Fourth Blog Update from Chile: Arriving at Viña del Mar and Meeting Senator Kenneth Pugh, by Safi Chalfin-Smith (A24)

by VManve
Aug 18
After our short return to Santiago, we headed to Viña del Mar, a coastal city about 90 minutes west of Santiago. Staying in Viña gave us great access to the Chilean Navy and Vina's more well-known sister city, Valparaiso, where the Chilean Senate convenes. After exploring the beautiful but chilly beaches, spotting Chilean Navy frigates off the coast, and watching cargo ships flow in and out of the port of Valparaiso we were off to meet with Chilean Senator Kenneth Pugh. Pugh, a former navy general and current representative of the V region of Valparaiso for the National Renewal Party (RN) would prove to be a true representative of civil-military relations. We met inside the historic Villa Victoria, his very own interactive museum set in 19th century Valparaiso. While we were pondering what life would have been like back then, Valparaiso proved to be a true history buff. With every question we asked he provided rich historical context, often going back to the 1500s while explaining modern-day geopolitical occurrences.
As a group, we were interested in learning more about the present-day challenges in the Southern Macro Zone of Chile, the regions of Bio-Bio and Araucania, regarding the Mapuche, a Chilean Indigenous group. As many distinct Mapuche groups are fighting for sovereignty, the Chilean government is looking to have a larger say over the activities in the region. The regions are rich in forestry products, providing valuable financial assets to those who are in control. Pugh suggested that talks, and trust are vital in creating a safe environment for open dialogue. Pugh was also adamant about expressing the needs of his constituents on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Currently, the Chilean government provides about $120 million a year to the island to help maintain necessary functions such as adequate food and fuel. 
Regarding Antarctica and the environment, the Senator confirmed INACH’s position that Chile’s main focus in Antarctica is advancing science and research projects. He touched upon the Chilean Navy’s effort to build an ice breaker to ease and allow for travel during the winter months. The project is set to be completed within the next 2 years. Pugh also mentioned Chile’s commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2024 and interest in developing and implementing green hydrogen. Currently, about 30 percent of Chile’s energy is renewable. 
We are extremely grateful to the Senator for devoting several hours to our project, answering our questions, and of course, giving us a museum tour. He even led us through a secret passageway, concealed as a simple closet- giving off strong Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe vibes. We look forward to exploring more of the coastline (freezing swims, sandboarding, and beautiful sunsets), meeting Naval Academy Cadets, and learning how everyday life in a Chilean coastal city is impacted by ports and trade negotiations.