Author: Trapped people everywhere
Berlin – After the successful rescue of 33 trapped miners in the north of his country, Chilean author Antonio Skármeta, currently visiting Berlin, has called on the world to help other suffering people with as much empathy as it has shown his compatriots.
"We shouldn't need tragedies in order to make us take an interest in other people," the 69-year-old told the German Press Agency dpa.
"Figuratively speaking, I'd like to say that there are still a lot of people, in many parts of the world, who are trapped, and who we don't see," said Skármeta, who was internationally acclaimed for his novel Ardiente Paciencia (Burning Patience).
"And we could help them if we had more of the ethos that we've seen develop over the fate of the Chilean miners," he continued. "That's the first lesson: That solidarity is alive and that it shouldn't need such dramatic scenes in order for it to be shown,"
Skármeta, in the German capital for the 80th anniversary of the Ibero-American Institute, spent many years in exile in West Berlin when Chile was under the rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet (1973-90). He was also the Chilean ambassador to Germany from 2000 to 2003.
He praised the miners for their "enormous courage" and said that his country was used to hardship because of his geographical location and structure. In sticky situations the country always pulled together, he said.
"That's how these Chilean miners survived, and that's how the Chilean people overcame Pinochet's awful dictatorship – peacefully, cheerfully and controlled."
Skármeta also defended Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, who has been criticised for making political capital out of the miners' fate with his presence at the rescue.
"A democratically elected president, from whichever party, absorbs the feelings and emotions of his people and his presence there is obligatory," Skármeta said. "And that's why I ask the critics to hold their tongues."