Chilean president visits UK and promises to ratify ILO Convention 176

In recent years, Chilean presidents have enjoyed little fanfare when visiting Britain: ignored by the media, unknown to the public, and banished to champagne receptions with obscure dignitaries. But as the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for more than 10 weeks can testify, a week can be a very long time.  Speaking of the San Jose rescue, the president promised his government would ratify ILO convention 176, which would commit Chile to enforcing safety regulations, as unions have repeatedly urged. Watch the interview on BBC Hard Talk (min. 2,30).

Yesterday, their president, Sebastián Piñera, was treated to a star’s welcome, visiting David Cameron at Downing Street and enjoying an audience with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

The Queen has received many unusual gifts in her time, but surely few as evocative as a lump of rock taken out of the San Jose mine in the Atacama desert by the miners rescued last week. Cameron got a piece too.

Cameron was also a recipient of one of the world’s most sought-after paperweights. In return the prime minister gave the president 33 bottles of British beer and pint glasses for the newly liberated miners, at a meeting in which “the PM made clear to President Piñera that the UK would remain a true friend of Chile“, according to a Downing Street spokesman.

Cameron presented the president himself with an early edition of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, in a nod to the 1719 novel’s inspiration, Alexander Selkirk, the Scottish castaway who survived four years on a Pacific island off Chile, known since 1966 as Robinson Crusoe island.

During a whirlwind visit, the president also fitted in an interview with Sarah Montague on BBC’s Hard Talk before dashing to deliver a lecture at the London School of Economics.

Piñera also managed to find time to visit his hero Winston Churchill’s bunker at the Cabinet war rooms in Whitehall, tour the British Museum, and meet Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, where wags noted that he may have given the manager some advice on how to extract oneself from a hole.

Piñera is also due to visit the London Olympics site before visiting France and Germany later in the week.

Speaking of the San Jose rescue, the president promised his government would ratify ILO convention 176, which would commit Chile to enforcing safety regulations, as unions have repeatedly urged.

“We have initiated a country effort to create a new treatment in terms of how to protect the lives, integrity, dignity and health of our workers,” he said. “[We] cannot guarantee that we will not have accidents in the future, but we can guarantee that we will do whatever is necessary to have a more secure mining industry.”

(The Guardian)

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