Glacier Republic heats up in Chile

Glacier Republic opens embassies in dozens of countries, sends a special delegation to new Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, and continues to attract high-profile names among its thousands of new “citizens”.

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The Glacier Republic official delegation makes its way towards the La Moneda Presidential Palace in Santiago, Chile.

The world’s newest country, the Glacier Republic, is heating up. Literally and figuratively. While climate change leads to higher temperatures at higher altitudes, putting glaciers across the world at ever-increasing risk of melting away into nothing, the campaign by Greenpeace to create a new nation among the ice sheets of Chile – as reported on by Eye On Latin America last week – is gathering momentum. It says it has established diplomatic relations with some 40 countries, essentially in offices run by Greenpeace International in those countries, and has enlisted the support of more than 40,000 within its first 10 days of existence.

Speaking on March 10th, the day on which Greenpeace officially opened its embassies around the world, the director of Greenpeace Chile and de facto spokesperson of the Glacier Republic, Matías Asún, commented that “the idea is to spread the message about the need to protect glaciers all over the world, and to generate the necessary strength to gain ourselves a law of protection for Chile’s glaciers”. In addition, he said “we invite the new President [Michelle Bachelet, who took office the following day] to prioritise the need to protect these ancient ice sheets, which are a source of life for Chile, and which are currently under threat affecting not only the country’s environment but also the hundreds of communities in Chile who depend on the glaciers for their survival”.

Martín Prieto, director of Greenpeace Andino, opens the Glacier Republic’s embassy in Argentina.

Having already won the support of its first high-profile new citizen, the celebrated Chilean writer Nicanor Parra, the Glacier Republic also revealed on March 12th that the Bishop of Aysén – a region in the south of the country and home to the Patagonian Ice Fields, which make up a considerable portion of Chile’s glaciers – had signed up as well. Luis Infanti de la Mora has made a name for himself while at the head of the local diocese, having given his backing to another of Chile’s principal environmental movements: the ongoing opposition to the construction of the HidroAysén megadam complex proposed for the Baker and Pascua rivers in southern Patagonia. He has also been a prominent voice in the regionalist movement that gained traction in 2012, calling for greater attention from the central government in Santiago for Chile’s more distant regions, such as Aysén. “Glaciers are indispensable reserves of fresh water. To protect them is to protect life. And this is a responsibility not just for politicians and environmentalists, it is a responsibility for everyone”, Infanti said on receiving his Glacier Republic passport.

Meanwhile, on March 13th, having already established relations with dozens of countries, the Glacier Republic sent an official diplomatic delegation to La Moneda, the home of the Chilean executive branch, in the capital Santiago. The delegation included several cars bearing the flag of the Glacier Republic, and had the expressed aim of presenting its diplomatic credentials to the new Chilean government of Michelle Bachelet. “We’ve come to La Moneda, on behalf of the near-40,000 citizens [the total number has since passed 41,000] who belong to the Glacier Republic, in order to present our diplomatic credentials to the Government of Chile”, declared Asún. “Furthermore, we wish to request from the President a legal framework that guarantees the protection of our glaciers”.

The diplomatic delegation also stopped by at the Argentinean embassy in Santiago in order to present its credentials there. Asún used this opportunity to press the Chilean government to match the commitments of other South American countries that are home to glaciers: “Our neighbour Argentina already has a Law for the Protection of Glaciers. The governments of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador are working on glacier protection with the aid of international funding. The World Bank signed off a donation of US$450,000 to support Peruvian efforts to mitigate against the effects of glacial retreat. It’s high time for Chile to protect its glaciers and reserves of fresh water for future generations”.

The Bishop of Aysén, Luis Infanti de la Mora, holds up a tablet showing the website, where he, along with more than 40,000 people, has signed up to become a citizen of the Glacier Republic.

Away from its leading principle of bringing attention to the plight of Chile’s glaciers, the Republic has also delved into the realm of social policy. In response to a Twitter user asking if there would be equality of marriage in the Glacier Republic, Asún said simply “Yes, as it should be”. Chile has historically been a somewhat socially-conservative country, with the Catholic Church still holding sway over many aspects of public life, with the prohibition of abortion under any circumstance being one such example. However, the issue of LGBTI rights is making its way into the social and political mainstream, after the death of the 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio in 2012 having suffered a brutal homophobic attack by a neo-nazi gang. President Bachelet stated at various points during her reelection campaign that she would consider promoting legislation to introduce same-sex marriage, as has happened in several neighbouring countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.