AS BRAZIL’S football team beat Italy on June 22nd to secure a place in the Confederations Cup semi-finals, Brazilians were out again on the streets of more than 100 cities. Though the weekend saw more marches than on previous days, the demonstrations were more sparsely attended than earlier protests. Indeed, the weekend seemed almost quiet compared with June 20th, when an estimated 1.5m people took to the streets to protests against ropy infrastructure, poor public services and corruption.
Victoria Jiménez is one of 10 children. By the age of five, she knew how to wash, cook, clean and look after those younger than her. At 12 her mother, unable to provide for her, left Jiménez and her sister in the house of a seamstress to work in exchange for clothes. It was then, as a domestic worker, that she first encountered abuse.
Never has Chile’s population been so vocal about what it wants. Every day, in the country’s capital, in Aysén, and now up in Calama, social movements continue demanding their rights. Impeding these rights in every direction, critics say, is Chile’s political system. Shrouded within the very fabric of this system, lies the remains of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s most infamous legacy: Chile’s 1980 Constitution.
Lesbian judge wins custody over her children after eight-year struggle against the state.
“The claim of Karen Atala as a wife, mother, and lesbian and the legitimacy of her right to all of those roles in life was fractured by a court decision in 2004. Her and her family’s lives were never the same,” Jorge Contesse, ex-director of the Center of Human Rights for the Universidad de Diego Portales and Judge Atala’s lawyer, told The Santiago Times. “Today, this damage, irreparable as it is, has to some extent been offset.”The Inter-American Court, which heard Atala’s case on Sept. 17, 2010, ruled that the State of Chile, because of the decision made by the Supreme Court, violated several principles in the case of Atala.These principles include the rights to equality and non-discrimination, the right to privacy, the right to the protection of honor, and the right of children to be heard, among others.The Court, as part of its ruling, has ordered that the State of Chile pay US$60,000 in compensation to Atala, or 10 percent of what Atala originally had sought. In addition, Chile will also pay US$12,000 for legal fees.
Atala herself will receive US$20,000 for her suffering as a result of the experience, and US$10,000 for medical and psychological expenses. Her children will each receive US$10,000 for “intangible damages.”
The Court also ruled that the government should publicly and internationally recognize its responsibility for the discrimination leveled against Atala, as well as “implement programs and permanent courses of education and training to public officials at regional and national levels” to combat the poor decision made by the Supreme Court in this instance.
In 2004 Chile’s Supreme Court ruled that Atala’s children would be in “a situation of risk,” which would “damage their psychic development” and make them “objects of social discrimination” if they lived with their mother and her partner, historian Emma de Ramón, in spite of two previous court rulings to the contrary.
The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MOVILH) called the case “an international embarrassment” for Chile and praised Judge Atala for her persistent campaigning for “the rights of everyone in Chile to be given better guarantees of respect.”
While the ruling is good news for Atala and her children, the Court’s decision did not question the discriminatory nature of Chile’s laws, but instead condemned the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law.
Sources from La Moneda consider the ruling to be less serious than they had expected, according to La Tercera, since it has not required the Government to amend any laws, either in the Constitution or the Civil Code.
The decision has, therefore, done little to change the law in Chile regarding discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) communities which will disappoint many who worked on Judge Atala’s case. Contesse told The New York Times in a 2006 interview that “first and foremost we are demanding that the civil code be amended so that sexual orientation cannot be grounds for a judge to withhold custody of the children.”
Still, MOVILH is optimistic about this final verdict.
“Although the ruling only considers Chile’s bad judicial procedure, the decision does call attention to the laws in our country that discriminate against gays or lesbians,” MOVILH said in a press release.
Chile remains one of Latin America’s most socially conservative countries.
The recent incident involving Daniel Zamudio, a young homosexual who was attacked by a group of neo-Nazis two weeks ago in Santiago, suggests that both Chile’s society and legislation have a long way to go in their recognition of LGBT rights.
The Inter-American Court’s decision does send a strong message, however, said Atala’s lawyer, and is a precedent for Chile and the rest of South America.
“Latin America is today debating issues that years ago would have been unthinkable,” Contesse said. “The Inter-American Court is involved in these debates and this decision sends the strongest signal possible.”
“It is, without doubt, a great day for law and justice,” said Contesse.
Victim Daniel Zamudio fighting for life, faces high risk of brain damage if he survives.
Friends, family, celebrities, gay rights leaders, and members of the public gathered in Parque San Borja on Thursday night to take part in a candlelight vigil for Daniel Zamudio, 24, a young gay man currently fighting for his life in hospital after being attacked by a group of suspected neo-Nazis.
About 600 people gathered at the event, which the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MOVILH) organized as a sign of solidarity and support to Zamudio’s parents.
“We want to maximize coverage about what has happened to Daniel because we need to increase the number of people who stand up against the laws that discriminate in this country,” Rolando Jiménez, president of MOVILH, said.
Paul Bichow, 42, attended the vigil with a group of friends and fellow artists.
“We always participate in the gay pride marches and the work organizations do for the LGBT community here,” Bichow told The Santiago Times. “Today we are here as a sign of solidarity to support Daniel’s family, and to fight for justice because these are issues close to our heart.”
The vigil happened just as Zamudio’s parents learned from doctors that in the event their son survives, there is a high risk he will be bedridden and severely brain damaged.
“We are prepared to resign ourselves to anything. The cardiac arrest [that took place on Monday] has inflicted a vegetative state. Now he can’t respond, he can’t see, and he’s bedridden,” Jacqueline, Daniel’s mother, told La Tercera.
