Update from Chile

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Folks, we will return to regular programming here soon, and I want to talk at some point about the Chile situation more broadly, but let me quickly address some issues as the day-to-day developments unfold:

1. I want to stress the vast differences in conditions that exist right now within the country. If you walked down Av. Providencia in Santiago you would be hard-pressed to see that anything had happened. There's utter normalcy. To be sure, some sidewalks are portioned off with caution tape, some buildings have visible damage, and my local supermarket is essentially empty. But on the whole I view Santiago as more or less back to normal. I am totally safe and have access to food, water, internet, power, etc.

2. What are you seeing on TV are images of Concepción, the largest city near the epicenter. It's about 350 miles south of Santiago. The situation in Concepción is deteriorating. Citizens have taken up arms to protect themselves and their stores from looters. My understanding is that most people still do not have access to water, food, power, etc. The Army is running the city, certain constitutional guarantees have been suspended, and as of yesterday there was an 8 PM to 12 noon curfew in place. Yesterday I was in a cafe eating a churrasco and all of us sitting there were watching footage from Concepción and thinking, "Is that a different country?"

3. In the view of several commentators here the government deployed military assets too late. Tanks began rolling into Concepción late Sunday night, nearly 48 hours after the first quake. By the time troops had arrived, chaos had already gripped the city. The government also stupidly advised citizens near the coast to return home after the quake; fortunately the people knew better as a tsunami came shortly thereafter and caused more damage. There have been other complaints about government's ineptitude. This will be clearer in time.

4. The damage and loss of life will not rival the situation in Haiti. Not even close. I have had some awkward conversations with people who are uncertain about how they should think about Chile vis-a-vis Haiti. Haiti is worse and needs more help. That said, most of us don't volunteer or give to charity based on greatest need — we do so for selfish reasons. I have spent no time personally trying to help Haiti. I have donated no money. I have, by contrast, both invested a lot of time in the Chile situation and donated money to relief efforts. I have obvious emotional interests in Chile.

5. Chile does need help. It is now asking for international aid and receiving it. It's up to each person to decide if and how they want to help. If you want to donate money specifically to Chile relief, I recommend this reputable organization. If you speak Spanish I would also recommend Un Techo Para Chile.

6. The best news coverage is in Spanish. Try La Tercera.

7. I appeared by video Skype on the CBS Early Show yesterday morning and talked Chile for a minute or so. Embed below.

4 Responses to Update from Chile

  1. ElamBend says:

    As an American, while watching the footage in Concepcion, does it seem as unreal as the post-Katrina action?

  2. Ben Casnocha says:

    I didn't watch the Katrina action as much, and it's hard to compare, but it
    is very saddening and surprising to see what's happening in Concepcion.

  3. Kristina says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thank you for the link to AmericaCares. I’ve been looking for a reputable charity to donate to Chile and have been in analysis paralysis over which one seemed the most effective.

    I hope all is stable in your world and pray that things get better in Concepcion.

  4. Nice post, Ben.

    It’s great to hear the perspective from someone with first-hand experience of what’s been going on.

    I’ve been watching CNN up in NY but I know that their info can be distorted.

    @DennisDemori

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