Greenpeace Chile announced on March 5 that it had established a new country in the glacial regions of southern Chile, the "Glacier Republic." The group said the country will remain independent until the Chilean government passes laws to protect Chile's glaciers. Greenpeace based its claim to the territory on a loophole in Chile's laws, which include no claim to sovereignty over the glaciers. In the past the loophole has made the glacial regions vulnerable to environmental damage by mining companies, but Greenpeace now hopes to use it as a way of bringing attention to projects such as the mammoth Pascua Lama mine that the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation has been building high the mountains on both sides of the border with Argentina. Greenpeace is also targeting what it calls "an even greater danger"—the Andina 244 project of the state-owned copper company Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile (Codelco), which Greenpeace says "provides for the destruction of 5,000 hectares of glaciers, directly affecting water reserves for Chile's entire central zone."
Chile's President Sebstián Piñera filed an official complaint Feb. 12 laying claim to 3.7 hectares (nine acres) of desert on the border with Peru—re-opening the border conflict between the two nations after a January ruling at The Hague had resolved a long-standing dispute on the maritime boundary. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Chile could maintain its sovereignty of fishing waters near the coast but granted Peru control of deeper waters to the southwest. After the ruling, Peru's government released a map designating the contested land triangle as its own—which was immediately rejected by Santiago, citing a 1929 treaty. Piñera's formal assertion of sovereignty over the contested strip follows friction with Peru's President Ollanta Humala at Pacific Alliance summit in Colombia earlier in the week. Following the meeting, Piñera publicly broached withdrawing from the Pact of Bogotá, the regional treaty granting the ICJ jurisdiction in international disputes.
Chilean farmer José Pizarro Montoya received 37 million pesos (about US$66,582) in December from Agrícola Nacional S.A.C. (ANASAC), a Chilean distributor of agricultural products, to settle a suit he brought over the use of genetically modified (GM) corn seed from the Missouri-based Monsanto Company. Pizarro charged that ANASAC violated its contract with him by giving instructions for planting the Monsanto corn that resulted in business losses and eventually ruined him. The Santiago Chamber of Commerce found in Pizarro's favor, and the Santiago Court of Appeals confirmed the decision in September. Pizarro is thought to be the first farmer in Chile—possibly the first in Latin America--to win a suit over the use of Monsanto's GM seeds.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN's highest court, issued a ruling (PDF) establishing a new maritime boundary between Peru and Chile on Jan. 27. The ICJ granted (PDF) Peru some parts of the Pacific Ocean formerly controlled by Chile but left Chile prosperous coastal fishing grounds. The decision ends disputes over the 14,670 square miles of abundant fishing waterways. Peru had wanted the maritime board to extend perpendicularly from where the land borders of the two countries meet the ocean, while Chile wanted the border to run parallel to the equator. The ICJ's decision represents a compromise, extending the border parallel to the equator for 80 nautical miles from the coastline and then continuing the border out to the southwest. The ICJ's ruling is final and cannot be appealed, and the presidents of both Peru and Chile have promised to honor the decision.
A wildcat strike has shut down several Chilean ports for the past three weeks, with the fruit and mineral industries claiming $100 million in losses. The strike began Jan. 3 at the port of San Antonio, over retroactive pay for lunch breaks, but solidarity strikes quickly spread to Angamos, Iquique and other ports, coordinated by a "de facto" body, the Unión Portuaria de Chile, not recognized as an "official" union. Only two major ports are unaffected, Valparaiso and Coquimbo, with the Federation of Fruit Producers (Fedefruta) warning of "a really untenable situation for everyone working in the fruit sector." On Jan. 13, police special forces occupied the port of San Antonio, using tear-gas and water cannons in an attempt to break blockades and bring in "replacement workers." In a similar conflict that day in Antofagasta, the offices of Ultraport company were reportedly ransacked by strikers. Government officials met with strike leaders Jan. 22, but no agreement was reached. The following day, an industry-backed Comité Puertos Sin Paro (Strike-Free Port Committee) held a motorcade protest in Santiago. The Unión Portuaria has issued a call for international solidarity strikes. (Mundo Maritimo, Jan. 24; Port Strategy, The Packer, La Tercera, Chile, 24 Horas, Chile, Fedefruta, Jan. 23; SeaTrade Global, Jan. 22; La Tercera, AP, Jan. 18; EFE, Jan. 13)
The body of Chilean environmental activist Nicolasa Quintreman, an indigenous Mapuche from the Pehuenche subgroup, was found on Dec. 24 floating in the Lago Ralco reservoir in Alto Bío Bío commune in the central Bío Bío region. Prosecutor Carlos Diaz said there was no evidence of violence. The 74-year-old Quintreman, who was visually impaired, "apparently slipped and fell into the lake," he said. Together with her sister Berta Quintreman, who survived her, Nicolasa Quintreman led a 10-year fight to stop the Endesa power company from building a dam on the Bío Bío river and flooding their ancestral village. The dam was eventually built, producing the reservoir in which Nicolasa Quintreman drowned. But the campaign of peaceful protests that the sisters led in the face of tear gas, rubber bullets and illegal raids by police was an inspiration for the growth of Chile's environmental movement.
The Dakar Rally Raid motor-race across the Andes has already claimed three lives since leaving Rosario, Argentina, on Jan. 4—a motorcylist and two "spectators" who were following the race in a vehicle. Progress was finally halted five days later when residents and municipal workers in the Argentine town of Juan Alberdi, Tucumán province, blocked the road to prevent passage. (Al Jazeera, Jan. 11; EFE, El Gráfico, Buenos Aires, Jan. 9) Meanwhile, the Chilean Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the motor-race brought by the College of Archaeologists of Chile, who site damage to ancient petroglyphs in a previous Dakar Rally through the country. The group's vice president Paola González, told France24: "In Chile, a national monuments law considers this a punishable crime. Nevertheless, the destruction with impunity of our national heritage continues."
A Chilean judge found eight former members of the military guilty of murder on Dec. 23 for their roles in killings perpetrated during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The men were members of the "Caravan of Death," a military operation involved in the suppression of political opponents during the 1973 coup that brought Pinochet to power. The Caravan of Death was responsible for the deaths of nearly 100 people between September and October of 1973. The group travelled to at least 16 towns during that time, though this conviction only relates to killings that took place in the city of Antofagasta. The accused have been sentenced to between three to 15 years in prison, though their sentence may still be subject to appeal.