Cablegate: Santiago Oct. 20 Media Report
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R 201932Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
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SUBJECT: Santiago Oct. 20 Media Report
1. A protected witness revealed that the five
individuals implicated in last week's attack in the Region of
Araucania, where a toll booth was destroyed and several trucks were
set on fire, were planning to attack trucks transporting gas and
oil from Argentina (Conservative, influential El Mercurio, 10/20).
Salitre and other military exercises
2. Chilean Defense Minister Francisco Vidal underscored that
the "Salitre" exercise that began yesterday in Antofagasta "is a
multilateral cooperation exercise that is being carried out in the
best possible conditions" with the participation of Argentina,
Brazil, the United States, and France (Government-owned, La Nacion,
3. Minister Vidal, who will travel to Antofagasta next week
for the "Salitre" exercise, commented on Chile's invitation for
Peruvian Ambassador Carlos Pareja to observe the exercise: "I would
very much like to have him sitting next to me on the airplane,"
said Vidal (Conservative, independent, La Tercera, 10/20).
4. Minister Vidal inaugurated the Chile-Bolivia "Brotherhood"
(Hermandad) exercise, which is intended to prepare both armies to
work together in an eventual catastrophe. The exercise is held at
the Tactical Operations Computer Training Center of the War Academy
in La Reina. Minister Vidal said the exercise is an "expression of
the level of relations between Chile and Bolivia, especially in the
military arena" (La Tercera, 10/20).
5. A force of 2,000 soldiers, engineers, and pilots and 42
aircraft began yesterday the "Salitre 2009" exercise in Cerro
Moreno in Antofagasta. U.S. Air Force Colonel Bryan Bearden valued
the integration of the countries taking part in the exercise (El
6. The commanders-in-chief of the Chilean and Peruvian armies,
General Oscar Izurieta and Otto Guibovick, respectively, met
privately yesterday for three hours in Tacna, Peru. Relations
between the two countries are at their lowest point due to Peru's
bilateral maritime border claim with the Hague, its proposal for
South American countries to sign a non-aggression pact -- which
Chile considers unnecessary -- and tension over the Salitre
exercise in Chile's north. Army sources said that both officers
had discussed all issues affecting the bilateral relationship (El
7. U.S. Ambassador Paul Simons introduced the director of the
recently opened Sub Regional Office of the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA), Ana Maria Osorio, to Chilean Health Minister
Alvaro Erazo. Simons and Erazo concurred on the importance of
sharing expertise with regard to food regulations, labeling, and
nutrition (La Nacion, 10/20).
8. Chilean Ximena Hartsock was removed from D.C.'s park and
recreation office because she is Latino and a woman. Hartsock
said that no one had ever before in the United States questioned
her race or origin and that perhaps her mistake was to implement
rapid and effective changes while in office (El Mercurio, women's
magazine "Ya", 10/20).
9. Customs figures show that Chilean exports to all
destinations fell from January to September, except to China where
they increased 6.3%. China is the recipient of 22.9% of Chile's
total exports and the United States of 12.5% (La Tercera, 10/20).
10. Laura Albornoz, minister of the Women's National Service,
resigned yesterday to join Eduardo Frei's presidential campaign.
President Bachelet's mother, Angela Jeria, also joined Frei's team.
The most recent poll conducted by Centro de Estudios Publicos shows
that Frei has a 29% of support among women voters. This is four
points less than Sebastian Pinera (El Mercurio, 10/20).
11. In yesterday's hearing in Victoria, Prosecutor Miguel Angel
Velasquez described the 16 attacks that have occurred in the Region
of Araucania since 2007. All of these attacks, he said, have
involved setting trucks on fire, seizing farm or forestry land, and
attacking private citizens on highways and roads. The prosecutor
said these have been "duly organized" attacks that are conducted at
night intended to "hurt people's integrity and public and private
security." The ultimate purpose, he said, is to generate fear. In
this context, the prosecutor charged the five individuals who last
week attacked a toll booth, fired at private vehicles, and burned
several trucks with arson and theft with intimidation. They are
all members of local indigenous Mapuche organizations.
Prosecutor Velasquez also revealed that according to the account of
a protected witness, the individuals involved in last week's
attacks had an M-16. The witness identified the leader of the
group, stating that he had handed out several weapons, including
the M-16. According to the account, the group also carried bottles
of fuel and a chainsaw to cut trees to block the highway. He said
the group had fired on one truck, because the barricade had not
stopped him. He said the group knew the number of trucks with fuel
tanks expected to transit the highway (El Mercurio, 10/20)
12. Under Secretary of Interior Patricio Rosende said that the
use of a military weapon such as an M-16 constitutes a serious
matter, but added that further evidence must be gathered to
corroborate the existence of such a weapon in the recent attacks
(La Tercera, 10/20).