Chile From Within

Nehoc Davis, Josh Cohen and Microfilia at Santiago International Film Festival (SANFIC) 2007

Posted in chile, Chile culture, Chile film, microfilia, Santiago, transantiago, Viva Chile by tomasdinges on August 13, 2007

As a small child vacationing in Vina del Mar, Chile, bus rides were the highlight, especially when surrounded by strange people speaking in a language you couldn’t understand. And then imagine you are only 4 ft tall hanging onto the horizontal steel bar as the bus driver accelerates for green lights, whips around corners and maxes out their hydraulic brakes with quick exasperating releases of pressure for a possible passenger or a particularly daring car cutting in front, the feeling is like that of one on a rollercoaster, or a moving version of the monkey bars (except in this case you just chicken fight with the shrunken old lady whose head is unfortunately at the level of your sneakered feet).

One swings from left to right, front and back, until your arms can’t hold on anymore.

Similar experiences were to be had on the yellow micros of Santiago, which hurtled at incredulous speeds in amazingly poorly maintained buses down Providencia towards Santiago centro. Their shocks were worn out making the bus sway and lean with even subtle steering adjustments. One futily looked out the windows, only to encounter scratches insignias and cracks. Although one time the window was clean as I hurtled around a roundabout, or circle, looking out the

window to a girl doing the same thing from a bus running parallel around the curves. Our eye contact and smile at 40 miles an hour, in synchronous and vulnerable passage on those buses, made me think I was in love. Other times a time buses broke down, warning passengers of their engines impending demise by emitting that foul smell uniquely associated with the heat generated by unlubricated metal rubbing together.

Glaring fluorescent lights cast contrast (creating intimate spaces) upon dingy interiors and tired workers, drunk revelers from Avda. Suecia, young wealthy girls venturing from hillside homes to the flats of the dangerous and daring party neighborhood of Barrio Brasil or the club Blondie, flaites, recently released (escaped?) poet-bards from the looney bin (la Perrera I think) in Cajon del Maipo and a friendly manicurist from Maipu with diva-like jet black bangs who gets off at my stop.

Microfilia Sanfic 2007


Josh Cohen, the director of Microfilia, take viewers on similar turns in his docu-fiction of life on the yellow micro-buses, or Micros, of Santiago. Only someone as consistently desquiciado, absurd and observant as this 11 year resident of Santiago could do a film that does justice to the extremes of the former Chilean bus system, premiering at the Santiago International Film Festival Wednesday, 22:25 pm, Thursday August 16th, at 6:20 pm, at the Showcase Parque Arauco and Saturday, August 18th at 10:35 pm. He is also a cameraman by trade and so the sensation of hurtling buses through the darkness is aptly captured. But don’t believe me. You can also believe the La Nacion article of Santiago, which previously included this film as one of the top ten reasons to go to the Sanfic festival.

A product of Washington DC public schools and a politically-minded family, Josh came to Chile in 1996 inspired by Rodrigo Rojas, the 18 year old photographer and child of exile from Wilson High School who was burnt alive by Chilean police when he was covering a protest in 1986.

“The american Nehoc Davis suffered a true shock upon arriving to Santiago de Chile in 1996 to see the yellow “micros” barrelling through Santiago streets at unbelievable speeds. He knew immediately that he would make a film that reflected this craziness, which was confirmed when he got on a bus driven by a 15 year old girl. Initially developed with the now-deceased screenwriter Jaime Capo, this film is a mix of documentary and fiction, filmed with a minimal budget in 2003, when Transantiago had not yet revolutionized the public transportation system in the Chilean capital. This work documents a night in the life of Isabel, the 15 year daughter and niece of bus drivers who learned to drive when she was eight years old. While she is driving a curious range of nighttime passengers travel with her, as on any night in Santiago, as she battles the regular attacks of the “Correcaminos,” the most dangerous driver in Santiago. Its Jim Jarmusch’s Night On Earth meets Third World Globalization.”

Also, lets not forget about the excellent performance by actor Julio Briceno, star of various famously funny commercials in Chile, like the following:

Microsoft signs agreement of voluntary software and technology consulting collaboration with Chilean Government

Posted in Chile culture, Corruption, fuente abierta, microsoft, mierda, monopoly, open source, technology, Viva Chile by tomasdinges on August 6, 2007

And Chileans go crazy…well some of them. This is a clash of generations, of conceptions of democracy, of class and of course monopoly and emerging markets.

