Letter from Santiago

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Gabriel Boric promises sweeping social change. In a nation of duelling political extremes, he’ll need to sell his vision not just to his opponents but also to his allies.

By Jon Lee Anderson

June 6, 2022

Gabriel Boric, who is thirty-six, campaigned on a revolutionary-sounding slogan: “If Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave.”Photographs by Tomás Munita for The New Yorker


February in Santiago, the capital of Chile, is like August in Paris: the end of summer, when everyone who can afford a vacation escapes for a last gasp of freedom. Many santiaguinosgo to the nearby Pacific beaches, or to the chilly lakes in the south. After two months of frenetic activity that followed the election of December 19th, Gabriel Boric, the country’s President-elect, was also planning to take a break

At a back-yard barbecue, a few weeks before his inauguration, Boric explained that he and his partner were heading to the Juan Fernández archipelago, four hundred miles off the coast. Their destination was the island where the Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk was marooned in the eighteenth century, helping inspire Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe.” Boric planned to swim and fish, and also to read through a pile of books: the Defoe classic, biographies of Chilean Presidents, a history of Eastern Europe by Timothy Snyder. He felt that he had some catching up to do on geopolitics, since he was already being courted by superpowers.

After Boric’s victory, President Joe Biden had called to offer congratulations, and to invite him to a summit of hemispheric leaders in Los Angeles. Chile, with its four thousand miles of coastline, is a tactical outpost in Latin America—a region where Biden has been trying, intermittently, to increase his outreach. The trip would be complicated for Boric; he had won office at the head of a left-wing coalition that included Chile’s Communist Party, which tends to regard the United States as an imperialist aggressor. But, he told me, the summit wasn’t for several months, and “Biden said I didn’t have to decide right away.”

The Chinese Embassy had hand-delivered a letter from Xi Jinping, in which he courteously reminded Boric that the People’s Republic of China was Chile’s biggest trading partner. Chile is the world’s largest producer of copper and its second-largest of lithium; China’s supply of batteries and cell phones depends on the trade.

Boric had also heard that Vladimir Putin was considering a visit to Argentina, and wondered if he’d want to add Chile to his itinerary. He grimaced as he thought about it. Some on Chile’s hard left see Russia as an ally against American “hegemony,” but Boric didn’t want Putin in his country.

Boric is thirty-six—a year older than the minimum age for a Chilean President—with a stocky build, a round, bearded face, and a mop of brown hair. He described these developments with an air of thrilled complicity; they were among the most important moments of his life so far. He was not yet officially President, but he had been given a car and bodyguards, and was briefed daily by the outgoing administration. He had declared that his government would be feminist, and that his cabinet, in a first for Latin America, would be predominately female; fourteen out of twenty-four ministers would be women, including the secretaries of defense and the interior. Two ministers were openly gay. Many of Boric’s officials were young leftists, like himself.

His partner, Irina Karamanos, also represented a break with the past. A thirty-two-year-old of Greek and German descent, she speaks five languages, has degrees in anthropology and education, and is regarded as a leader in feminist politics. She had already managed to pique some Chileans by declaring that she would “reformulate” the role of First Lady, because she was “neither first nor a lady.”

Boric’s opponent in the election was José Antonio Kast, an ultraconservative Catholic with nine children. An admirer of Brazil’s far-right Jair Bolsonaro, Kast had promised a pro-business, law-and-order government that would keep out unwanted immigrants and oppose abortion and same-sex marriage. He was the son of an officer in Hitler’s Wehrmacht who had immigrated to Chile after the war and built a fortune selling Bavarian-style meats. Echoing Donald Trump, Kast urged voters to “dare to make Chile a great country.”

In the end, Boric beat Kast by twelve percentage points, garnering the largest number of votes ever cast for a candidate in Chile. He represented the most left-wing government since the ill-fated Presidency of Salvador Allende, a socialist who won power in 1970, only to be overthrown three years later in a bloody military coup, after which General Augusto Pinochet ruled as a right-wing dictator for seventeen years.




