Friday, November 23, 2007

Chilean Base Saves 154 Castaways in Antarctica

"Canadian Explorer" sinks and may cause a huge oil spill

Near midnight on November 22, the "Explorer" a Canadian cruise ship hit a floating iceberg near the Presidente Eduardo Frei Base of the Chilean Air Force. In the collision with the ice, a gap was formed in the right side of the ship, very similar to what happened in the famous incident involving the Titanic. Fortunately another cruise ship, the Norde Norge was nearby and at approximately 6:30 a.m. was able to pick up the passengers that were in life rafts and take them to King George Island, very near to the Chilean Air Force base.
A Chilean Air Force plane was the first to sight the Explorer as it banked on a 45 degree angle and also took photos of the people escaping in four life boats and 8 Zodiac boats.
According to the company that owns the Explorer, among the passengers are 23 British citizens, 13 Americans, 10 Canadians , 10 Australians and one person from Hong Kong.
Facing temperatures of -2 ° Celsius the castaways were reported to have disembarked at the Presidente Frei Base, at 9 p.m on Nov. 23. The rescued passengers will be accommodated at the base's gym and will be transported by Chilean Air Force "Hercules" plane to Punta Arenas as soon as the weather conditions improve.
Also the Chilean Navy sent the "Viel" , one of its Icebreakers to the area to evaluate if the Explorer could be saved but the cruise ship was reported to have sunk by 8 p.m on Friday.
A Chilean Air Force plane was the first to sight the Explorer as it banked on a 45 degree angle and also took photos of the people escaping in the life boats.
The Explorer was built in 1969 and had already been involved in three shipwreck incidents, the most serious being in 1979 when the Chilean Navy rescued a crew of 70 persons that had been filming a movie in the Antarctica.

This year's incident could not have come at a better time since it reinforces the Chilean claim to sovereignty over this territory, contrary to a recent British claim to a huge amount of land. The British pretension includes most of the Chilean Antarctic Territory that has been established between 53° West and 90° West of Greenwich. According to the Chilean government, the South American country has most rights to the area due to the legal concept of "Uti Possedetis", whereby the former colonial power, the Kingdom of Spain had already established its borders since the 16th century. Also the peninsula were the Presidente Frei base is located is a natural extension of the Andes Mountains that has its southernmost tip in Chilean territory.

A Chilean naval mission was the first to land in Antarctica in 1820 captained by a Scotsman called Andrew MacFarlane. Along with his crew of Chilean sailors MacFarlane was the first to land in the Antartica as proven by the captain's log kept by Robert Fildes of the "Cora of Liverpool". In November of 1820 Fildes wrote that his ship came into contact with the "Dragon of Valparaiso" and was told by Captain Macfarlane said that the Chilean ship had been in the area for the past seven weeks and had even landed at Deception Island.

This is not the first time that Chile has come to the rescue of foreigners, a most memorable case is that occurred in 1914 as a British expedition commanded by Ernest Shackleton became stranded in the ice aboard its ship, the "Endurance" that finally sank in November of that year. With five other crew members Shackleton set off in a safety boat to the South Georgia Islands, the Falkland Islands and Uruguay, but failed to get help to rescue his remaining 17 comrades. Shackleton then traveled to the port of Punta Arenas,Chile where the local navy organized an expedition headed by Pilot Luis Pardo that rescued the men on August 30, 1916 under temperatures of minus 24 ° Celsius. Pardo´s ship returned to Punta Arenas five days later and was given a heroes welcome by the population and by many foreign press reporters that had traveled to cover the event due to the international interest of the story. The British government offered to pay Pardo a reward of 25,000 pounds for saving Shackleton and his crew but the Chilean officer did not accept the sum and stated that he had only "carried out his duty". Pilot Luis Pardo was promoted by the Chilean navy and in 1919 was appointed Consul in Liverpool, England.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chilean Football Gets Historic Result Against Uruguay