On first glance, the agreement, signed on May 9th, 2007, provides an official platform of voluntary cooperation between Microsoft Chile and the Chilean government to provide software licenses (in perpetuity), knowledge and training to areas of Chilean civil society ranging from internet tracking technology for cybercrime detectives to Municipal Governments to Small and Medium Businesses.

Bachelet as MicrosoftIt is interestingly enough the first time of seeing this sort of critical discussion, organization, anger, resentment and anti-imperialistic-like attitude from the normally “receptive” (sedated) Chilean public. But, it is not the first time that public policy, or decisions with potential impact on many, has been created and implemented by a few and behind the closed doors of the elitist democracy of Chile in the 1990’s and 2000’s. Transantiago, the country’s highway concessions and the Celulosa Arauco (President’s Lagos and Frei, respectively) express approval come to mind. The surprise is that it comes with populist Socialist president Michelle Bachelet who has shown sensitivity to citizen demands.

It was apparently signed with no previous consultation with the public and outed in Congress by documents acquired in June by Senator Alejandro Navarro, a controversial and increasingly celebrated (Las Tejas, August 30th) Senador “Discolo” who has had his finger on citizen’s issues, from former Chilean soldiers trapped in indentured servitude by military contractors in Iraq to environmental abuses to technology issues. But, he is also known for directly plagiarizing a Wikipedia entry on nanotechnology for a legal brief submitted to the Chilean Congress.

The implications of the agreement are being debated now in the Chilean blogosfera and in Chilean print. I wonder what “gobierno ciudadano” means now for the President Michelle Bachelet and the minister who signed the agreement, her Minister of Economy, Alejandro Ferreiro. Here is their press release trying to calm the waters of malinformation. Microsoft has actually had interviews with bloggers to clear things up, which has added greatly to the discussion.

I quote from El FrancoTirador’s, interview, a blog whose comment lists on these posts frequently have hundreds of comments.

3.2) ¿De quién fue la idea originalmente? (Whose idea was this originally?)

“Del Gobierno, que ya tenía planes de avanzar en la creación de una “identidad digital”, afirma Martín. “It was the Government’s, who had already been planning the creation of a “digital identity,” affirmed Martín Karich, chief of public relations for Microsoft Chile.

3.3) ¿Qué gana Microsoft ofreciendo este servicio? (What does Microsoft gain by offering this service?)

“Aunque a veces me trae problemas decirlo, lo que hacemos es expandir el mercado. Se crean más usuarios”, asinceró José Antonio Barriga. “Although on occasion it brings me problems upon saying it, what we do with this is expand the market. It creates more users,” stated Jose Antonio Barriga, National Director of Technology (Microsoft)

According to a read of the 9 page agreement, and official M’soft statements almost 3 months after the official signing, the decision to go with Microsoft does not obligate the Chilean government to go with Microsoft, but facilitates and encourages its usage. The Chilean government structure becomes the host for Microsoft and its various products and creates govt and industry (Msoft) collaborations. For example, there are 8 points in the agreement in which the Chilean government is to provide financing for tech initiatives co-sponsored with Msoft.

Bloggers in Chile have decried the decision as being made my 40 year olds who did not grow up with technology and thus do not understand the real implications of this Microsoft decision. El FrancoTirador (The Sniper, or Sharpshooter) put it like this, “How to explain to your folks that the agreement with Microsoft is bad for Chile” Others simply point to a total lack of open discussion or debate on the issue.

While it seems that this is a valid opportunity to make a big jump in improving software and gaining technological literacy across broad various sectors of society, I wonder if the Chilean government actually held intelligent deliberation on this topic. They are reported to have a open source policies in the works before this agreement.

But, did they seriously consider the legions of municipal and national governments big and small around the world which are evaluating and mostly “migrating” to open-source software, from Haryana, India to the national government of Brazil (go Lula!) to the United States Department of Transportation, which decided in March 2007 to “place a moratorium on all in-house computer upgrades to Microsoft’s new Windows Vista operating system, as well as Internet Explorer 7 and Office 2007,” according to internal documents secured by the tech online magazine Information Week?

