Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Earthquake Victims Embrace Military's Help

As Chilean troops continue providing aid and security in earthquake-hobbled communities, reports indicate a broad acceptance of the military. About 14,000 soldiers have been maintaining order after looting and mobs struck ravaged areas. "Soldiers organized lines for residents to enter banks, pharmacies and gasoline stations," the New York Times reported. "And for the most part, emotional and exhausted residents...embraced them." Indeed, accounts are widely supportive of the military's response. The armed forces also have provided a vital pipeline, using trucks, helicopters and airplanes to deliver aid. That was a role the military trained for, but taking control of the streets was not. That's where the earthquake relief operation is serving as a test of the military's reforms in post-Pinochet Chile. And if Chileans are embracing their soldiers, they are also demonstrating that the country has turned a page in its history. The Feb. 27 earthquake marked the first time troops took to the streets since Gen. Pinochet stepped down and a civilian government took over. Some leftists, recalling the 1973-1990 military dictatorship, disapproved of the mobilization. Pinochet's legacy remains a political flashpoint. "But the scenes of Chileans' embracing soldiers who aided in rescue and reconstruction efforts after the huge earthquake last month make all that divisiveness seem an eternity ago," another NY Times article notes.

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