The Chilean miners: What was that TV show hiding?

Chilean Miners : What was the TV Show hiding ?
Camila Campusano, Michel Collon

Deeply moved, nearly a billion of us looked on. A whole nation-managers and workers, rich and poor-united in a common effort to save 33 Chilean miners, with their President leading from the front. Emotion, suspense, ratings, huge advertising revenues. But what did this TV extravaganza conceal ?

That the “saviours” were in fact the culprits. Three hours before the landslide, the San José miners had requested permission to leave after hearing suspect noises. Their bosses’ refusal imprisoned them under several tons of earth. Is this surprising ? No. On the 30th July, a Ministry of Labour report had already flagged up important safety problems at the San José mine, but no action was taken, and the Ministry kept silent.

Of course everyone was overjoyed at the happy ending. But the rescue show masked the extent of the problem : four hundred Chilean miners have died in the last decade. And more importantly, it masked the causes. “Poor investment and safety standards” said Marco-Enriquez-Ominami, Sebastián Piñera’s opponent in the last presidential elections. In fact, in 2009 alone, 191,000 work accidents were recorded in Chile, in which 443 workers died. And the Chilean government is directly responsible, as, it has refused for the last twelve years to ratify the International Labour Organisation Convention C176 on health and safety in mines. Business enjoys unrestricted freedom, while the workers have no rights.

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