Monday, 21 March 2011

Chile: Obama's visit

US president Barack Obama and his family are spending the day in Chile, causing some to wonder if Obama will take the opportunity to discuss the country's past, and the States' role in it. Errrr, I think it's unlikely. Nevertheless, several hundred people are reported to be protesting, demanding that Obama apologise for the US interference which paved the way for Pinochet taking power.

Chile protesters want Obama to apologize for CIA encouragement of Pinochet dictatorship (Washington Post)

In a comment piece in the Los Angeles Times, Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman calls on the US president to prioritise the victims of what he calls "the defining experience of Chile's recent history". Dorfman points out,
A scant seven blocks from the presidential palace, La Moneda, where [Obama] is to be feted by President Sebastián Piñera, 120 researchers are busy all day long compiling a conclusive list of Pinochet's victims so that final amends and compensation can be made.
He suggests,
If Obama prefers places to people, he could acquaint himself with Villa Grimaldi, a former torture house turned into a center for peace, or devote 10 minutes to the Museum of Memory, where exhibits recall the darkest days of Chile's history.
He could even, writes Dorfman, visit Allende's grave.

Ghosts of Chile
(LA Times)

The Miama Herald also notes that "some are wondering what he won't say".

Obama has busy schedule during Chile stop (Miami Herald)

I don't expect to see this visit straying from its official schedule, but at least the issue of memory, and the legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship, is being raised in the mainstream US media, so in that sense, what Obama isn't saying is being said quite loudly.

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