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The Brave Chilean Miners

By Partha Banerjee

14 October, 2010

On reaching freedom, Mario Sepulveda, or “Super Mario” as a British newspaper dubbed him, lived up to his reputation with a jubilant display. All the thirty-three trapped miners in the Copiapo San Jose copper mine in Chile are now safely out. They're all rejoicing.

We are, too.

During the post-rescue press conference, Sepulveda gave a powerful statement. He said, “I met God. I met the devil. God won.” Despite his flair on-camera, Sepulveda went on to say he was not a showbiz icon.

He said, “I’d like you to treat me like I am, a miner.”

He then also said something the U.S. media completely excluded from their reports (I've checked the New York Times, CNN and Associated Press). However, Reuters and Euronews reported it. He said: "I think that this country has to understand once and for all that we have to change the way we work. The working world needs lots of changes. We, the miners, we won’t let it rest.”

Talking about changes, I'm sure, two of the things that were on his mind were the mining corporation's complete disregard for the labor union's repeated warnings and protests about the unsafe working conditions and possible danger; I'm sure he was also talking about the no-pay the thirty-three miners and their families went through during the 70-day nightmarish ordeal.

U.S. media excluded that discussion too in their usual "fair and objective journalism."

It's the strength of the workers that charged me the most. What courage, what resilience, what organization and optimism even against the most extreme adversities! Miracle? Sure, we all know that; we'd say the same thing if one of our family members had experienced the situation. But it's also much more than that. It's the fighting spirit of the working people. It's their solidarity.

We must not forget this chapter -- in my opinion, one of the most important episodes of human history. I'm glad and grateful I've been able to witness it in my lifetime. American homes for the first time in a long time got a glimpse of what workers' rights and solidarity are really all about, however difficult the circumstances have been. This episode unfolding in a distant corner of the world forced corporate media to tell the story to us all, as is, even though they did their best to censor some important points. It is now our role to fill people in with the missing information and analysis.

For the first time in a long time, ordinary workers and their families across the world felt strong and vindicated, because of the solidarity action of the Chilean miners.

"Chi-Chi-Chi...Le-Le-Le." Workers of the world, this is our time!