Nearly beats local team but ends with a valuable 2-2 draw in Montevideo

Another round of the South American qualifying tournament that will hopefully end with Chile going to play in the next World Cup to be held in 2010 was held between November 17 and November 18. On Saturday the first match ended with an expected 3-0 win by Argentina over Bolivia at the "Monumental" Stadium in Buenos Aires.
The second match began shortly after at the "El Campin" Stadium in Bogota, Colombia where the home team could only defeat up and coming Venezuela by 1-0 after Ruben Bustos scored from a free kick with only eight minutes of play remaining.
The last match was held in the evening at the "Defensores del Chaco" Stadium in Asuncion, capital of Paraguay, where the host team demolished Ecuador by 5-1. This result caused the resignation of the Ecuadorian coach Luis Fernando Suarez, that in the previous tournament managed to qualify Ecuador to the 2006 World Cup. In spite of the respect that Suarez has among the Ecuadorian fans, the coach just could not continue after his team has had 11 goals scored against it and has lost the first three matches.
On Nov. 18 at 4:00 p.m. local time, Chile faced Uruguay at the mythical "Centenario" Stadium in Montevideo, the same where the "Sky Blues" (as the Uruguayans are nicknamed) won the first World Cup in 1930.
After this first World Title, the Uruguayans have built up a reputation for being one of the toughest teams in S.America and its players are renowned for their fighting spirit. On the week prior to the match the main topic for conversation among Chilean fans and football reporters was whether the national team could finally change the course of history and manage to get a positive result at the "Centenario", since it has lost all four previous World Cup qualifying matches played there. Sebastian Abreu, a Uruguayan striker, also known as "El Loco" (the Madman) added further controversy as he accused the Chilean players of being scared to go onto the pitch at the Centenario and that the pressure would help his team win the match. After 40 minutes of play, most Chilean fans felt that history would repeat itself as Luis Suarez scored with a hard low shot for Uruguay. In the second half Chile's coach Marcelo Bielsa made a long awaited substitution as Eduardo Rubio gave his place to Carlos Villanueva, the leading goalscorer in his country's first division championship. Bielsa´s move paid off as in the 58th minute Villanueva made a great cross from the left wing to team captain Marcelo Salas that scored with a spectacular diving header. However the best was yet to come as ten minutes later Matias Fernandez (Villarreal,Spain) dribbled into the Uruguayan area and was brought down by Diego Lugano. With all the calm earned through years of experience in such famous clubs as River Plate(Argentina), Lazio and Juventus (Italy) Salas scored the penalty with a precise left footed shot. The three thousand Chilean fans that traveled to Montevideo (some for as long as 50 hours by bus) went into ecstasy since now it seemed that their team would end up with the three points for the first time in history. With twenty minutes of play left, it seems that finally the pressure of playing at the "Centenario" took its toll on the Chilean players as they began to make incredible mistakes, bad passes and avoidable fouls against he locals, that once again made use of their traditional fighting spirit and equalized in the 80th minute as Sebastian Abreu finished off a fast counterattack. The last ten minutes seemed like an eternity for the brave three thousand that were at the Centenerio as well as for millions that were watching the live television broadcast. Chilean goalkeeper became the hero of the afternoon as he thwarted Uruguay from scoring on several occasions, including a one on one situation with a Uruguayan striker that nearly scored after leaving the defenders behind.
Finally the magic moment came as the referee blew the final whistle to end the match, that left Chilean fans with the feeling that the national team could have ended up with the victory. A fan interviewed by a TV crew in a bar in Santiago described the match perfectly. "After all it was the Uruguayans that drew the match, we were winning, they were the lucky ones." Now Chile gets ready to face Paraguay on Nov 21 at the National Stadium in Santiago, and it seems that under the firm leadership of Marcelo Bielsa, many may be getting their baggage ready to travel to South Africa in 2010. The final match was played in Lima, Peru as the local team obtained a respectable 1-1 draw against five time World champions Brazil, and now the points table is as follows:

1) Argentina (9 points)
2) Paraguay (7 points)
3) Brazil (5 points)
4) Colombia (5 points)
5) Uruguay (4 points)
6) Chile (4 points)
7) Venezuela (3 points)
8) Peru (2 points)
9) Bolivia (1 point)
10) Ecuador (0 points)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Venezuelan leader is main attraction during summit in Chile

Chavez gets mobile phone call from Fidel Castro

The recent trip by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Santiago, Chile, to attend the 17th version Ibero-American Summit will long be remembered due to the controversy caused by his statements.

