Sunday, 22 August 2010
For almost two weeks the Chileans have been glued to their TV sets as 33 miners have been trapped almost one kilometer below the surface of the earth. Today, at about 3 pm, probes managed to reach them, and the miners managed to send a note saying they were all alive and well. It may take many weeks to get them out, but it will be possible to send food and other supplies down in the meantime.
While the miners remain trapped but in touch, the Concertación remains trapped and out of touch. The rescue effort is a big red cherry on top of Piñera's Sunday, and special kudos must go out to Mining Minister Golborne, who has worked around the clock on the rescue effort. The success will contrast favourably with the Concertación's post-earthquake efforts, and will undoubtedly raise Golbourne's ratings, possibly making him a presidential front-runner for the 2013 elections (in which case, Joaquín Lavín must be the only person in Chile not cheering today).
All Concertación leaders can do is stand by and claim they are relieved and happy for the families, but in reality, it's a political disaster for them. The only silver lining is that it has happened now, and not three years from now. Lots of things can still go wrong -- and if Piñera's track record is anything to go by, lots of things will go wrong. But in the meantime, people are honking their horns, the government did a great job, and will milk it for all it's worth. The race is now on to get the miners out before the bicentenary celebrations.
For all intents and purposes, however, the celebration started today.