Hard-right Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has arrived in Europe, and will visit Spain, UK. Italy and France. The trip was rescheduled as his previous plan to visit was deemed inappropriate during the Covid Pandemic. So far the details of his European agenda are shrouded in secrecy, most likely for fears that human rights and environmental campaigners will gather at the sites of his scheduled meetings to protest about his handling of the 2019 social unrest and recent approval of controversial mining project ‘Dominga’.
Chile Solidarity Network spokesperson said ‘(Prime Minister) Boris Johnson is rolling out the red carpet for a leader that has blood on his hands. Piñera oversaw the deaths of over 30 people during Chile’s recent social unrest. These human rights crimes committed by his police force have been repudiated by international observers such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Let’s not forget that thousands of people were permanently maimed, tortured and raped at the hands of the Carabineros de Chile, after he declared in October 2019, “We are at war against a powerful enemy, who is willing to use violence without any limits” menacingly transmitted from military headquarters.’
Sebastian Piñera’s trip to the UK potentially includes a pre Cop26 meeting with Alok Sharma and the Prime Minister, viewed by environmental campaigners as a cynical attempt to ‘greenwash’ Chile’s aggressive extractivist growth agenda and its impact on the environment. The effects of climate change are already causing water shortages with the country experiencing the worst man-made drought in a decade.
Of deepest concern is Pinera’s decision to allow the controversial Dominga project that will irreversibly impact upon the environment, devastating the flora and fauna of the unique environment that is the habitat of 80 percent of the world’s Humboldt penguins, and other iconic marine species such as whales and sea otters.
There is little to stop the onslaught of Pinera’s exploitative agenda having rejected the Escazu Agreement in 2020, that would have provided human rights and environmental protections. According to Minster Andres Allamand, who is accompanying the President on his tour, the agreement was rejected because “If Escazu is approved, Chile could be dragged into international tribunals and, therefore, its sovereignty could be affected by alleged non-compliance with very imprecise environmental obligations”.
Other imminent environmental concerns affecting Chile include the Rapid deforestation of Araucania, that has also resulted in human rights abuses against the indigenous Mapuche people, evicted from native forests to make way for toxic pine and eucalyptus plantations on behalf of forestry multinationals such as Mininco. Air pollution in ‘Sacrifice Zones’ such as Quintero, where chemical gases, including methyl chloroform, nitrobenzene and toluene, regularly leak from the nearby oil and chemical plants. Between September 21 and October 18 of 2018, 1,398 people were treated for gas poisoning in local hospitals, according to the Chilean Ministry of Health.
Along with sabotaging the Escazu Agreement and failing to tackle toxic waste, Piñera is also being challenged over his human rights record. On April 30th 2021, Chilean and human rights organizations together with former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón filed an accusation before the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Sebastián Piñera for his alleged involvement in crimes against humanity during the 2019 protests.
With an economic agenda that clearly places profit over people and environment; a police force that kills and maims with impunity, that Boris wants to do business with a head of state happy to violate international norms, is shameful.