El Diablo en Los Detalles cites a published opinion from the Que Pasa magazine in a more comprehensive discussion:

El Dr. Osorio insiste en que el acuerdo no implica que el Estado este obligado a usar productos Microsoft. Este punto hay que concederlo, porque nadie le está poniendo una pistola en la cabeza a nadie. Por supuesto (y esto el autor debe saberlo bien), el asunto es más sutil: si una pequeña municipalidad tiene que elegir una solución para un portal en la red, y el Gobierno esta promocionando un producto de Microsoft: ¿Esta seriamente el Dr. Osorio sugiriendo que la dicha Municipalidad no usará esa solución?. Lo mismo aplica a otros puntos del acuerdo.

The El Mercurio internet site and corresponding blog has an interesting discussion here.

Truth Happens, a tech blog of the open-source software house Redhat is monitoring the issue in English.

Movimiento Liberacion Digital is an organization angrily set up to monitor this agreement:

El Movimiento de Liberación Digital es un proyecto chileno, sin fines de lucro, que surge como respuesta a la incómoda sorpresa que significó descubrir el acuerdo firmado por el Ministerio de Economía de Chile junto a Microsoft Corporation el 9 de Mayo de 2007. Una iniciativa conjunta de un masivo grupo de internautas, que se sostiene en base a un esquema de trabajo colaborativo y voluntario, y que responde a la urgente necesidad de alertar, de informar, y denunciar aquellas decisiones que ponen en riesgo el desarrollo tecnológico de nuestro país…

…Nuestra misión es ser partícipes del proceso de toma de decisiones en materia de tecnología de Chile.

Global Voices Online has made their customary summary of some of the internet reactions, and has interesting commentary by Chileans.

Here is a brief look at the agreement:
El interés de Microsoft Corporation y Microsoft Chile, manifestado permanentemente a través de sus personeros, en el sentido de contribuir al desarrollo económico local a través de diversos programas sociales y herramientas tecnológicas que se ponen al servicio de la ciudadanía.

El Incremento de eficiencia que tienen las alianzas publico privadas como motor de generación de mejores oportunidades y alternativas en la búsqueda de soluciones tecnologías concretas a problemas en materias de inclusión digital, educación, Seguridad informática, Seguridad personal en la red y demás que se abordan en el presente acuerdo.

En consideración a lo anterior el Ministerio de Economía, por una parte y Microsoft Chile y Microsoft Corporation, por la Otra, han convenido el siguiente acuerdo de colaboración

For example:

c) Municipio Digital

c.1.- Microsoft se compromete a entregar el uso no exclusivo del código fuente de su solución de desarrollo de portales municipales y los aceleradores para la personalización de los mismos, para que los gobiernos locales puedan desarrollar portales que les permitan relacionarse con la Comunidad.

c.4.­ Microsoft conjuntamente con socios comerciales de desarrollo de aplicaciones, se compromete a desarrollar una serie de aplicaciones para modernizar tecnológicamente a los municipios, que incluyan aplicaciones financieros-contables, dirección de obras, tránsito, recaudaciones, salud y educación, Microsoft se compromete a contar con al menos dos soluciones y socios comerciales, de forma de tener alternativas de proveedores.

They cite The School of the Future, as an innovative example.

Duncan MacVicar, posted one of many great commentary on the El Mercurio site. My emphasis.

Respondiendo al comentario de Miguel Carrasco A.

Su comentario solo coloca una arrogante serie de siglas de cursillo rápido de e-business para ejecutivos, sin dar fundamento alguno, intentando insinuar que quienes se oponen a este acuerdo son solo gente ignorante.

Solo quisiera recordarle algunas cosas:

No subestime a nuestros jóvenes. Muchos de los que han alzado la voz son pioneros en la cultura digital, y por ende, saben como decisiones como esta afectarán el desarrollo tecnológico local, que debe ser abierto y dominado por las pymes.
– Microsoft no es la única compañia que es capaz de ofrecer plataformas de e-goverment. Noruega lo hace con software libre, Alemania también. En realidad, Brazil, toda Europa y Asia. ( )
– Microsoft no merece ningún trato especial para obtener 15 millones de clientes sin licitación alguna. Esto fue un compadreo.

Y ya sabemos lo que viene contra el software libre: terror y desinformación, utilizando temas como la propiedad intelectual, impuestos, etc, para convencer a la gente que no entiende. En vez de generar tecnología local y fomentar la creatividad e investigación.

