“I speak for Chile” (“Pro Chile loquor”) is the motto of the Andrés Bello Diplomatic Academy, alma mater of the country’s professional diplomats, that is, of those public officials to whom citizens have entrusted the responsibility of “speaking for the best interests of Chile”.
Traditionally, “Chilean diplomacy” has practiced a “silent style” that, in the past, was adjusted to the “specialized character” that was recognized to the “relationship between States”. To the extent that , in the twenty-first century , this “relationship” is no longer limited to strictly “state” (or technical-commercial) issues, nor is it restricted to the “work of embassies” and incorporates matters of material and immediate importance for society as a whole, “silent diplomatic practice” does not conform to “modern times”.
Last May, AthenaLab published a survey that identified drug trafficking (87%) and border protection (78%) as underrepresented issues on our foreign policy agenda. Likewise– and months before the update of the 200-mile legal platform of some of our southern islands formalized the territorial dispute with Argentina in the Southern Ocean – that exercise identified the “defense of maritime interests” as another underrepresented issue on the agenda of those who have the responsibility (and privilege) of “speaking for Chile” (60%).
The multiple scopes associated with this new territorial dispute have motivated that not only the media, but, through social networks, citizens are interested in a matter that is composed of diverse aspects that, even for “specialized Chilean diplomacy”, are “novel”.
At this point it is clear that – for the whole country – this is a delicate “problem” whose solution will require years of work. That is why, with the sole exception of the Frente Amplio (whose standard-bearer is -curiously- of Magellanic origin), all the main political sectors have formally supported the updating of our submarine limits south of Cape Horn and Diego Ramírez Islands.
However, apart from very general statements by the President of the Republic himself and a “questionnaire” by the Director of DIFROL published in a Santiago media, citizens do not know what will be the basis of the Chilean position in this new territorial dispute with Argentina (which until recently it even refused to recognize).
Everything indicates that in this matter the communication strategy (if it exists) consists of continuing to “relate to society” through a single means of communication (whose editorial line is still sheltered in the premise that this is a “topic only for initiates”), in order to avoid explaining what, in short, the “position of Chile” is.
In the long term, this “position” is effectively “the national position”, it must be known to all Chileans. This is especially relevant for the citizens of the southern region, ergo, for those “territorially affected” by the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of “the position of Chile” in the question of the continental shelf of our Antarctic Province.
As before they were wrong in the issues of Laguna del Desierto and the maritime border with Peru, “kilometers more, kilometers less” is not a result and / or “fait accompli” acceptable to all citizens, except in Magallanes (where the erratic “politics” for the solution of the South Ice Field issue continues to weigh). To pretend that “silent diplomacy”, attached to a certain “tradition” (today unintelligible) and reserved only for a “chosen group” of “experts” constitutes today an acceptable formula for society, is to try to “cover the sun with a finger. Foreign policy cannot be different from other public policies: it must be subjected to what is called accountability, and with its results the responsible officials must be considered responsible to the whole country.
The “politics of silence”, “without those responsible”, based on the assumption that only a very small group of “experts” dominates “a language incomprehensible to the ordinary citizen” is neither possible nor acceptable in a country dedicated to a new Political Constitution.
“Silent diplomacy” should not ignore that, on a day-to-day basis, the integrity of the national territory is a matter of primary importance to Chileans. For the same reason, no “tweeter”, “selfie” or “photo opportunity” with any foreign dignitary will prevent the question of the Magellanic-Antarctic continental shelf from continuing to monopolize the interest and lto the concern of “the people”.
Seen from another angle, the noted citizen concern should constitute an invitation for those responsible for this delicate matter to “speak for Chile”, starting by “speaking to Chileans”.
This, even before Foreign Minister Andrés Allamand talks (if he has not done so) with the new Argentine Foreign Minister. This will not only avoid speculation and distortions of the national argument (which swarm social networks), but will also contribute to a suitably informed country supporting – today and tomorrow – the actions of current and future officials who will have the responsibility and privilege of “speaking for Chile”.
It is to be hoped that, as “in the old days”, the Government and the Foreign Ministry will risk issuing an “official communiqué”, which explains and establishes the position of Chile and its people.
The content expressed in this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author, and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of El Mostrador.