Chavez during his two hour speech

The Ibero-American Summit, which took place from Nov. 9-11, is a forum between Spain and Portugal, two former colonial powers that ruled Latin America for nearly 300 years and all the Latin American countries that gained independence from them at the beginning of the 19th century.


The main goal of the summits is to increase cooperation and improve relations among these countries, but after the recent events in Santiago, many analysts doubt that another one will be held in the near future. Until this year, the summits had been quite a boring affair, with the most interesting activities being posh dinners, folk singing and dance shows, and finally meetings that always seem to end inconclusively.

Many Chilean citizens interviewed by TV crews on the street were unable to explain exactly the aim of the summit. But now, thanks to the charismatic and eccentric Chavez, the summit has become the favorite topic for debates.

The controversy began on the first day, Nov. 8, when the local press noted that Raul Reyes, second in command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, to use the Spanish acronym), had arrived secretly in Santiago.

Raul Reyes,No.2 of the FARC

Speaking in Bogota, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe demanded that Reyes be immediately arrested. Afterward, the Chilean police confirmed that Reyes was not in the country but in some undisclosed jungle area near the border between Colombia and Venezuela.


It seems that Reyes was in fact meeting with Hugo Chavez, who is acting as a mediator between the Uribe administration and the FARC on an agreement to exchange hundreds of jailed FARC militants for an equal number of government prisoners. The FARC rebels are holding many Colombian army soldiers, government officials and politicians hostage in their jungle bases in western Colombia. This may account for why Chavez arrived in Santiago at 6:00 a.m. on Nov. 9 in his brand new Sukhoi aircraft, which was recently acquired in Russia, along with many fighter planes, helicopters, submarines and 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles.

The Singing President

Chavez has become the "singing" president of South America. After walking down from his airplane, Chavez greeted reporters with a traditional folk song called "The Little Gold Coin." The main chorus of this song is as follows: "I am not a little gold coin, and this is why many people do not like me." Chavez immediately began to create tension as he criticized the slogan of the summit, which aims at creating "social cohesion" in Latin America. "This is not enough for me, we need socialism, it's the only way to end poverty in our continent," said Chavez. Then he left for a hotel, which he had demanded not be one of the many American chains in the Chilean capital.

Chilean and Venezuelan Flags

The rest of the day, the press anxiously waited for Chavez's next appearance. During the first meeting with the other heads of state, Chavez caused another controversy by speaking for half an hour instead of the traditional five minutes, then again by not attending the traditional state dinner held that evening at the "La Moneda" presidential palace. One of his major allies in the region, Bolivian President Evo Morales was also absent from the dinner. Morales chose instead to play a football match against a team of Chilean politicians and reporters. Along with a team formed by his bodyguards, Morales scored two goals during the 8-1 victory over the Chilean team.

Heated Argument With the King of Spain

Most international news agencies reported the next incident to occur. On Saturday morning, during the final meeting, Chavez began to accuse former Spanish Premier Jose Maria Aznar of an attempted overthrow of the Chavez government in 2002.

"I said it yesterday and I'll say it again today, Aznar is a fascist," said Chavez.

At this point, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero, who was sitting four chairs to Chavez's left, replied by saying, "Let me remind you that former President Aznar was elected by the Spanish people, so I cannot accept those comments about him."

A heated debate ensued between Chavez and Zapatero, but it could not be heard clearly because the Venezuelan leader's microphone had been switched off.