Roy Guerrero, a pediatrician from Uvalde, Texas, speaks during Wednesday's hearing.
Roy Guerrero, a pediatrician from Uvalde, Texas, speaks during Wednesday’s hearing. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Dr. Roy Guerrero, a pediatrician in Texas, testified during Wednesday’s hearing and recounted a horrifying and disturbing scene he saw at Uvalde Memorial Hospital on the day of the mass shooting. 

Guerrero — who said he’s lived in Uvalde his whole life and treated children in the community before the massacre — said that he “raced” to Uvalde Memorial Hospital on the day of the mass shooting.

Read his full remarks here:

“My name is Dr. Roy Guerrero. I am a board certified pediatrician and I was present at Uvalde Memorial Hospital the day of the massacre on May 24th, 2022 at Robb Elementary School. I was called here today as a witness. But I showed up because I am a doctor. Because how many years ago I swore an oath — An oath to do no harm.
After witnessing first hand the carnage in my hometown of Uvalde, to stay silent would have betrayed that oath. Inaction is harm. Passivity is harm. Delay is harm. So here I am. Not to plead, not to beg or to convince you of anything. But to do my job. And hope that by doing so it inspires the members of this House to do theirs.
I have lived in Uvalde my whole life. In fact, I attended Robb Elementary School myself as a kid. As often is the case with us grown ups, we remember a lot of the good and not so much of the bad. So I don’t recall homework or spelling bees, I remember how much I loved going to school and what a joyful time it was.
Back then we were able to run between classrooms with ease to visit our friends. And I remember the way the cafeteria smelled lunchtime on Hamburger Thursdays.
It was right around lunchtime on a Tuesday that a gunman entered the school through the main door without restriction, massacred 19 students and two teachers and changed the way every student at Robb and their families will remember that school, forever.
I doubt they’ll remember the smell of the cafeteria or the laughter ringing in the hallways. Instead they’ll be haunted by the memory of screams and bloodshed, panic and chaos. Police shouting, parents wailing. I know I will never forget what I saw that day.
For me, that day started like any typical Tuesday at our Pediatric clinic – moms calling for coughs, boogers, sports physicals – right before the summer rush. School was out in two days then summer camps would guarantee some grazes and ankle sprains. Injuries that could be patched up and fixed with a Mickey Mouse sticker as a reward.
Then at 12:30 business as usual stopped and with it my heart. A colleague from a San Antonio trauma center texted me a message: ‘Why are the pediatric surgeons and anesthesiologists on call for a mass shooting in Uvalde?’
I raced to the hospital to find parents outside yelling children’s names in desperation and sobbing as they begged for any news related to their child. Those mother’s cries I will never get out of my head.
As I entered the chaos of the ER, the first casualty I came across was Miah Cerrillo. She was sitting in the hallway. Her face was still, still clearly in shock, but her whole body was shaking from the adrenaline coursing through it. The white Lilo and Stitch shirt she wore was covered in blood and her shoulder was bleeding from a shrapnel injury.
Sweet Miah. I’ve known her my whole life. As a baby she survived major liver surgeries against all odds. And once again she’s here. As a survivor. Inspiring us with her story today and her bravery.
When I saw Miah sitting there, I remembered having seen her parents outside. So after quickly examining two other patients of mine in the hallway with minor injuries, I raced outside to let them know Miah was alive. I wasn’t ready for their next urgent and desperate question: ‘Where’s Elena?’
Elena, is Miah’s 8-year-old sister who was also at Robb at the time of the shooting. I had heard from some nurses that there were “two dead children” who had been moved to the surgical area of the hospital. As I made my way there, I prayed that I wouldn’t find her.
I didn’t find Elena, but what I did find was something no prayer will ever relieve.
Two children, whose bodies had been so pulverized by the bullets fired at them, decapitated, whose flesh had been so ripped apart, that the only clue as to their identities was the blood spattered cartoon clothes still clinging to them. Clinging for life and finding none.
I could only hope these two bodies were a tragic exception to the list of survivors. But as I waited there with my fellow Uvalde doctors, nurses, first responders and hospital staff for other casualties we hoped to save, they never arrived. All that remained was the bodies of 17 more children and the two teachers who cared for them, who dedicated their careers to nurturing and respecting the awesome potential of every single one. Just as we doctors do.
I’ll tell you why I became a pediatrician. Because I knew that children were the best patients. They accept the situation as it’s explained to them. You don’t have to coax them into changing their lifestyles in order to get better or plead them to modify their behavior as you do with adults.
No matter how hard you try to help an adult, their path to healing is always determined by how willing they are to take action. Adults are stubborn. We’re resistant to change even when the change will make things better for ourselves. But especially when we think we’re immune to the fallout.
Why else would there have been such little progress made in Congress to stop gun violence?
Innocent children all over the country today are dead because laws and policy allows people to buy weapons before they’re legally even old enough to buy a pack of beer. They are dead because restrictions have been allowed to lapse. They’re dead because there are no rules about where guns are kept. Because no one is paying attention to who is buying them.
The thing I can’t figure out is whether our politicians are failing us out of stubbornness, passivity or both.
I said before that as grown ups we have a convenient habit of remembering the good and forgetting the bad. Never more so than when it comes to our guns. Once the blood is rinsed away from the bodies of our loved ones, and scrubbed off the floors or the schools and supermarkets and churches, the carnage from each scene is erased from our collective conscience and we return once again to nostalgia.
To the rose tinted view of our second amendment as a perfect instrument of American life, no matter how many lives are lost.
I chose to be a pediatrician. I chose to take care of children. Keeping them safe from preventable diseases I can do. Keeping them safe from bacteria and brittle bones I can do. But making sure our children are safe from guns, that’s the job of our politicians and leaders.
In this case, you are the doctors and our country is the patient. We are lying on the operating table, riddled with bullets like the children of Robb Elementary and so many other schools. We are bleeding out and you are not there.
My oath as a doctor means that I signed up to save lives. I do my job. And I guess it turns out that I am here to plead. To beg. To please, please do yours.”

