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Michelle Bachelet receives Gold award in NY

Protestors gather at the Barrick Gold/Chevron sponsored event

by Christian Peña

BArrick Destorys Banner
BArrick Destorys Banner
Police convoy
Police convoy
BArrick Employee of the month
BArrick Employee of the month

Outgoing President of Chile Michelle Bachelet was in NY this week to attend several functions that included the UN General Assembly Climate talks, the Clinton Initiative and the OAS talks . She was also in town to  receive a Gold Insigne award in her honor by the America’s Society / Council of the Americas.

The Gold Insigne is the highest award of the Americas Society and it is presented only to democratically elected heads of state from the Western Hemisphere who have made outstanding contributions to their own country, the region and society as a whole.

The Council of the America is an American business organization whose stated goal is promoting free trade, democracy and open markets throughout the Americas. “This is the second time in the Council’s  history that a woman will receive the Gold Insigne in our more than 45-year history and  as the first woman to be the president and CEO of Americas Society in our more than 45-year history, that is also a very special thing for me” , says Susan Segal , President and CEO for the Council.

However since the sponsors of the event are Barrick gold, Chevron and Freeport-Mcmoran they were bound to attract anti–mining protesters

Representatives  also  attending the dinner  included , Mariano Fernández Amunátegui Minister of Exterior Relations , José Miguel Insulza Salinas Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Mariano Fernandez; Ambassador Geraldo Muñoz; U.S. ambassador to Chile, Paul Simons; and Secretary General of the Ibero-American Organization, Enrique Iglesias. The $250 ticket event was full to capacity for both press and the public .

Outside however  a  group of about 20 people arrived with banners and signs that said , “Water is more precious than Gold”  and Chevron kills” arrived to protest the and target Bachelete’s award dinner for attending an event that was sponsored by Chevron and Barrick Gold each who have had their share of Environmental and Human rights issues in several countries.

Barrick Gold’s controversial bi – national Pascua Lama gold mining project  has not been able to begin construction after almost 10 years since being first approved in 2001 and later in 2006. It originally planned to relocate 3 glaciers or ice reservoirs to nearby glaciers was also changed from its original design plans.

They were quickly told to move their protest to around the corner from the event as they could not block the front entrance .A representative of the Secret Service would didn’t give out her name gave orders to the police to keep the protesters around the corner and stay inside a metal barricade for the duration of event or face being arrested. “ I don;t know what your going to do, what if you lunge at the president. You and your group have to leave my area now, If you don’t leave immediately I will be forced to take you down”. She says to one of the organizers of the event.

Even with a massive police escort and Secret Service security staff Bachlete was barely noticed entering from the front doors as to not attract more attention by the protesters who arrived to great her. Security was so tight the Chairmen Bill Rhodes, had to walk over 10 blocks just to arrive to the dinner from 53 street as Park Avenue was closed off.

The talk inside was mainly about President Bachlete’s high approval rating and accomplishments as President as both the first women President and leader.

One of the people outside shouting and giving out flyers was Sakura Saunders editor of Protest Barrick  a blog dedicated to posting information on all mining and news activities regarding the Barrick gold corporations activities. She had this to say about  Michelle Bachelete’s visit to NY, “ I think its incredibly ironic that Bachlete is in NY for a forum on climate change at the same time she is also wines and dines with these all these companies , who in the case of Barrick Gold’s Pascua Lama Project threatens one of the last clean water sources in Chile”.

As a candidate, Michelle Bachelet pledged not to allow the destruction of glaciers during his administration and to legislate to protect, however Pascua Lama endorsed two years later shelved a law for their protection, in return, the Minister Ana Lya Uriarte, Glaciers launched a Policy that has no actual weight and opens the door so they can destroy.

Ironically back In Chile, on the  same night as the Bachelet  dinner
Rodrigo Weisner, director of the (DGA) Directorate General of Waters stated that he gave the "last" missing license according to the Environmental Qualification Resolution Pascua Lama.

Many New Yorkers walking on Park Avenue noticed the shouting and animated protesters. One such group were two Chilean citizen’s  who happen to live in NY and know of the issues . Andres who is visiting from Santiago said ,“I know very well this issue with this Canadian company plans to open a gold mine in the Andes that could affect the waters of a semi-arid region of northern Chile. It is  very well known in Chile but really only the people in the Atacama region and some groups in Santiago really care about this issue”. However most people don’t know about the problems with this project and what could happen if it were to begin.

Andres friend went on to say, “this is also the first time I have seen a Pascua Lama protest here in NY city but I heard they happen in other cities also. What made me stop was that I thought your sign said Barack Destroys as in our President Barack Obama not Barrick (Gold) Destroys”.

As  people began exiting from the dinner I spoke with one representative of the Bachelte Government that agreed to speak to me but wanted to remain Anonymous.  She said,“ first I am against any project that will damage the environment”.

When I asked about Michelle’s campaign promised when running for President back in 2005 that if was elected President she would protect the glaciers.

“She (the  President) may have said that then but even the President of the Republic does not have the power to change this deal made with the company and with CONAMA”. I think there is still a lack of Consciousness and information on this project and others  like it that will leave a legacy behind.”

At the end of the evening several people were seen leaving the dinner 
Including Mariano Fernández Amunátegui Minister of Exterior Relations , José Miguel Insulza Salinas Secretary General of the Organization of American States except for the President who once again took the  side entrance as to avoid any press or remaining protestors who all but left by now.

As the evening ended one strange scene occurred .A large container of ice water fell from the second floor and spilling some unsuspecting people below . At this point the press were finally aloud to approach the entrance and photograph the scene . However the secret Service apprehended a journalist and was heard saying , “You thought it was funny what you and your group had planned”.

The reporter was taken down and put in a arm lock and forced through the door even as important guest were still leaving the event.

The Secret Service agent  who we were never able to confirm her name continue to accuse the report for conspiring to sabotage the event  and that he would be charged for assault a very serious crime  in the US. “I thought he did it because they were protesting water at this event that they had something to do with this” she was overheard saying while explaining this to Council of Americas President Susan Segal and Police.

Later we are told by event staff that it was an accident by someone upstairs and that this person detained had nothing to do with it.  The reporter was question and was later released 

By Christian Peña

Christian Peña is a Chilean – Canadian documentary filmmaker who is completing a film on the Pascua Lama Project in Chile. He has spent time documenting the events of this projects progress from its approval in Chile until the possible opening of the Project later this year.

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