Sitting next to Zapatero was the King of Spain, Juan Carlos. He pointed his finger at Chavez and shouted, "Why don't you shut up?"

At this point Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, acting as mediator of the meeting, tried to intervene. "Please, gentlemen, can we continue with the normal discussion," she said.

But the shouting match between Zapatero and Chavez continued.

Sitting next to Chavez was the Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a close ally. He defended Chavez by criticizing the Spaniards since he had only been allowed to speak once, "While they had been given two chances to give their opinions."

For possibly the first time in his life, the King of Spain lost his temper in public, stood up and left the room.

After a brief conversation with Bachelet, who tried to convince him to return to the meeting, the King of Spain departed with his bodyguards for the airport and left the country immediately.

The general opinion among the Spanish reporters present was that they had never seen their king so angry. They were surprised by his reaction to the opinions given by Chavez.

The Alternate "People`s Summit"

Bolivian delegation

On Nov 10, at 3:00 p.m., Hugo Chavez appeared at the "Summit for the Friendship and Integration of the Ibero-American People," also known as "The Summit of the People." It was organized by Chilean left wing parties. Many delegations from neighboring countries were present, such as the "Landless Movement" (MST) from Brazil, representatives of Bolivian and Chilean native groups, and representatives of university students from Argentina.

Aucan Huilcaman,Mapuche leader with supporters

Next was Chavez, who for two hours made a constant attack on the United States government, praised the examples of Fidel Castro, Salvador Allende, Che Guevara and even quoted Mao Tse-tung, who once stated, "Capitalism will end as a paper tiger."

But the most spectacular part of Chavez's speech occurred as Carlos Lage handed him a mobile phone. Chavez claimed to be speaking to Fidel Castro. Castro's voice was heard faintly as Chavez placed the mobile next to the microphone. Then the Venezuelan president attempted to connect the mobile's loudspeaker but was unable to do so. "I don't know how this model works, but anyway, Fidel sends his regards to all of you," Chavez saidDuring his speech, Chavez announced that he had made an agreement with the Chinese government to build the first South American satellite, which will be sent into orbit to broadcast Telesur, a television network that already has stations in Brazil and Bolivia. Chavez also stated that Telesur would broadcast in conjunction with Al-Jazeera, the Arab news network.

New Venezuelan flag created by Hugo Chavez

Finally, Chavez issued a warning to the United States: If it invades any South American country, it would be faced with "many Vietnams."
"The Venezuelan revolution is armed. We will not end up like Allende, who had no weapons and was not a soldier. However, in my case I am a professional soldier, I am ready for war," Chavez said.
Next to speak was President Ortega of Nicaragua. He also attacked the United States. In addition, he praised Hugo Chavez and called for an end to the Organization of American States (OAS). According to Ortega, Washington controls the OAS. Because of this, Latin American countries should form a new organization, which would include Cuba but not the United States, in opposition to the OAS.

The ceremony ended with Chavez, Ortega, Morales and Lage saluting the crowd to the tune of the traditional Chilean revolutionary song "El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido" ("The United People Will Never Be Defeated").

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fernando Gonzalez Finally Defeats Roger Federer

