Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Polemic Voyage of the Esmeralda

The Navy's sail training ship is making history by having women sailors on board its instructional cruise for the first time. Of 314 crew members, 47 are women. Three are instructional officers, including one from Colombia's navy and one from Ecuador's. Two female sailors from Uruguay's navy were invited, too. While Chile fosters an image of gender equality and cooperation with other nations, the four-month voyage is not always getting good publicity. A group of Chileans who escaped from Gen. Augusto Pinochet's rule and settled in Canada are protesting the Esmeralda's arrival in western Canadian ports this August. They cite investigations that showed the ship was used as a detention and torture center. This is not exactly new. In prior years, the Esmeralda's docking at various ports has triggered protests. Nearly 40 years have passed since the human rights abuses took place, yet protesters continue to aim their anger at sailors who weren't even born when these events took place. At the same time, you have to wonder: What in the world was the Navy thinking by using a gorgeous sail ship and a symbol of national pride as a detention center?

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