Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bolivian Soldiers Held After Straying into Chile

Off to Chilean jail. (SoyChile.cl)
Three Bolivian soldiers who crossed into Chile Jan. 25 have been arrested and remain in a Chilean jail. The three were ordered held for 15 days for entering Chile with an assault rifle. The Bolivians apparently were pursuing car thieves, which are common along the Chile-Bolivia border. The incident seems like a simple mistake by a patrol that could have benefited from a GPS device. But since Bolivia is pressing to regain territory to the Pacific, relations between the two countries have chilled. So, Chile's government is not in a forgiving mood. Bolivia's government protested that the jailing of its soldiers is a disproportionate and "unfriendly" reaction. Military entries by Bolivians into Chile aren't new. In June 2011, Bolivian troops strayed into Chile and were held for several days before being sent back home. Update: The three soldiers rejected a plea bargain and are headed to trial. Two were released but cannot return to Bolivia, while the third was ordered held under house arrest.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Chile Seeks to Widen Influence in Antarctica

Raising the flag in Antarctica
Chile's Air Force has started work on a base at the Union Glacier, the country's deepest penetration into Antarctica. It is roughly 600 miles from the South Pole and inside the Polar Circle, where temperatures habitually are around -20 Fahrenheit. The base is one of four small Chilean bases used mainly for scientific research, and is one of the few places on the continent with a runway long enough to land Hercules C-130s. But there's a lot more to the project than just penguin watching. President Sebastian Piñera is making Antarctica a territorial priority amid claims by Britain and other countries in the region. He made Chile's stakes clear, visiting the base site himself to make the point and plant the Chilean flag. "The government wants to take another step to reinforce our presence...in Antarctica," the president said. The base "will allow us to project our country into the Antarctic Continent, the continent of the future." Only the U.S. and China have bases as far south as Union Glacier. Update: A story by UPI expands on Chile's ambitions for Antarctica.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mapuche Conflict Turning More Deadly; Military Enters the Fray

Extremists belonging to the Mapuche indigenous group are carrying out a wave of arson attacks, including one that killed an elderly couple. Police have arrested a suspect, a man who apparently was shot by the man who died in the blaze. The incident followed an attack Dec. 21 in which a group believed to be Mapuches raided an estate, killing a man watching over the property and wounding his wife. The government responded with special measures, including a special prosecutor, 84 more police in the Araucania region (to 400), a second police helicopter with night-vision equipment in the region and an increase in the number of armored vehicles to ten from six. More importantly, President Sebastian Piñera is putting to use Chile's controversial anti-terrorism law, under which suspects can be held without charge, wiretaps can be set, and other civil liberties can be restricted. Now, Chile's military is involved, if only in a tangential way: The heads of the armed forces have met with police authorities for "technical coordination" and sharing of intelligence resources. The use of troops to fight extremists has not been discussed. So far.