Chile: Miners found alive!

The government hid information to the families for hours

The 33 Chilean miners trapped for over two weeks in the San José gold and copper mine near the city of Copiapo, 800 kilometres to the north of Santiago, are alive. But rescuers estimate their final rescue could take several months. At the heart of the accident is undoubtedly the greed for profits of the San Esteban Mining Company, which has a long record of total disregard of elementary safety norms. The San José miners had repeatedly denounced the lack of “minimal” safety measures in the mine, which had been closed in 2007 after the death of two miners. However, it reopened in 2008, even though the company had not complied with all safety standards. One of the company’s owners, Alejandro Bohn, said in a radio interview on Monday, August 23, that “this is not the time to talk about responsibilities”…

Below, we publish the translation of a statement written by Celso Calfullan, member of our sister organisation in Chile, Socialismo Revolucionario.

The 33 miners are alive, thanks to the solidarity of their class, with workers even willing to sacrifice their lives to rescue them.

Long live the solidarity of the working class!

But the authorities didn’t even respect such an important moment for these 33 working class families and the millions of workers around the country. It is lamentable and shameful that the government made political use of the situation, by hiding the information for hours, not just to the families but to the entire country. This was only done in order to give the Chilean President Sebastian Pinera time to reach the camp and give the information himself, in a complete ‘communications operation’, probably to try and raise his popularity in the polls.

But once again, it was the workers who were carrying out the rescue operation who were not ready to go along with this farce, and were determined to report directly to the miners’ families that they were alive. The only ones who really had the right to deliver this information were precisely the workers who were sacrificing all these days to rescue their class brothers.

It was the pressure from the miners’ families and from millions of workers that forced the government, and especially the minister for mining, to continue the task of rescuing the 33 miners, who had been buried for 17 days underground soley because of the ambition and profit motives of the bosses. They now cynically claim that they are ‘happy that the miners are alive’. But while the workers can only rejoice at this great news, under no circumstances can we accept the statements of these criminal employers who today are declaring their concern, but still continue to send other miners to work in the same criminal working conditions in which the miners in the Mina San Jose were working.

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August 2010