Greenpeace Chile plants flag in Andes to create new ‘Glacier Republic’

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Published On : Thu, Mar 6th, 2014

Nobel Prize nominee Nicanor Parra among first citizens of ‘new state’ founded in Patagonia to draw attention to lack of glacier protection laws in Chile.

Greenpeace Chile plants flag in Andes to create new ‘Glacier Republic’

Greenpeace Chile proclaimed ‘Glacier Republic’ an independent country within Chilean territory. Photo via Greenpeace Chile / Facebook

Complete with embassies, passports and a “permanent population,” the planet’s newest “country” can add an esteemed cultural heritage to its short history as Cervantes Prize-winning anti-poet Nicanor Parra is now among the first citizens of the Glacier Republic.

Nestled in the Andes between Chile and Argentina, the glacial state was founded Wednesday by Greenpeace Chile who claim legal loopholes and a lack of clarity over the sovereignty of the area allowed the environmental organization to create the mountainous country under the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of the States.

From its modest tented capital, the Glacier Republic’s spokesman Matías Asun maintains relations with neighboring nations, and says that his countrymen will not migrate from their frigid homeland until the Chilean government creates legislation to protect Chile’s numerous glaciers.

“Argentina has such legislation, [Chile] is one of the rare countries in the world that doesn’t,” Asun, national director of Greenpeace, told The Santiago Times. “It’s a legal neglect and a threat to the glaciers.”

Chile is home to 82 percent of all South American glaciers. While the bodies of ice are the country’s principal freshwater reservoirs, Greenpeace claims there is no single regulation that protects them and that glaciers are mentioned nowhere in the Constitution or even the Water Code.

Asun believes the government places the country’s significant mining interests ahead of environmental concerns.

“The government is under pressure from mining companies,” Asun said. “We don’t want to impede the mining companies from their activities, we just want to protect the glaciers.”

State-owned Codelco’s Andina 244 mine expansion plan and Barrick Gold’s Pascua Lama project are among the high-profile mining initiatives that have come under fire due to their alleged destruction of nearby glaciers. No more than 40 miles from Santiago, the glaciers that surround Andina 244 form part of a watershed that seasonally serves six million people in Chile’s two most populous regions.

García Juan Luis, glacial geology professor assistant at Universidad Católica, supports Greenpeace’s move and hopes it will draw attention to what he describes as a significant threat to glacial ecosystems from the mining industry.

“This is a great initiative and a beautiful way of protesting,” he told The Santiago Times.

As well as academics, the initiative has drawn praise from politician Dep. Enrique Accorsi of the Party for Democracy (PPD) and intellectual icon Nicanor Parra.

The polymath registered for a Glacier Republic passport Thursday and sent a letter of support to the new nation’s embassy in Santiago.

“The figure of Nicanor Parra as a citizen is an honor for our republic,” Asun wrote on his organization’s website. “That the most important exponent of anti-poetry, a math and physics expert and long time nominee for the Nobel Prize, is part of our new country adds weight to our petition for a glacier law and affirms that we’re on the right track.”

In its quest to have Chile’s glaciers declared a “public good,” Greenpeace will inform the United Nations and governments around the world of the Glacier Republic’s founding.

The Montevideo Convention sets out the definition, rights and duties of statehood and holds that among other criteria a new country should have a permanent population, a form of government and capacity to maintain relations with other states.

All are welcome to become citizens of the Glacier Republic by registering for a passport online — though according to the country’s citizens’ oath doing so is a serious commitment.

“I swear by God and by this flag to serve my country, the Glacier Republic, at sea, on land or wherever, and to give my life if necessary to fulfill the duties as an honorable, brave and devoted citizen of my homeland.”

By Belinda Torres-Leclercq
Copyright 2014 – The Santiago Times

About the Author

Belinda Torres-Leclercq
Belinda Torres-Leclercq
Belinda studied political sciences and Latin American studies in several European Universities. She wrote on food issues for Latin American news organization Noticias.nl and blogs about Chilean politics for MO*. Contact her at belinda@santiagotimes.cl or follow her at @BelindaMTL on Twitter.