Zamudio has spent three weeks in the ICU at Posta Central Hospital following the attack that broke several bones and caused multiple strokes. His attackers etched swastikas into his skin, burned him with cigarettes, and cut his ear open during the assault.
“Daniel’s family has suffered another blow,” MOVILH wrote in a press statement after the cardiac arrest on Monday, “but without ever losing the hope that in the coming days his situation will improve.”
It was in the context of hope and support that people gathered in the park on Thursday for what MOVILH had hoped would be “a show of peace and love.”
“We want to gather in the place where this tragedy started but now we want to give it a different light: a light and energy which we hope can transfer to Daniel to undergo improvements,” the organization wrote in a press release.
At the vigil the crowd sang hymns and placed lit candles around the park.
“I’d like to think that this brings to life LGBT issues to people who might otherwise not be interested,” Alexandra Sachnoff, 23, an English teacher from the U.S., told The Santiago Times. “It draws attention to the problems of discrimination here and is a rallying point.”
Four people have been arrested so far in connection with the attack, which happened early March 3 close to Parque San Borja. Raúl López Fuentes, 25, Fabián Mora Mora, 20, Alejandro Angulo Tapia, 26, and Patricio Ahumada Garay, 25, have all been charged with frustrated homicide for the attack on Zamudio.
One of the accused men, Patricio Ahumada Garay, has been moved from the medium security prison where the other men are being held to a high security unit. Officials have said that this is because of his previous criminal record and the alleged threats he is making against another of the detainees, Angulo, who changed his statement to deny his part in the beating, according to La Tercera.
Ahumada served a five-year sentence for an assault and robbery that happened in Providencia in 2007.
Thursday’s vigil was not only a moment for the public to show their support for the Zamudio family but vital, Jiménez said, in raising awareness about the fight for equal rights in Chile in general.
“We want justice against those that did this [Daniel’s attack],” Jiménez told The Santiago Times. “But the Catholic Church and the political class are also responsible. They cannot ignore it. Politically, ethically, and morally, this is wrong. We need to change the law so that there is equal respect for all Chileans.”
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Another major earthquake and tsunami could threaten up to 2 million residents with floods.
The Hydrographic and Oceanographic Naval Service (SHOA) is using history to create new evacuation plans for businesses and residents from the Viña del Mar and Valparaíso areas in the event of future natural disasters.
“This is Chile’s answer to the challenge of being prepared,” Rear Adm. Keneth Pugh, the commander in charge of the First Naval Zone, told El Mercurio. “27/F was an example for us and we want to improve on that. To do that, SHOA is using more scientists and putting together a committee of tsunami experts.”
A team of scientists from the Universidad Católica in Valparaíso has turned to history, dusting off colonial accounts from the General Archives of the Indies in Seville, Spain, to help them predict which areas are most at risk.
The experts, led by Professor Marcos Cisternas, have fed mathematic algorithms into a new computer system using data from archives that show how a magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck Valparaíso in 1730.
Depending on the hour of the day and the time of the year, between 300,000 and 2 million people live in areas susceptible to flooding in the two coastal cities.
Chile sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a fault line of active volcanoes and geological faults that encircles the edges of the Pacific Ocean, making it susceptible to frequent earthquakes.
Since the historic magnitude-8.8 earthquake that hit near Concepción on Feb. 27, 2010 (27/F), Chile has experienced 40 earthquakes registering a magnitude-6.0 and above.
Due to the National Emergency Service’s (Onemi) poor response to 27/F, most Chileans have little faith in the government response to tsunamis.
“The problem is that the subject only arises when something happens,” Cisternas told The Santiago Times. “We need to have more preventative methods, but anything that can be done is a step in the right direction. We didn’t have anything before.”
The biggest obstacle to improving Chile’s emergency response to tsunamis in particular is the ability for scientists and institutions to work together, Cisternas said.
“I think we [scientists] are quite guilty in this sense as academics are only interested in getting articles published, but we need to learn how to work with political and military organisations and I think we are becoming more open to that,” he said.
Information from Cisternas’ study and SHOA’s calculations will help officials decide which routes are possible to use for evacuation. The likelihood of Estero Marga Marga, a prominent street heading inland from the coast in Viña, flooding to a depth of about 16 feet or more and cutting off access from the main part of the city to the upland area of Cerro Castillo, has alerted the authorities that they need to provide alternative routes.
With the help of Google Earth and 3D software, residents will be able to access a presentation, which unlike before indicates the depth of flooding expected, according to El Mercurio. This presentation will inform the public which areas on the Viño-Valpo coast are the most vulnerable so that they can assess the risk they run living or working in a certain location and examine the available evacuation routes.
The first mass application of this information will be on May 28 when, with the support of 52 private and public institutions, SHOA will carry out a practice emergency evacuation.
The last earthquake in Chile happened on March 17 just off the coast of Valparaíso and registered a magnitude of 6.7.
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As a reporter for The Santiago Times for the last four months I’ve had the opportunity of attending many of the marches and protests in the capital here in Chile. These are a few photos from May 1 which is International Workers’ Day worldwide.
The march, a family event, started off peacefully but soon descended into chaos with protesters hurling glass bottles, metal barriers and paint bombs at police who responded with tear gas and water cannons. Encapuchados, hooded and usually young hooligans keen to escalate the violence at public gatherings, set a local bank on fire. Over a hundred people were arrested.