Marc Cooper: Superb coverage of Chile earthquake

Brand new 15 story building in Concepcion collapsed, trapping dozens inside.

L.A.-based journalist Marc Cooper was a translator for the Allende government, has been married to a Chilean woman for 36 years, has many relatives there, and obviously can fluently translate Spanish-language reports to English.

He’s been going non-stop since the devastating quake, both on Twitter and on his blog, with thoughtful think-piece reporting you won’t find elsewhere by someone who knows the territory.

A few excerpts.

Chile: Looting and a few other thoughts

The security forces have an obligation to intervene and impose some modicum order. The footage of people being tear-gassed and hosed down with armored water cannons as their city lay in rubble around them, is a stomach-turning vision. Put a few cops in front of the store and fire a few shots in the air. Maybe.

say maybe because what the Chilean government should have done was to send in those troops IMMEDIATELY after the quake, confiscate the supermarkets, hand out the supplies in a rational fashion and later compensate the owners (maybe).

That said, looting per se cannot be tolerated. But to impose curfews and militarize the most hard-hit cities is not a pretty picture and is a make-shift, repressive response that could have been pre-empted. Further, a mother and/or father have a moral obligation to secure the basic needs for their offspring in times of emergency whether or not the owners of a food store feel or don’t feel like opening for business.

Chile’s deeper faultlines

There have been a lot of absurd and sometimes self-serving if not subtly racist ovations to Chile for suffering — so far– only about 750 deaths compared to the tens of thousands in Haiti.

Pointless twaddle. Haiti is the poorest nation in the hemisphere and we expect it to collapse when hit.

Chile is also a third world country, but an infinitely more developed one and with a superstructure light years ahead of Haiti. Yet, the expectation that Chile was going to hit by the seventh strongest quake ever recorded, that a thousand or perhaps more were going to die, that a fifth of the country was going to have their lives deeply damaged, and yet somehow all was going to be peace and love and stiff upper lip demonstrates just how damn delusional people can be.

But in the days to come there are a few points on reality we have to keep in mind.

First, this is a full-on catastrophe that would render the social fabric of any society.

Second, Chile is by not the poorest place around but it does have one of the most UNEQUAL economies in the world. It suffers from the deepest of class and regional divisions with a not so subtle thread of apartheid-like racism laced through the whole thing.

I doubt seriously if Chile will now descend into social chaos. People are too busy figuring out where to sleep to go out and riot.

I just as much doubt, however, that this episode is going to be just some passing and unfortunate moment. Economic and social frustration has been mounting for years, creating great dissatisfaction with the centrist and timid administration of the last 20 years which has been loathe to radically reverse the free market policies of the Pinochet era

Read the entire articles. This is what blogging is about, real Citizen Journalism, as UJ calls it.

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