As Great Salt Lake Dries Up, Utah Faces A Environmental Disaster ~ NYT

By Christopher Flavelle

Photographs and Video by Bryan Tarnowski

Mr. Flavelle reported this story from Utah, to see how climate change is altering the Great Salt Lake, and from California, for a glimpse of what might happen if the lake dries up

June 7, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — If the Great Salt Lake, which has already shrunk by two-thirds, continues to dry up, here’s what’s in store:

The lake’s flies and brine shrimp would die off — scientists warn it could start as soon as this summer — threatening the 10 million migratory birds that stop at the lake annually to feed on the tiny creatures. Ski conditions at the resorts above Salt Lake City, a vital source of revenue, would deteriorate. The lucrative extraction of magnesium and other minerals from the lake could stop.

Most alarming, the air surrounding Salt Lake City would occasionally turn poisonous. The lake bed contains high levels of arsenic and as more of it becomes exposed, wind storms carry that arsenic into the lungs of nearby residents, who make up three-quarters of Utah’s population.

“We have this potential environmental nuclear bomb that’s going to go off if we don’t take some pretty dramatic action,” said Joel Ferry, a Republican state lawmaker and rancher who lives on the north side of the lake.

As climate change continues to cause record-breaking drought, there are no easy solutions. Saving the Great Salt Lake would require letting more snowmelt from the mountains flow to the lake, which means less water for residents and farmers. That would threaten the region’s breakneck population growth and high-value agriculture — something state leaders seem reluctant to do.


Sen. Bennet warns of ‘five-alarm crisis for the American West’ ~ The Washington Post

Sen. Bennet warns of ‘five-alarm crisis for the American West’

Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) at the Capitol. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

Something will happen on Capitol Hill today for the first time since 2013.

No, the 117th Congress is not on track to be one of the least productivein the nation’s history, although its detractors can debate that point. Rather, the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry and Natural Resources is holding its first hearing in nine years — and it’s zeroing in on a worsening crisis fueled by climate change.

The hearing, convened by Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), will examine the drought parching the American West, which scientists say has been turbocharged by rising global temperatures.

Continue with the Washington Post

Five planets aligned in night sky ~ The Washington Post


Mercury (not shown), Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will align in a diagonal. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Five planets are aligned in night sky for the first time in 18 years

The best planetary party in almost two decades has begun. Like a 17th-century astronomer, you can join it by just looking up.


The Colorado River in Crisis ~ The Washington Post


Photo by Matt McClean

The Colorado River is in crisis — one deepening by the day.

