Socialist Party
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10 March 2010

Chile earthquake: Natural disaster, state catastrophe

ON 27 February a powerful earthquake and the tsunami which followed, devastated the Chilean city of Concepcion and the surrounding area. Hundreds of people are dead and injured and thousands left homeless.

The failure on the part of the state authorities to warn people of the tsunami, together with shoddy building construction and poor infrastructure, has turned the disaster into a catastrophe.

The situation underlines the weakness of the political system in Chile and its capitalist economy. Experts have estimated $30 billion will be needed for the recovery effort, around 20% of the country's GDP - a figure beyond the capability of Chilean capitalism to absorb.

And while desperate survivors were left without water, food, shelter and medical aid, president Michelle Bachelet appeared more concerned with incidents of looting, dispatching thousands of troops to restore 'order' and impose a curfew.

The Socialist Party's counterpart in Chile - Socialismo Revolucionario - reports on the crisis.

"THE FISHING creeks and tourist towns along the coast have been devastated by the tsunami following the earthquake. However, President Bachelet announced on the radio that, according to specialised monitoring services of the navy, there was no danger of any tsunami!

The government was more concerned about presenting an image of calm, underplaying the seriousness of what was happening. This was probably responsible for many deaths.

Governments of other countries quickly offered to send material aid, rescue services and specialised medical equipment, but the Chilean government arrogantly responded that it had sufficient resources of its own.

It was only after many precious hours had been lost in the battle to rescue trapped people that the government agreed to accept foreign aid.

But even the available resources are not used properly. Equipped rescuers from the mining companies, located in the north of the country which was not affected by the earthquake, were waiting for government instructions to assist disaster areas...

The lack of food and water has led people into a hopeless situation. Nobody wants to see children crying from hunger or thirst; this is what has led people to enter supermarkets by force to get food.

While of course, delinquents are using this crisis to loot, the authorities are using this situation to their advantage, masking their inability to provide real and concrete solutions for the population. It is easier for them to blame a few delinquents and order repression.

None of this would have happened if the authorities and supermarket bosses had delivered food in an orderly fashion to the population in need...

A lack of supervision has led to unscrupulous businessmen and criminals constructing buildings well below the existing standards for a country that regularly suffers earthquakes...

It is necessary to build solidarity and action committees in all affected areas. We, residents and neighbours, have to organise and demand real solutions, not only to the current emergency but also to long-term problems."