Chile From Within

What are the similarities between Jodorowsky and Thomas, Limbaugh and Manson?

Posted in Chile culture, Chile film, Viva Chile by tomasdinges on January 22, 2007

A propósito de nada…

I just found out that conservative US Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas acted as the acting religious figure for the marriage for much reviled and very popular conservative radio host, Rush Limbaugh, (who has been married three times.)

«Casar a Manson es lo más surrealista que he hecho en mi vida»

The only thing that came to mind, more perfect and strange, was the Chilean psycho-magician, spiritualist and surrealist movie director, Alejandro Jodorowsky, as the acting religious interpreter for the marriage of Marilyn Manson and his porcelain-skinned cabaret queen Dita Von Teese. Jodorowsky will be counting on Manson´s (and Nick Nolte´s) participation for a new film, the first in 17 years, called KingShot, a “metaphysical spaghetti gangster film.”

Manson and Von Teese apparently had been seeing each other since 2001. And just as soon as I was to make a facile comparison in dedication to a formal and conservative institution such as marriage and Limbaugh, the guy married three times, I find out that Warner and Sweet (their real names) are in the process of getting divorced.

At least the Manson and crew admit their fondness for sex and drugs, unlike Long Dong Silver and Mr. Oxycontin.

What is Up with Carlos Cardoen??

Posted in Chile military, Corruption, Fuck you, Pinochet, Viva Chile by tomasdinges on January 17, 2007

What is up with Carlos Cardoen?

The arms dealer, top one relator with Iraq, banned from ever entering the United States, owner of vineyards and spur behind the formation of the Colchagua wine Valley to take the shape of a Napa Valley-esque appearance and form. My aunt says he is “de moda.” Fawning articles about his business savvy, high-class style, his wife´s manner of dealing with his colon cancer and wine business are abundant in the Chilean press.

A few weeks ago he was featured in a December 14th interview in La Tercera which I can´t reproduce because La Tercera is annoyingly tight with their archives, in which he spills the beans on what he really thinks about Pinochet. There were no hard questions asked.

Why is he so fucking special? Its clear that he is an accomplished man, but damn, he is an arms dealer who sold cluster bombs to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980’s. Maybe its because he also able to make money selling matches, (even with growth numbers in lighters) as the majority owner of the Compañia Chilena de Fosforos. That must take balls. Do you think that was the calculus behind why one of Chile’s former top models, Pilar Jorquera, married him, or was it love? It would be great if she did it because of his balls to sell, according to his estimations, “out of Chile alone, almost $150 million dollars worth of material,” to Iraq.

About his only meeting with Saddam Hussein, Cardoen says, “Honestly, he seemed to me a fairly balanced man, very well informed and with a great elegance and dignity. He gave off the impression that he was not a man who acted without full information.”

Cardoen alleges that the US was always informed of his relationship with Iraq. Although it is not clear whether they knew that according to a very exhaustively researched 2003 San Francisco Chronicle article by Jason Hibbard, his profits were being channeled through a Florida investment account called Swissco. This Department website. The charges levied the for illegal export of zirconium, an element used in nuclear facilities and as an incendiary device in cluster devices, resulted in fines of multiple millions of dollars, and an arrest order on Cardoen. The words of the prosecuter who opened the civil suit in 1992, according to the SF Chronicle article,

Customs Commissioner Carol Hallett read from a statement worthy of Fox TV’s “America’s Most Wanted”: “Like a black widow spider, Cardoen controlled a tangled but intricate web that circled the globe. His dark empire was spun from the profits of destruction. I am thankful that today we have finally dropped the bomb on him.” Hallett explained how Cardoen had set up a “sophisticated organization” of shell companies and trust accounts to conceal more than $200 million that Iraq had paid for cluster bombs that were made from illegally exported materials. Through its suit, the government aimed to seize $30 million worth of real estate Swissco had purchased with the proceeds.

Carlos Cardoen was an arms dealer. He designed and made weapons meant to kill on a large scale. His star money maker were cluster bombs. They were apparently good for countering the “human-wave” strategy of the Iranian soldiers. The killing range of the bombs was a few football fields in area.

This is just the story that I am missing, that the vast majority of the Chilean public either don’t care about him, or don’t care about the death and destruction that he reaps by having been the architect behind the construction of a cluster bomb factory. But why is he always popping up in the news?

Death is something here that just isn’t that important. Maybe it’s just a far and distant concept that people are used to hearing about, but not seeing or experiencing. Or at least the people close to Cardoen.

How could one hang out at a dinner party with someone complicit in murder and business dealings with Saddam Hussein, not to mention an indirect relationship with Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. (Although he does have reservations about Pinochet’s style). Also, there are at least two mysterious deaths, one by hanging and poison (the journalist Jonathan Moyle (also linked to the murder of Gerardo Huber) and the other, Cardoen’s US representative, Nasser Beydoun, in Brazil) linked to Cardoen’s people and deals.

The callousness and inhumanity that he represents is astounding.

