Pope Francis Begins a Weeklong Visit of Chile, Peru

Pope Francis is beginning today a weeklong visit to Chile and Peru, whose main challenges will be the situation of indigenous populations and corruption.

This was expressed by the Vatican Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, who considered it a journey that will not be simple, although exciting.

During an interview issued by the Vatican information service, the cardinal who carries out the functions of head of government, said that the main objective of the visit will be, as always, the meeting with the Christian community and the Churches.

Parolin stated that when referring to the indigenous people, he thought about the General Assembly of the Synod for the Pan-Amazon Region, convened by Francis for October 2019, in Rome.

The aim of the conclave, according to the Pope, is to identify new ways to evangelize that region, 'especially the indigenous people, often forgotten and without the prospect of a serene future, also because of the crisis of the Amazon rainforest, described as the lung of our planet.'

Hence the importance of this first visit of a Pope 'to the heart of the Amazon rainforest,' as described by the director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, who stressed that meetings with the inhabitants of that region will be 'a bit like the opening of the Pan-Amazon Synod.'

This time, the Pope will deliver some copies of the papal encyclical 'Laudato Si' translated into local languages and will greet the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Baldisseri.

The fight against corruption in all forms is a permanent item of Francis' sermon, in and outside the ecclesiastical sphere, to which he pays special attention to mercy, peace, poverty, social exclusion, migration and defense the environment.

The 22nd trip abroad of Pope Francis and the sixth to Latin America will last from today to January 21 with two stages, one from January 15 to 18 in Chile, and another from January18 to 21 in Peru.

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President Michelle Bachelet Arrives in Cuba on Official Visit

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet arrived in Cuba yesterday to pay a two-day official visit, during which she will meet with the country's highest authorities and will carry out other activities.

Shortly after 06:00 hours, local time, today, the plane of the Chilean Air Force that brought the head of State and her delegation landed at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport.

She was welcomed by Deputy Foreign Minister Rogelio Sierra and other officials from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as diplomats from the Chilean Embassy in Havana.

According to her agenda, Bachellet will meet on Sunday with artists and intellectuals, and the official welcome ceremony will be held on Monday, when she will lay a wreath at Monument to Cuban National Hero Jose Marti at Revolution Square, will participate in a business forum and will visit the Salvador Allende Pedagogical School.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry said that the Caribbean island shares Bachelet's interest in consolidating and developing economic-commercial and cooperation relations, in addition to promoting investments.

Cuba and Chile, whose relations are in a good state, are united by long-term historic ties.

In 1971, the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, visited Chile during Salvador Allende's government. It was the first official visit by a Cuban president to Santiago.

At the time, Allende said that Cuba is linked 'to the history of Latin America, Fidel Castro represents an authentic revolution and we want to intensify the traditional friendly ties that have always existed between our countries.'

The latest collaboration between the two countries took place after the earthquakes that shook Rancagua on February 27, 2010, and Valparaiso on April 24, 2017, when brigades from the International Contingent of Doctors were sent to assist Chileans.

Bachelet was Chile's president during a first term (2006-2010) and was elected for the second time for the 2014-2018 term.

The Chilean leader, who was the first pro tempore president of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), will be succeeded by Sebatian Piñera on March 11, who will repeat at La Moneda after winning the December elections runoff.

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Chile: The Hyper-Neoliberalism that Comes

I tried looking for another title, but this one fits right in, because neo-liberalism had already been introduced in Chile with the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. It were the still, remnants of Pinochet’s followers who celebrated the unquestionable victory of the right-wing last Sunday 17th, taking advantage of all the mistakes of the denominated progressive forces that cannot put aside their differences.

The outgoing president, Michelle Bachelet had called to exercise a voluntary vote in favor of the official candidate Alejandro Guillier, and civic against the neoliberal Sebastian Piñera, but half of the voters did not attend the poll rooms. The majority displeased with their presidency, which barely fulfilled some of the promises, had to ignore the most important and only attained social advances regarding the important task of protecting women and children.

