If there is a word that everyone has used to describe yesterday, 11 March 2010, it is surreal.
Sebastián Piñera's inauguration took place in a climate of nervousness and fear.....not because of him or his MBA Coalition, but because of the constant aftershocks that are being felt throughout the country since the 27 February earthquake.
But then, just as he was about to take office, we were hit with one of the strongest aftershocks yet --either 6.9 or 7.2 on the Richter Scale, depending on who you believe. Frankly, the 0.3 points makes little difference. I was at work, on the fifth floor of a very sturdy building, and the thing moved like a cocktail shaker. Now I know what an olive feels like.
It was only later that I managed to see the images on TV of the interrupted inauguration. As the image above shows, foreign dignitaries, including the presidents of Bolivia and Paraguay, stayed put but looked nervously to the ceiling (I suspect to the TV lighting, which swayed like Tarzan on a vine). Out on the streets of Valparaiso, the soldiers meant to maintain peace, order and good government ran for the hills as the emergency services, who screwed up so badly last time, announced a tsunami warning.
In the evening, Piñera, who had hoped to enter Santiago triumphally riding in Salvador Allende's Ford Galaxy (Kafka, where are you when we need you?), didn't, because nobody wanted to be out on the streets in the midst of so much seismic movement.
You have to feel badly for Piñera. For someone who has wanted to be president for so long, yesterday must have been a most unsatisfying day. Still, people will remember the day for a long time. Especially President Lugo, who wins the prize for Most Freaked Out President.