‘Sacrifice zones’ prompt green-crimes bill in Chile


Presenting the environmental crimes bill in January were, from left, Chilean Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick, Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt, President Sebastián Piñera and Justice Undersecretary Juan José Ossa. (Photo courtesy of Environment Ministry)

Last August, unidentified emissions of a gaseous substance sickened 1,359 people in Quintero and Puchuncaví, two communities 13 kilometers (eight miles) apart in central Chile’s Valparaíso Region, overwhelming local hospitals and forcing the closure of schools. The still-unexplained release, which caused no fatalities or prolonged hospitalizations, didn’t come as a complete shock. That’s because the area for decades has been one of the areas in Chile known as “sacrifice zones” on account of their large concentration of pollution-prone industrial installations—in this case including power plants and oil refineries. But the August emergency caused an upwelling of political pressure on Chilean President Sebastián Piñera to act. In a September speech before the United Nations General Assembly in New York, he promised to “change this history” of sacrifice zones such as Quintero and Puchuncaví. Five months later, on Jan. 21, his administration took a step in that direction by... [Log in to read more]

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