But the latter is insufficient, when a Wide Front and other far-left elements did not value the Guillier’s candidature, before a calm Piñera doesn’t care a bit to make public mistakes, while he already announces neoliberal measures that, he assures, will improve all Chileans.

He had already mocked the program proposed by Guillier who planned to continue the reformations that Bachelet could not fulfill as well as a wide economic and social program that would cost nearly 10 000 million dollars, which, as it was known would try to collect with more taxes to the rich classes in such an unequal country where a simple administrator earns 30 times more than a worker.

Most of the achievements of the Chilean people in these years have been attained in the streets, thanks to massive mobilizations, now new ones and bigger loom ahead because of the hyper-neoliberalism that approaches.

Piñera a businessman with a 2 700 million dollars fortune, successful in the businesses he conducts. He is always keeps an eye on them and only averts his eyes to expresses his support to the current governments of Argentina and Colombia; while he criticizes the presidents of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.

Despite saying in several occasions that he rejected Pinochet's continuity in power, the right-wing candidate cannot erase that, hence he was widely supported by Juan Antonio Kast, candidate of the former dictatorship defeated in the first round of elections, forced to escape from the National Stadium (where were gathered and murdered thousands of Chileans), where he was when Piñera’s win was taking place.

He recently assured that part of his government program will be focused in “greater austerity and expense reassignments.”

"It would be good enough if we can increase by one point the capacity of potential growth in Chile so that we can collect 7 000 millions extra in the coming four years. We have proven that we are able to make our economy grow”, he highlighted.

He also plans to reduce programs like Sense and Mas Capaz based on granting social helps of employment training, although he assured that “it’s not like we are terminating the programs, but rather reassign to efficient programs.”

Sebastian Piñera applied neoliberal agenda during his term and the new proposals for this process go hand in hand. He is a commercial engineer with mention in Economy at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and has a PhD and a Master Degree in Economy at the University of Harvard, United States.

Militant in the reactionary party National Renovation, he ran for senator between 1990 and 1998. In year 2005 he vied against Michelle Bachelet for the presidency, representing to the right-wing coalition, back then it was known as "Alliance for Chile". He attained 46,5% of votes, that weren’t enough to win the presidency.

In 2009 he run for president again and in January 2010 he won with 51,6% of votes.

A letter of the right-wing filed in the pact "Chile Vamos" for these elections, always gave him as favorite. The opposition was weak, abstention was high and not understanding the power of a single vote, if counted, made forget the conflicts of interest for his role as businessman, the conservative politics promoted in his campaign and representing the national wing that supported Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.

A lot will be said of the elected President, while his opponent rival, Alejandro Guillier, gloomily acknowledged his hard defeat and thanked those who believed in him, an approximate of 45,42%, against the 54,58% of Piñera, granted by half of the voters enabled to vote.

Cubasi Translation Staff / Amilkal Labañino Valdés

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Bolivia's Evo Calls US 'Military Empire,' Slams US-Chile Naval Operations

The maneuvers, which began on July 1, include anti-terrain and anti-submarine operations.

Bolivian President Evo Morales slammed the joint naval operations between the U.S. and Chile, called Teamwork South 2017, which started off the coast of Chile Saturday.

RELATED: Soft Coups Made in USA to Control Latin America: Bolivia

Calling Chile the "Cain of South America" on Twitter, the Bolivian president said Sunday the "(U.S.) military empire" and the "small Israel of South America" are training to continue invading peaceful peoples.

"Joint maneuvers Teamwork South 2017: When brothers learn kill together," Morales said in a tweet, adding, "USA-Chile with naval operations Teamwork South 2017: Colonies learning from their masters."

@evoespueblo Imperio militar y el pequeño Israel de Sudamérica entrenando para seguir invadiendo pueblos pacíficos.

@evoespueblo EEUU-Chile con operaciones navales Teamwork South 2017: Las colonias aprendiendo de sus amos.