It is a powerhouse: a 1,450-mile waterway that stretches from the Rocky Mountains to the Sea of Cortez, serving 40 million people in seven U.S. states, 30 federally recognized tribes and Mexico. It hydrates 5 million acres of agricultural land and provides critical habitat for rare fish, birds and plants.

But the Colorado’s water was overpromised when it was first allocated a century ago. Demand in the fast-growing Southwest exceeds supply, and it is growing even as supply drops amid a climate change-driven megadrought and rising temperatures.


Still Governed by Baby Boomers and the Remarkably Old? ~ NYT

By Yuval Levin

America’s top political leaders are remarkably old. Our president will turn 80 this year. His predecessor, who is contemplating running again, is about to turn 76. The speaker of the House is 82. The Republican leader in the Senate is 80, and his Democratic counterpart is a comparatively sprightly 71.

This is very unusual. And it’s not because this cohort has just gotten its turn at the wheel, but because it has held power for an exceptionally long time. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, whose presidencies spanned more than a quarter-century, were all born roughly within two months of one another in the summer of 1946. Nancy Pelosi has been the Democratic leader in the House for almost 20 years. Mitch McConnell has led Senate Republicans for about 15 years. Our politics has been largely in the hands of people born in the 1940s or early ’50s for a generation.


Desecration AT Bears Ears ~ The Land Desk


Jonathan P. Thompson
Jun 3

Last week the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition tweeted a disturbing image showing bullet holes in a rock art panel in the Bears Ears region. This kind of vandalism and desecration of sacred sites is hardly unusual in the area—pothunting and other forms of historical destruction have long been a sort of tradition among the white settlers and their descendants, especially in southeastern Utah. Few archaeological sites have not been dug or scraped clean of artifacts, and nearly every accessible rock art site has been graffitied or used for target practice. 

It may be possible to attribute those long-ago acts of vandalism to simple ignorance: Maybe those olden time folks didn’t understand what they were doing. They just need to be educated. Maybe. The same cannot be said, however, for more recent perpetrators, which includes whoever shot up the aforementioned panel. This clearly was not someone innocently using a blank piece of rock as a target (that’s not okay, either, by the way) who didn’t see the rock art. This seems to have been done with malicious intent. And, according to the Coalition’s Twitter thread, this sort of vandalism is on the rise in the region. 

I don’t know why someone would do this sort of thing. But I can’t help but wonder whether it’s politically-motivated, even in an unconscious way: a reaction to the designation and restoration of Bears Ears National Monument. 

After all, the opponents of the monument, from the late Sen. Orrin Hatch down to then county commissioners, repeatedly called this effort to protect the place an “attack on an entire way of life,” they said it would “destroy lives and livelihoods,” that it was a way for urbanites to displace “rural culture” and “rural heritage,” and that it would steal money from Utah school children. These were all lies, of course, meant only to foment fear and outrage among their constituents, to spark a backlash from which they could profit politically. 

A well-known rock art panel in Bears Ears National Monument that has been shot at in the past. Jonathan P. Thompson photo. 

That they would lash out at the very sites the monument is meant to protect is not without precedent. Cal Black, one of the Sagebrush Rebellion’s founding fathers, reacted to a proposal to designate Utah land as wilderness by threatening to “blow up bridges, ruins, and vehicles. We’re going to start a revolution.” He didn’t actually do any of that, but there was a subsequent rise in what appeared to be politically motivated vandalism of archaeological sites in southeast Utah. 

Maybe we’re seeing a repeat of that. If so, then the Orrin Hatches, Phil Lymans, Mike Lees, and others who spewed false rhetoric about the destruction of culture and livelihoods are partly responsible, too. 

In the meantime, it’s imperative that the Bureau of Land Management create a robust management plan for the monument backed up adequate funding for enforcement. 

The Land Desk

Birthing Rock petroglyph panel near Moab defaced

A collective cry of shock, rage, and sadness rang out around the Southwest this week after someone defaced and vandalized a millennium-old rock art panel near Moab known as Birthing Rock. The vandal scratched “White Power” and other obscenities over the artwork, overtly declaring the racism that underlies nearly all such acts of destruction…


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