Posts Tagged ‘Chile’

Good Friday and Valparaiso.

April 19, 2014
Fire at Valparaiso

Fire at Valparaiso

Yesterday things were so quiet you could hear a sole pigeon flapping its wings on the main street. Good Friday is seen as a day of mourning and the usual clamour of shoppers and their trolleys had ceased. W.H Auden’s muffled drums were tolling, even dogs did not bark. Cars were driven in reverse gear only. Later on the TV, a procession was seen showing a man struggling with a heavy wooden cross barefooted through a main street somewhere. A small crowd was lining the pavement. Children were confused. Should they cheer him on with little flags or cry? If he thought he was on his way to Mount Calvary, what was he doing on the Sydney M5 overpass near Liverpool? That same man, still barefooted and wearing his crown of thorns was interviewed later on ABC TV.

It is all so confusing but at least he had his moment of fame. The day remained terribly silent. All was closed and barred up. Remarkably, the one shop that was open were selling croissants, Vienna sour dough crusty bread and whole fish including giant trouts and snappers, prawns, lobsters, head and all. (no crowns). I was feeling a resurgence of spirits and decided to add some colour to this grey and sombre day. Many customers were pushing and shoving for food proving that the closure of shops did not lesson customers on and about wanting to buy items for later digestion. I recklessly splurged out on a whole snapper and a sour dough crusty bread. It is not as if Good Friday is a day of obligatory mourning for everyone. Once I learnt that my hobby of masturbation was a serious offence with a special place for the serial offender reserved in the hottest of hells, I tossed the whole lot overboard and joined that army of un-repenting onanists and hopeful fornicators. I am not surprised that that poor man was reduced to carrying that cross around barefooted. Further footage on the ABC news showed men self flagellating in Chile or was it Peru? Seeing that, my thoughts went back when we were in Chile many years ago during the Pinochet reign of terror. He was a very good and devout Catholic. Margaret Thatcher remembered him fondly.

We landed in Argentina and after some time in Buenos Aires took a flight to Mendoza and from there a bus over the Andean mountains to Santiago in Chile. The capitol was tense and even though lots of people were about and cafes doing well, the sight of armed soldiers with machine guns at the ready did not make for a relaxed atmosphere. Every time we thought things were quiet and relaxed a mass of people would be running through the streets and a tank would appear. Shops had their shutters pulled down in seconds and the streets became eerily quiet. ( Not unlike Good Friday in Bowral). This happened also during one evening when we went out to have a meal. A disturbance somewhere and again all people rushed away or went indoors. Within minutes the shops were deserted with shutters pulled down. All was now barred and hidden. We had no clear recognisable street signs or beacons to guide us back to the house were we were staying. A soldier with a gun stopped us as were about the only ones still defying the impromptu curfew. We showed him the address where we were lodging and he showed us the way back. It was all a bit sinister and dangerous. We were younger then and the adrenalin made us take risks we would not take now. Today we feel we take lives in our hands shopping for giant Marigolds at the local nursery or a bolt cutter spanner at Bunnings-Hardware or even queuing at the local ATM.

After a week or two in Santiago we went to coastal Valparaiso. Valparaiso was again in the news last week. A dreadful fire had consumed a suburb of that glorious city. It was on that same steep hill consumed by that recent fire that we walked up all those years ago to have some lunch. We were told that Valparaiso had a large second hand book market. We walked around it for a couple of hours. I have never seen a book market like it. A bit like the Hermitage but for books only. Millions of them and in all languages. As we walked up that steeped hill we noticed the tightly packed houses had many trees. Especially the Australian Casuarina and Eucalyptus. Sadly it must have been those very flammable trees that added to the devastation in Valparaiso last week.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-27029252

Dutch News. “Us and Them.”

November 10, 2012

Annemarie van Gaal: Developing countries

Thursday 08 November 2012

Developing countries are catching up fast. Development aid can be more of a hindrance than a help, writes Annemarie van Gaal

We are cutting the development aid budget by €1bn a year and this is a good thing. The inequality in the world is no longer a matter of ‘us’, the industrialised world, and ‘them’, the third-world countries. Inequality is mainly a problem within the countries themselves and throwing money at it is not going to solve it. If anything, it will make it worse.

In 1990 the Dutch gave massively to ‘Help the Russians through the winter’, as the slogan had it. We were bombarded daily with images of desperate Russians in empty shops, shivering children and long queues outside soup kitchens. Sonja Barend hosted a programme from a shabby little studio in Moscow and the Dutch donated generously. The whole thing was a great success and the Russians were ‘saved’.

Free market

In fact, there was no lack of food in Russia. The only problem the country was struggling with was its rapid development. Russia was emerging from a communist regime and had trouble adapting to the free market. Under communism, goods were produced and trucks trundled back and forth according to a fixed route. Nobody asked whether the goods were actually answering a demand or whether the trucks were going to the right place.

Moreover, Russian officials had no intention of giving up their comfortable positions, so they preferred to keep the food-laden trucks waiting at customs for weeks instead of promoting a quicker flow. The real problem was a lack of compassion from the haves for the have nots, the division of wealth and the inequality between the different layers of Russian society itself. No amount of money was going to solve that.

Gap

On Ted.com Hans Rosling, one of the founders of Doctors without borders, compares our perception of third world countries with the reality on the ground. According to Rosling, third world countries are catching up fast. Some differences remain but these countries are developing at a much quicker rate than any western country.

He supports his comment with a graph showing child mortality on the y-axis and the gross national product on the x-axis. If you look at these data over time you will see that third world countries are gaining rapidly on the industrialised countries.

A century ago the gap between a country like Chile and the United States and Western Europe was huge. Right now, Chile’s economic welfare level is comparable to that of the US in 1957. But because the Chilean economy is growing at a faster rate than that of the US, Chile could well be replacing the US on Gosling’s graph in twenty or thirty years’ time. Ghana is now where Sweden was in 1900. In 1920 Sweden was where Egypt is now and in 1950 the Swedish economy was at the level Mexico is at right now.

Healthcare

Former third world countries in Asia, the Middle East and South America already have better healthcare systems than the industrialised nations. It won’t be long before they beat us economically as well

Rosling thinks the term ‘third world countries’ should be scrapped. If we didn’t hold them back by handing over our money – which ends up lining the wrong pockets and keeps the wrong people in power -these countries would develop a damn sight more quickly than many a western country. The greatest problem that these countries have to tackle is the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’ within their own borders.

Annematie van Gaal is head of publishing company AM Meda. She is also a writer and television personality

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