People of Chaitén protest at the abandonment of their town 9 February 2009Posted by admin in Chaitén, Chile, eruptions, natural hazards.
Tags: Chaitén, Chile, natural hazards, South America, volcanic eruptions
Many of the former inhabitants of Chaitén, exiled to Puerto Montt since the volcanic eruption that has destroyed their town began nine months ago, have been holding vigorous protests in response to the Chilean government’s decision to abandon Chaitén and relocate its population to another, safer site.
The Presidential Delegate to the Province of Palena, Paula Narváez, is currently visiting the area affected by the Chaitén eruption, and was greeted last week in Puerto Montt by protesting chaiteninos who left her in no doubt as to their anger at the decision to abandon their town. The protesters condemned the government and vigorously restated their determination to remain in Chaitén: some went as far as to say that ‘blood will flow’, ‘correría sangre‘, if the state attempts to evict them from their homes. Even more dramatically, the protesters displayed the flags, not of Chile, but of Argentina, their argument being that ‘the neighbouring country has on many occasions given them more help than their own’.
Adopting the flag of Argentina is a very provocative act. In Latin America nationhood matters a great deal, and the symbols of nationhood have huge significance. Certainly the government has wasted no time in condemning the protesters’ actions. ‘It is unacceptable to use the patriotic emblems of other countries on [Chilean] national territory’, said Neftalí Carabantes, Undersecretary of State for Patagonia. Paula Narváez also called the use of the flags ‘unacceptable … an expression that will not be supported by the government or by any Chileans’. She also criticized the protesters’ condemnation of the government as ‘disproportionate’, especially in view of the economic assistance the state has provided to the people of Chaitén since the eruption. The government, she says, wants to work with the people of Chaitén, not against them, and their movement to a safer location is in their own interests.
The protesters, however, many of whom feel strongly that they have not been listened to over the future of their town, have continued their demonstrations – and are still displaying the Argentine flag. ‘It shows how distant we are from the rest of the country’, explained Chaitén councillor and spokesman Bernardo Riquelme. ‘We should have a separate flag. Hopefully one day we will have it’.
It should be pointed out that the protestors have been waving the Chilean flag as well.
For all our Chaitén coverage: Chaitén « The Volcanism Blog.
Gobierno repudia protesta con banderas argentinas en Chaitén – La Tercera, 5 February 2009
Paula Narváez critica manifestación de chaiteninos – La Tercera, 5 February 2009
Como inaceptable califican protesta con banderas argentinas – El Mercurio de Valparaíso, 6 February 2009
Chaiteninos vuelven a protestar usando banderas argentinas – El Mercurio, 6 February 2009
Cuestionan protestas con banderas argentinas en Chaitén – La Nación, 6 February 2009
Global Volcanism Program: Chaitén – summary information for Chaitén (1508-41)
SERNAGEOMIN – Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (Spanish)
Erupción del Volcán Chaitén – extensive coverage of the Chaitén eruption