This Country is Not For Sale

The date January 20, 2010, should be remembered as the Maritime Miracle Day. For on that day occurred what was least expected -- the end to the process of the “privatization of the sea” and a happy adios to the so-called “progressives” and “socialists” of the Michelle Bachelet government.

The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Chile’s Congress, had initially voted on May 20, 2009, for reforms tantamount to the privatization of the sea with 92 votes in favor and just one against (the leftist Party for Democracy’s Deputy René Alinco). But now, barely 8 months later, the votes were mostly against this new assault on the natural patrimony of Chileans. 
Forty-six deputies voted for stopping the attempt by the salmon industry and the banks to own forever our Chilean southern sea as a way to pay off the debts that have mounted  from over 20 years of living the fantasy that Chile is the perfect environment for salmon cultivation. An attempt to deliver our southern sea to the Norwegian, Spanish and Japanese salmon industry, who in turn will hand over the sea to the creditor banks, among them Spanish and Dutch banks.
Barely 24 hours before, and after the socialist government had reached an “agreement” (in exchange for their support they will get an office for the organization in Puerto Montt or Castro, any resemblance to bribery is mere coincidence), with the salmon workers union, CONATRASAL, the Chilean Senate approved the “patriotic” assault on the future of Chileans by a wide margin.
But the decision of the Chamber of Deputies to reject that assault was certainly unexpected. For everyone. Especially the government servants, who had already begun celebrating another success for their modus operandi, called in Chile “influence trafficking,” which has helped maintained an environmentally, socially and economically unsustainable salmon aquaculture industry the past two decades.
Why did the same deputies that 8 months ago approved in record time the privatization of the sea this time massively change their vote? 
Maybe they did so because they realized that the information wall put up by Mundo Acuícola, Radio Digital, El Llanquihue newspaper and the Diario de Aysén newspaper, among other dis-information media, had been penetrated by citizen campaigns that openly condemned this last bad idea of the outgoing President Bachelet.
Maybe they did so because more than one deputy likely found on the street someone asking for an explanation about his or her initial vote in favor of this assault, or more than one deputy felt moved by Senator Guido Girardi’s declaration when he pointed out, moments before the second round of elections, that these type of projects make people not want to vote for candidates from the ruling “center-left” coalition government called the “Concertación.”  
Maybe because the deputies found time to read and study the fantasy solutions to the sanitary problems in salmon aquaculture contained in the fishing law reforms that were the result of the official Salmon Work Group coordinated by Felipe Sandoval.
Maybe more than one of those deputes that initially privatized our future, watched the film “Avatar” before going to the Congress to vote again against his own destiny. 
Multiple reasons could explain how 45 deputies recovered their common sense.
Now, however, Felipe Sandoval and SalmonChile President Cesar Barros are betting that the miracle of January 20th will fade when the new government takes power in March 2010, allowing them to make it possible for Chileans to celebrate their bicentenial without a sea. And their prayers are also aimed at the outgoing government, with whom the are requesting to exchange the initial check of US$125 million that they requested at the end of 2007 for one amounting to US$1 billion because the debt for the ineptitudes and failures that have gathered over the past two decades has reached to that extreme. 
Only with the privatization of the sea - and a gift of $US 1 billion from all Chileans to the salmon industry -will Marine Harvest and the Norwegians then supposedly shake the dread that they feel about the possibility to have to “invest” in a country that does not want to give them more money, and especially their sea. Said Alvaro Jiménez, manager of Marine Harvest Chile to the Santiago daily El Mercurio on January 23: “Marine Harvest investments depends at the end of the day on this law, and this delay means that they won’t do the necessary investments. In Norway, they are not willing to invest the millions of dollars that we need in the industry if we don’t know how the good environmental conditions that we have today are going to hold.” 
Added Jimenez: “It provokes fear in Norway that the Chilean state won’t have these faculties… because we could return to have a crisis…”
For this Chilean manager, the privatization of the sea is a guarantee for keeping the “good environmental conditions” of the salmon industry. No doubt, that’s another “innovation” of this successful economic sector.
In March, with a new government and a new parliament, we will again find renewed attention on the future of Chile's southern sea. Once again the Congress will test their rationality, their common sense. Until then, we will continue to condemn this neoliberal inheritance left to us by a socialist government that still does not understand that people will vote and that the people of Chilean Patagonia are capable of defending their territory at the polls.
And those who have resisted up till now this assault, we will get signatures on a petition against the privatization of the sea, we will walk with banners against injustice all across this country, and most of all, we will establish a people that lives in a country that is not for sale. 

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