But what is mind boggling is that he now cultivates and image of himself as a cancer survivor, a man whose priority is local culture, represented by the Museum of the Huaso in the city of Santa Cruz and general community interests. Even stranger, he wanted to set up a museum in homage to the deceased Chilean folk muse of the 1960’s and 70’s, Violeta Parra. See the La Nacion Domingo article for why and how this strange courtship fell apart.

After Ted Kennedy passed a bill prohibiting arms sales to Chile in 1976, Cardoen stepped in to fill the gap and began designing and commercializing weaponry and bombs for the Chilean market. It was a tense time.

But he is maybe, an interesting man. Is he an honorable man, even, as he affirms in this interview with Radio La Cooperativa last year. He accuses Pinochet of giving authorization to the government arms manufacturing and procurement agency, Famae, of making unauthorized copies of his bombs, and selling them to Iran. The reason for the sale to Iran, “According to what I have been told, everything points to Pinochet authorizing the sale of arms to Iran because there were economic incentives. Commissions.”

They were poor copies and according to Cardoen, resulted in a malfunctioning during a test run, exploding soon after deployment that killed a famous Iranian fighter pilot and destroyed the F-5 fighter plane.

He has had a chapter of his life in which he conversed routinely with Fidel Castro. He expresses respect and concern for him. Fidel intervened to get his bomb-makers safely out of Iraq. He sent him a letter recently hoping for his quick recuperation from his illness. Another sideshow on that story. His connection to Fidel was through Max Marambio, a former member of Salvador Allende´s security forces, the GAP, and member of the radical and violent leftist group the MIR. As is the case of Miguel Enriquez and his fancy in women, the line between the MIR and the right wing is only millimeters.

Recent news that a young film director, Igal Weitzman, is planning on setting his life to the big screen is gut-wrenching, sickening. More so when this young filmmaker, who is currently producing videos for James Iha, of the Smashing Pumpkins, and has sat down with Naomi Watts to pitch projects in New York City, describes the attraction of the story of Carlos Cardoen as thus: “To show a man born and raised in Chile, in which his destiny brings him to a moment of historical climax: the 90’s in Iraq with Saddam and Bush father, the two of which he faced with bravery. And later, he faced a second battle here in Chile, cancer.”

Pobrecito. Thats a great story to bring to the screen. I heart cluster-bombs. I heart Carlos Cardoen. I heart Saddam Hussein.

Feliz Año Nuevo, Chile Lindo

Posted in Santiago, Viva Chile by tomasdinges on January 5, 2007

Donde Robin is where Don Robin makes pork sandwiches with homemade garlic mayonnaise, among other things, like Leche Asada. Glasses of boxed red wine are 75 cents and a liter of cold beer is 2 dollars. Its the best real food I have eaten in Santiago de Chile in my three years here. His father was a championship flyweight boxer and can give you history lessons while you eat.

Don Robin, Chile

Its on the corner in a traditional and unpretentious neighborhood. There is a bike path nearby, old colonial mansions now inhabited by families and singles, some African and Latin immigrants, who hang their clothes out to dry on the front balcony.

The street is cobblestone and the sidewalk has corners darkened by pee. There are squats and anarchist graffitti, four-foot high paintings of the face of a thorn-crowned Jesus and new concrete buildings which obscure views of the Virgin Mary on the hill, creating illusions of middle class status and profit for builders. Gladys Marin, the deceased Communist leader, looks upon you as a red stencil on a white adobe wall. On Wednesdays and Saturdays there is a fresh market on the street which sells Alstroemerias and mint, chirimoya and dog food, empanadas and cheap matches with Pamela Anderson on back.

At Donde Robin’s his niece celebrated her birthday at the big table and workers streamed in for a late night meal. Radio is louder than the television. He had a restaurant in Bellavista about 2o years ago.

Don Robin is the only member of his family who stayed in Chile after the beginning of the dictatorship. Don R. said he was neutral. His family left the country, scaling over the tall wall that separated their home with the Spanish Embassy and never came back. Two brothers have since died, without ever returning. As a friend said recently about Pinochet, “Man, he was so fucking good at creating divisions.” He was definitely better than Allende I would suggest…really great.

Regardless, this is the New Year 2007, Santiago de Chile, without Pinochet. Lets look ahead.

06-deudor.jpg

Jacinto Montecinos, 41, separated with a daughter, had is apartment taken away by the bank after almost a year of not paying the rent. Following a tactic used by a couple of other people who see their only solution to overwhelming debt (which I suspect was his problem) is to kill themselves, Mr. Montecinos doused himself frenetically with gasoline on the year old “Plaza de la Ciudadania,” in front of the Moneda and set himself on fire before jumping in a fountain.

The National Association of Home Debtors (Asociación Nacional de Deudores Habitacionales de Chile) issued a declaration. “This act is lamentable, especially considering how terrible that someone would go to such extremes to demand their rights.” In Spanish its called “Quemarse a lo Bonzo.”

