From Volume 37, Issue 41 of EIR Online, Published Oct. 22, 2010

Ibero-American News Digest

Chile, and the World, Changed Miners' Rescue

Oct. 10 (EIRNS)—Ironically, from a Chile brutalized by decades of oppression under Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and a never-broken British monetarist hell, has come a rescue action which expressed, as one Chilean wrote to this news service, "the highest degree of love for our fellow man, ... the best message of love we can send to the world." There are lessons to be learned from the successful fight to save Chile's 33 trapped miners, lessons on how the human race itself can be rescued from imminent doom.

Not since the rescue in 1970 of the Moon-bound Apollo 13 spacecraft, which had suffered a catastrophic fuel-tank explosion, nearly killing the crew, has anything so gripped the imagination of the world's people, as the stunning rescue of the 33 miners trapped nearly half a mile underground in Chile's San José mine for 69 days. The rescue succeeded because Chilean and international forces committed to fighting for both advancing technology and to the sanctity of human life, rallied worldwide.

The rescue was accomplished more than two months earlier than expected, due to the unrelenting commitment to apply the most advanced technologies, without "cost-benefit" considerations. NASA, whose assistance was requested by the Chilean government, was central to the return to safety of all the miners, from health and psychological requirements for surviving in isolation for months, to NASA's creation of an impromptu design team of about 20 NASA engineers "from almost every [NASA] center around the country" which designed what became the Fenix (Phoenix) rescue capsule in an intense three days of round-the-clock work.

Other contributions to the effort were made from around the world. A high-technology German Mittelstand firm provided an indispensable device to ensure that the rescue hole was precisely vertical. China's 400-ton, three-tower "crawling crane," the SCC4000, and three engineers from its manufacturer, Sany Heavy Industry, were on hand in the Chilean desert. American manufacturing firms jumped in to help, one providing the successful drilling rig, another the unusual drilling-bit, and the third serving as general contractor for the entire drilling effort. Other contributions came from Argentina, Austria, Canada, Japan, Spain, South Africa, and elsewhere.

Within Chile, the nationwide sentiment of fierce pride and relief over the rescue, but also anger over the conditions that caused the miners to be trapped in the first place, have shifted the political terrain irrevocably. The country's problems remain, but the deep pessimism resulting from decades of free-trade, Benthamite "pleasure/pain" tenets, since the 1973 Pinochet coup was run to impose them, has been cracked, and the principles of human life and ingenuity have proven more powerful.

Particularly ironic, is that the accident put the spotlight on the laissez-faire mining reform put through under the Pinochet dictatorship by José Piñera, brother of today's President, Sebastian Piñera, who first privatized Chile's Social Security system, and then, as Mining Minister, dismantled Chile's mining code, when he served under Pinochet, and opened up the mining sector to both domestic and foreign predators.

EIR received numerous messages from Chileans, expressing the sense of hope. As one put it: "The rescue was incredible; all of Chile was watching. But the country's reality was really there below [in the mine] ... with the subcontractors who are socially isolated; people with silicosis working because they have no rights, or are paid very little, and can't retire on disability; our Bolivian brother who represents migrants [forced to come] to Chile, etc. The union members weren't even allowed to be there.... There's no question as to ownership of the mines: according to our Constitution, all natural resources below the subsoil belong to the State. But Pinochet authorized a 90-year concession, or until the minerals run out. This bleeds the country, as our blood is copper."

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