TWS-17 is a bi-annual Chile-United States naval exercise that conducts training sessions in "intermediate and advanced anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare operations," the U.S. navy's website stated.

The maneuvers, which began on July 1, include anti-terrain and anti-submarine operations. Some fleets and equipment involved in TWS-17 exercises are from the United States Southern Command Naval Forces Fourth Fleet along with the destroyer USS Chafee (DDG90), that will carry two helicopters, a fast attack submarine, and two P-8A Orion aircraft. The Destroyer 40 Squadron and the Combined Task Force 46 are also involved.

The relationship between La Paz and Santiago has been tense since Chile invaded Bolivia in 1879, taking nearly 250 miles of its coast and 74,500 square miles of its rich mineral territories. This conflict between the two countries is currently at the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

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Chile: Students Protest to Demand Universal Education

Education in Chile is prohibitively expensive for many students, and leaves many more with crippling debts that generate huge rates of interest.

The Confederation of Chilean Students, also known as Confech, is holding a march on Wednesday to reject and oppose the proposed reforms to higher education offered by the government, continuing the movement for universal higher education in Chile.

RELATED: Colombia's 37-Day Teachers Strike Ends in Victory for Educators

The students are marching under the slogan: “advancing toward free public education, without debt.”

“We hope that all students, workers, officials, and those who believe that there must be deep changes in the education system can participate,” the President of the Federation of Students of the Catholic University, Sofia Barahona said.

The leaders of the Confech of Santiago have called the protests because they believe it is necessary to pressure the government from the streets in order to implement improvements to higher education.

Education in Chile is prohibitively expensive for many students, and leaves many more with crippling debt that generate large profits off of interest.

The fight for universal education access has become a swelling social movement in Chile, as many condemn President Michelle Bachelet's rolling back of many promised reforms.

In many protests in the past, state police have responded forcefully to demonsrators, using tear gas and water cannons to subdue the students.

“We call all Chileans to protest and express themselves, because this is the opportunity we have to rectify and dispute education in Chile,” Daniel Andrade, President of the Federation of Students of University of Chile said.

The protesters will march at 11 a.m. on Wednesday in Santiago and Valparaiso, as well as towns and cities.

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Casanova contributes 27 points to Cuban victory

Heidy Casanova recorded a tournament-high 27 points as Cuba stormed past Chile in straight sets 3-0 (25-12, 25-17, 25-19) improving their record at 2-1 in Pool B of the XVI Women’s Volleyball Pan American Cup by Movistar at Eduardo Dibós Coliseum of Lima on Monday. Chile is winless in three outings.

Casanova was the only Cuban player with double figures in the balanced offense of Cuba where Regla Gracia and Laura Suarez contributed 9 and 8 points, respectively. Catalina Melo was the best Chilean with 14 points.

Cuba dominated in attacks 53-26 and held the advantages in blocks and 6-3 in service winners.

Sulien Matienzo, Captain of Cuba: “We went out to battle for the points and now we have to play hard against Dominican Republic in our next match.”

Catalina Melo, Captain of Chile: “It was a very tough match, but we need to learn to play against teams like Cuba. I think we have been playing better and better.”

Wilfredo Robinson, Coach of Cuba: “We didn’t want to allow that many points to Chile, but they have grown with the competition. Our goal is to win at least one set or two against Dominican Republic.”

Eduardo Guillaume, Coach of Chile: “The attack of Cuba was very strong as usual, but today they were accurate also. It was very difficult for us to play.”

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Hundreds of Thousands Protest Chile's Pinochet-Era Pension System

Organizers say it was the largest-ever protest against the private pension system in Chile.

Hundreds of thousands of people took the streets in cities across Chile Sunday to protest the private pension system known as AFP, in what the organizers call the largest march for the cause in the history of the movement.

RELATED: Over 500,000 Chileans Protest Pinochet's Private Pension System

The march, organized by workers' organizations and trade unions, kicked off at 11:00 a.m. local time in the capital city Santiago's in Plaza de las Armas, as well as several other cities.