Chilean tennis player defeats World's N°1 at Shanghai Masters Cup

November 12, 2007 will be a day that Fernando Gonzalez and many Chilean tennis fans are sure to remember for the rest of their lives. For the first time the Chilean player was able to beat Roger Federer after having lost on ten previous occasions. It was a major feat for Gonzalez since his opponent has been described as "the most perfect player in history" by a former tennis great such as John MacEnroe, or as "the best player I have faced " by Andre Agassi.
At 25, Roger Federer has been in the first place of the ATP rankings since 2004 and until now has won a total of 52 tournaments in his career and in 2007 alone has earned a total of US$7.405.620 in prize money. At the indoor arena in Shanghai it seemed that Federer would yet again defeat Gonzalez since the Swiss player won the first set easily by 6-3. In the second set Gonzalez fought back and won the support of the Chinese crowd by winning 7-6 after a tiebreak and so the final result would have to be settled in a thrilling third set. The action continued quite balanced but in a spectacular turn of events, Gonzalez broke Federer´s serve in the 11th game to go up 6-5 and would be serving for the match in the next game. After two hours of play, Gonzalez was winning by 40-15 when Federer hit the ball outside the boundaries of the court and the crowd roared as the Chilean player lifted his arms in a sign of victory. Andy Roddick of the U.S. ( ranked N° 5 by the ATP) will be Gonzalez´s next opponent on Wednesday.
During his career Gonzalez has won 8 ATP tournaments and one of his finest moments came in the 2004 Olympic Games as together with Nicholas Massu, they won the gold medal for Chile in doubles and also Gonzalez won a bronze medal in the singles. This victory by Gonzalez was not the first upset of this years Masters Cup since on Sunday David Ferrer of Spain defeated Novak Djokovic, a Serbian player that has been in great form this year and is currently ranked third by the ATP.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Fernando Gonzalez Qualifies for Shanghai Masters Cup

Chilean tennis player is among eight best in the World

First the good news: for the first time in his career, Chile´s Fernando Gonzalez qualified directly to play in this year's version of an event that has become the most prestigious in the professional tennis circuit and that will begin on November 11 in the Chinese city. The bad news: Gonzalez has been drawn to play in the same group as Roger Federer, probably the best tennis player of all time and currently in first place of the ATP rankings with 3.400 points, whom he has never been able to beat Federer in their ten previous matches. In 2007 Gonzalez is currently in 7th place of the ranking with 785 points, has only won at the Beijing Open, but has accumulated total prize money of US$1.219.330. Even so the Swiss master is not invincible, but he is to be respected since he was the champion of the Shanghai Tournament in 2006. The other two players drawn in the same group as Federer and Gonzalez are Nikolai Davidenko of Russia with 1.300 points and Andy Roddick of the U.S.A with a total of 955 points. There may be old scores to settle when Gonzalez plays Roddick since this last player was part of the U.S. team that knocked Chile out of the Davis Cup in 2006 during a controversial series played in Rancho Mirage, California. The other group will include two Spanish players, Rafael Nadal (2nd in ATP rankings with 2100 points), David Ferrer (710 points) , Novak Djokovic of Serbia with 1750 points and Richard Gasquet (France) with 670 points.
Even if they don't win the tournament, each player will be rewarded with a life size replica of one of the famous Ming Dynasty "Terracota Warriors" that were discovered some years ago in the tomb of Emperor Kin, that ruled China from 210 to 209 B.C.

Top Int'l Clubs Target Chilean Footballer

Carlos Villanueva could play in Brazil, France or Holland

Audax Italiano is not one of Chile´s most popular football teams, but thanks to the brilliant play shown by 21 year old Carlos Villanueva, the Santiago based club is now in first place in the 2007 first division championship.

Carlos Villanueva by UPI

Each week the club's president, Valentin Cantergiani gets offers from clubs all over the world that want to hire Villanueva, the leading goalscorer in the 2007 Chilean First Division tournament with 17 goals, many of them scored from free kicks. Until now the most famous clubs that have inquired about Villanueva are Palmeiras (Brazil), River Plate (Argentina), Ajax and PSV Eindhoven (Holland) , and Toulouse and Racing Strasbourg (France).
Palmeiras have offered Cantergiani US$7 million for Villanueva´s transfer, but Audax´s president has stated that "we are not in a hurry to make a decision about Villanueva´s future". Another famous South American club, River Plate has also held conversations with Audax, while Toulouse of France is also willing to pay the US$7 million transfer fee for the talented midfielder. Two very important European clubs, Ajax and PSV Eindhoven have also declared that they are interested in Villanueva since these clubs are always keen to hire talented and young South American players.
The Chilean press has commented that Audax Italiano may transfer Villanueva after the end of the local championship in December and the player would be travelling to Europe in January 2008 or otherwise at the beginning of the summer in that continent.