It would be hard to find two countries more opposite within South America than Chile and Venezuela. Excessively rigid rules vs. no rules. Homages to a right-wing dictator vs. homages to a left-wing dictator. Majority white European vs. a rainbow of mestizaje. Wheat, wine, apples, softwoods and salmon vs. oil, rum, mangoes, chemicals, and red snapper.
If there’s one thing that defines the Chilean national character, it’s a love for the countryside. That means that the first thing people do when they can afford it is buy a car. For country-dwellers, a car or truck helps make the rural lifestyle a bit more profitable, as taking crops to market in horse-drawn wagons is more quaint than efficient. For city folks, a car helps people to see the countryside on the weekend. But of course soon enough, a big portion of both country and city folks, once they own cars, become suburban folks. And once they are living in spread-out suburbs, they need another car, and another. It’s a feedback loop we’ve seen all over the world.
I don’t know exactly where Chile is in this process, or whether it’s already too late to halt the sprawl. What’s clear is that the feedback is accelerating. Check this out, from the national statistics office car report, released yesterday: Continue reading
Monday and Tuesday, Chile charged eight emergency response bureaucrats with negligent homicide for calling off a tsunami warning after the 8.8-magnitude earthquake of 27 February 2010.
That quake sloshed the Pacific ocean so hard that it generated a tsunami wave so high that it soaked land as much as 20 meters above sea level and hundreds of meters inland. The wave killed 156 people and left 25 missing. But even as the wave was hitting towns and villages, emergency response agencies were saying there was no tsunami. This week, some people in charge of the agencies were charged with negligent homicide in a trial that is drawing national attention. Some Santiago newspapers are blogging the trial live; here is La Segunda’s version.