"We hope today we will have a lot of people and show that the social movements are saying, 'We don't want anymore AFP,'" a protester with the Cabreados Movement told Chile's Bio Bio TV at the demonstration in Santiago. "(AFP) is already a failure, and our political actors need to know that the social movements won't stop."

Luis Messina, spokesperson for the CNT labor union, predicted that Sunday's demonstration would be a "historic" march. "Perhaps the largest in history," he said.The protest comes after several marches in the country to demand President Michelle Bachelet end the AFP private pension system which puts the average retirement pension below the minimum wage.

The contested system also forces workers to deposit a portion of their wages and an administrative fee into accounts managed by private hands. This system handles savings for about 10 million working Chileans.

"Bachelet, don't go without releasing us from the AFP."

Last year, the pension fund was modified to reflect changes in the country's mortality rates starting mid-2016. Workers who retire will now receive close to 2.1 percent less money for their retirement.

The pension system in Chile is a remnant from the era of the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, which violently ruled the country from the 1973 military coup against President Salvador Allende until 1990. Much of the era's policies, which introduced agressive neoliberalism and sweeping privatization, are still in the Chilean constitution.

RELATED: Chile Strike Against Pinochet-Era Pension System Turns Violent

"We call on all the working families of Chile to go massively this Sunday, to make it clear that we don't want more AFP, private or state-run, and we will not tolerate cosmetic reforms that don't give a real solution to the low pensions or to the permanent scam that has targeted us Chilean workers due to AFP for more than 36 years," said the organizers ahead of the march.

The spokesman of the Movement of Independent Citizens No+AFP, which translates to "No More AFP," Mauricio Mattus, called on all Chileans to participate.

"This is a citizen movement and not a political one, he said. "For that reason, we also make a call not to attend with political allusions, this is a transversal movement in which everyone can join but is far from having a political tendency," he said.

In August 2016, 350,000 people protested in Santiago against the pension system that president Michelle Bachelet promised to reform. The government is expected to present such plan in about a month. 

 

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Massive Wildfires in Chile Devastate Entire Town, Kill 6

The death toll has reached six, with the fires displacing thousands of people in a government-declared state of emergency.

More than a thousand houses were reduced to ashes in the town of Santa Olga, Chile, as forest fires continue consuming a large part of the central zone of the South American country.

PHOTOS: Chileans Battle Horrific Fire in UNESCO World Heritage Site

“Nobody can imagine what happened in Santa Olga. What we have experienced here is literally like Dante's Inferno,” said Mayor of Constitucion, Carlos Valenzuela. “We were recovering after the last earthquake, but this tragedy has messed up everything.”

The death toll has reached six. As the fires displace thousands of people, the government has declared a state of emergency and has allocated personnel and resources to handle the situation.

The National Forestry Corporation said in a statement dozens of growing wildfires have so far destroyed some 238,000 hectares of forests in central and southern Chile, forcing the evacuation of at least 4,000 people.

"From the beginning we have dedicated all our efforts and resources," said President Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday. She also highlighted that the priority is "to save the lives of our compatriots."

RELATED: 100,000 Hectares of Chilean Forest Lost as Wildfire Rages On

Bachelet, who spoke in a press conference, thanked the international aid that has reached Chile so far, especially specialized rescuers sent from Mexico, Colombia, Peru and France.

"There are 99 fires, of which 30 have been controlled, and our civil protection corps are now struggling to control the rest," the president said and announced that she’ll meet with intelligence agents in coming hours "to determine the causes of these fires," since it has not been ruled out that the fires were provoked due to the abundance of them.

All affected areas are under a state of emergency, while several cities, including capital Santiago, are shrouded in smoke. Thousands of emergency workers and firefighters are trying to curb and extinguish the flames amid strong winds and a heat wave. These natural disasters often occur in parched woods during the summer and many of them are sparked as a result of human activity.

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