UN anti-racism panel yes­ter­day de­manded France stop round­ing up Gyp­sies to force them back to Ro­ma­nia. The call came a day af­ter the arch­bishop of Paris de­scribed France’s crack­down as a “cir­cus”.

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

An anx­ious rel­a­tive watches video of the trapped min­ers at the San Jose gold and cop­per mine at Copi­apo, 500 miles north of San­ti­ago

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