This representative must be a communist…of course, seeing a decent living and a roof over the head as a human right.

Montecinos had sought alieve for his problems in the motherly President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet. She was meeting with right wing leaders Evelyn Matthei and Hernan Larrain on economic matters and couldn’t attend to the protester.

Despite a series of serious corruption scandals within her government and total disarray within her ruling party coalition, la Concertación, Michelle Bachelet has gone up 6 points in approval ratings, much to the chagrin of the right-wing and editorial frustration of El Mercurio. So, along with being the most desired public figure to hug for the New Year according to a consumer survey cited in the daily paper La Cuarta, she has 52% of the Chilean population’s support and 59% of the Chilean’s see her as trustworthy (confianza), a jump of 19 points since her campaign. She has succesfully been able to separate her image from that of the government she manages, and now the concern expressed by political commentators like Patricio Navia, is that the rosy and warm Bachelet will be sullied by a percieved infeffectiveness. “Bachelet runs the risk of converting into a president who is cared for, but not respected.” Unfortunately, he does not back up his supposition with data from the poll, leading me to fill in with my own perception. More money to indigenous programs, a reform of the pension system, more money to social programs, like those aimed at reducing infant malnutrition and improving feminine labor rates, lower unemployment rates and continued economic growth, she seems to be implementing a social agenda that is very much her own, and that it reaches the people. But, I am no political scientist. More to come on how succesful she is, or is perceived.

This comprehensive poll, by the right wing Center for Public Analysis (Centro de Estudios Publicos), also found that people believe the government should focus on problems related to crime, health and education. Two of the last three on the list with 3 and 4 percent of a priority rating, were the Environment and Human Rights.

In other news, electricity rates are going up 22% since last year, making the 140 kw/hr about USD$22 and some of the most expensive in Latin America. Since 2000 the real increase is around 65%. Reasons for increase, according to El Mercurio, includes government actions to maintain an economic incentive (profit) to stimulate new investment by electricity companies and a shortage of natural gas supply from Argentina.

There is a field day in the electricity market, seeing future demand from increasing economic growth a profit booster. Chile is on an energy island and the future is pointing towards hydroelectric power.

Swiss Xstrata, ex-Falconbridge, has introduced the first Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA) study to authorities, reducing the output of a hoped-for and much contested dam in Patagonia’s Rio Cuervo, from 750mw to 600 mw. They plan production to start in 2012, and plan two other hydroelectric plants, on Rio Blanco (360 mw) and on Lake Condor (54 mw). This is in conjunction with the other 1500 mw or so electricity output planned on the country’s most voluminous river’s (Pascual and Baker) by the spanish Endesa Chile.

Also, cell phone rates are some of the most expensive in the world. Just see how much it costs to call a cell phone from Skype in comparison with just about any other country. Its .021 cents to call a Chilean landline and .21 cents to call a cell phone. Ive heard its more expensive than Europe. My prepaid phone card purchased for about ten dollars will last me a good 30 minutes of outgoing talk time. For installation of landline and internet service and quality questions see the Santiago, Chile blog C.hileno for updates on his battle with Telefonica. Or you can just go to the Anti-Monopoly Court (Tribunal de Libre Competencia).

“Someone thinking in less mystical terms, more socially conscious, would describe the riff raff roaming last night’s streets as delinquent, indecent, and the excellent Chilean word for low life gangster, knacker: “Flaite”. Equally interchangable with the telecommunications company Telefónica, in my humble opinion. Anyway, pronounced FLY-tay, this word is apparently a Spanish acronym for the following:

flacuchento, lansa, antisocial, indecente, traficante, engrupio.”

Lastly, clinical depression represented 65% of the government’s health care’s walk-in visitors, an anti-anxiety medication call Armonyl is a hit and 6000 pot plants were burned, the author (21) of a stray bullet which killed a 15 year old playing soccer outside his house turned himself in (“I didn’t mean to kill him, it was meant for someone else”), a government prosecutor has a $50,000 price on his head (Narcos), a man in Osorno stabs his wife and then hangs himself (in 2005 he had left her badly injured after landing two hatchet blows to her head) and a man in Maipu trying to rape a twenty-year old was left in a coma after being “lynched” by neighbors who came to her rescue.

Also, 5000 Santiaguinos watched the Patogallina theater group at almost the exact same spot, Plaza Bulnes, where Pinochet erected a much-attempted-to-be-pissed-upon monument, “The Flame of Liberty.” A seeming monument to fascism, last year ago it was extinguished and torn down.

Attendance at last night’s inauguration of the month-long Santiago A Mil theater festival surpassed expectations by 3000 people, totaling 5000. Some of those left out pushed down fences, heckled organizers and then took seats reserved for authorities and Vip’s, making them stand on the side upon their arrival. The low-cost theater productions has entrance fees set at around two dollars and features the French Royal de Luxe troup as well as other international players.

Oh, and the child-of-exile, Berlin-Chile minimal tech house electronic musician Ricardo Villalobos, is in the house for the next couple of weeks.