La decisión es una verguenza. Y la campaña desinformativa de la ACTI (que por coincidencia tiene en su directorio al Gerente de Microsoft) lo es aún más.

Posteado por:
Duncan Mac-Vicar P. (Julio 24, 2007 02:59 PM)

Commentary by Miguel Carrasco A.

A aquellos que están en contra de este acuerdo….saben algo de:
Sociedad de la Información..??
antes de dar una opinión sin fundamentos…..favor informarse un poco más….!!!

Posteado por:
Miguel Carrasco A (Julio 24, 2007 02:24 PM)

(AN OLD POST) Brink of Death, Beginning of Life, Memento Mori, Memento Vivere, Someplace in Between

Posted in Chile culture, Chile military, Fuck you, mierda, Pinochet, Viva Chile by tomasdinges on August 6, 2007

Augusto Pinochet Ugarte is dead now.

The notorious dictator ruled for 18 years from 1973 to 1989. Now the international news media has swept in from around the world to cover the massive heart attack suffered by Chilean retired general and Dictator Augusto Pinochet this past Sunday. It was a huge event in Putin’s Russia, where Pinochet had been idolized for putting in place an economic turnaround (see page 5). CNN had a red alert header across its web site, said one supporter, one of thousands outside the Escuela Militar in the upper-middle class neighborhood of Las Condes. Another said that El Pais of Spain was doing a biased spread on the life and times and that the Miami Herald had put it on the front page. El Mercurio had the Times of London link to complement their coverage and all the faithful were broadcast around the world supporting the person whom they believe saved Chile from Marxism, Civil War and economic ruin. Pinochet’s mourners lined up for hours to see his body, demonstrate their faith and defend his legacy.

Pinochet was the figurehead of the military coup which violently destroyed the longest running democracy in Latin America. It all beganon the 11th of September, 1973, stayed in power for 18 years. In the process he cleaved families, personal identities as well as a national identity. The numbers are numbers, “only” 3000 killed in an “efficient” extermination of the “escoria” propagated by Castro and Salvador Allende. 30,000 people, according to last years official government Valech Report, were tortured.

I was in the desert north of Chile when he first experienced the throes of death, a week before his actual death. I started asking questions.

Everyone has an experience. Some people talk about it directly, and frankly, like Juan Carlos, a twice daily shuttle driver between the mining town of Calama and the increasingly tourist resort of San Pedro. He tells of when he found himself drinking with an older family friend a while back and noted his stubby fingertips. They had been separated by many years and so he asked what happened, what was his story? All his nails had been lifted with the insertion of bamboo stakes in torture brought by Pinochet and DINA henchmen. Another driver listening on the edge of the conversation interjects, and says that around Calama rumour goes that the bones of the “detenido desaparecidos” detained and disappeared, are underneath the inches thick concrete and asphalt tarmac of the Airport.

3 hours away, in the desert oasis of San Pedro, Fabiola Lopez has dreadlocks, is openly lesbian and her 5 year old daughter builds (mud) sand castles in the dusty street in front of the 15 bikes to rent for the Germans, French and American tourists. She talks about Pinochet and she talks about her Catholic Church upbringing, stories that her refrigerators were always full during the tightest times during Allende and impunity. She went to the school with the sons of Pinochet’s brother she says, growing up body surfing the waves of the Chilean Central Pacific Coast. They liked cocaine, flaunted their last name and were let off the hook by local police upon infraction of the law.

“The death of Pinochet will mark the end of an era.” Karen is a friend of Fabiola’s and a short, powerful and dark massage therapist from San Pedro (who “has seen seen more famous asses than you would believe.” Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore, along with other Hollywood big hitters, have passed through). “It will mark the end of the patriarchy.” Her landlady hid mine unionists from Calama in her home, like in the Underground Railroad, except in vain. Police ferreted them out quickly in the small town.

Operación Retiro Televisores, or Operation Remove Televisions, in which members of the Pinochet police services dug up the bones of executed political prisoners to dump them in the ocean from helicopter, or otherwise hide their whereabouts has a memorial in the desert. Juan Carlos can see it each way on his shuttle drive, 70 yards away from the road in the remarkably barren desert, a tall cross rising above an encircling fence.

The sign on the side of the road says “Memorial.”