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Chilean ambassador to keynote major conference on Chile

Chile's ambassador to the United States, John Biehl, will keynote a three-day conference at Stanford April 24-26 on that country's economy, politics and culture. Biehl is well known for his work with Costa Rica's Oscar Arias on the Central American peace process.

Sponsored by Stanford's Center for Latin American Studies and Overseas Studies Program, the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Relations and the Consulate General of Chile in San Francisco, the conference is open to the public and will focus on the dramatic changes in Chile over the last three decades. It will feature several prominent Chilean government officials and professors who teach in Chilean universities and at Stanford's overseas campus in Santiago. Stanford-based experts on Latin American social, literary, environmental, political and economic issues will also participate. Most of the discussion will be in English but some speakers will be translated from Spanish.

One session on international affairs is likely to focus on whether Chile should join the North American Free Trade Agreement, a controversial issue in both countries. Another will analyze Chile's so-called economic "miracle. " A third will focus on cultural-identity issues raised by modernization and past political repression. A fourth will focus on environmental issues. Chile has just adopted laws that establish its own version of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For Stanford faculty and students, "Chile is important to look at in depth because it is often cited as a model of how neoliberal economic reforms can turn around a stagnant economy," said Kathleen Morrison, associate director of Stanford's Center for Latin American Studies. But it was under the 16-year dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet that the neoliberal economic model was adopted wholeheartedly, she said, "which raises the question of whether this success can be simulated elsewhere without an authoritarian structure."

Scholars and reformers are also interested in reassessing the Chilean model in the new post-Cold War political context, Morrison said. Pinochet came to power with U.S. assistance after socialist Salvador Allende began moving Chile further toward the left, and now the country is run by a coalition of the center and what remains. "With the collapse of the Soviet Union as well as the success of Pinochet's neoliberal reforms," Morrison said, "the political left in Latin America was completely undermined."

The conference will cover a 33-year time frame, from the election of the current president's father, the late Eduardo Frei Montalva, as president of Chile in 1964, through Allende and Pinochet, to the return of free elections in 1990 and the current coalition government headed by Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle.

For the Chilean government, the conference is a step toward reestablishing social and academic ties to California, said Fernando Toledo, scientific attaché to the consulate general and a doctoral student in environmental law at Stanford. During the 1960s, grants from the Ford Foundation led to extensive academic exchanges between the University of California and the University of Chile, he said. "The exchanges had a big impact on our government policies because many who had studied in the UC system went into government."

The conference offers Stanford faculty and students a chance to preview the potential experience they could have during a quarter at Stanford's Santiago campus, Morrison said. Santiago is the first overseas campus that the university opened in a country that was not fully industrialized. It is second only to Oxford as the preferred choice of Stanford undergraduates studying overseas.

Schedule, participants

The conference opens at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 24, with a performance of Chilean folk dances by a Bay Area group, Araucaria in White Plaza.

At 5 p.m. Ambassador Biehl will trace three decades of Chilean politics in a lecture in Room 80 of the Law School. The rest of the sessions will be in the Cypress Rooms of Tresidder Union.

On Friday, historian Stephen Haber, associate dean of humanities and sciences, will open the day's first session at 9 a.m. His remarks will be followed by a three-hour panel discussion of Chile's social and economic reforms, chaired by Morrison. Panelists will be:

The conference resumes at 2 p.m. Friday with a three-hour discussion of Chilean identity led by Fernando Alegría, a Chilean poet and Stanford professor emeritus. Panelists will be:

Following a 1 p.m. screening of a Spanish language video on the life of the late Eduardo Frei Montalva, a discussion of Chile's international affairs will be chaired at 2 p.m. by Stanford law Professor John Barton, who has been involved in the implementation of NAFTA. Panelists will be:

For more information, contact the Center for Latin American Studies, (415) 723-2012.

From Frei to Frei: Perspectives on Chile Over Three Decades
Stanford University, April 24-26, 1997
Brief Conference Schedule

Thursday, April 24
4 p.m. Folk Dances of Chile performed by Araucaria, White Plaza
5 p.m. Keynote Address by Chilean A.m.bassador to the U.S. John Biehl, Law School,
Moot Court Room (Room 80)

Friday, April 25 (All sessions will take place in Tresidder Union, Cypress Rooms)
9 a.m. Reassessing the Chilean Model: Social and Economic Perspectives
2 p.m. The Construction and Reconstruction of Chilean Identities:
Cultural Voices from Outside and Within

Saturday, April 26 (Cypress Rooms, Tresidder Union)
9 a.m. Evolution of Environmental Concerns
1 p.m. Screening of a video, Tiempo para un lider, on Chilean political life from the
1940s to the 1980s.
2 p.m. Chile in the International Community

The conference is co-sponsored by the Stanford Center for Latin A.m.erican Studies, the Overseas Studies Progra.m., the Chilean Foreign Ministry, and the Consulate General of Chile in San Francisco.

For any updated information on events, please check the Center for Latin American Studies home page:

For more information, contact the Center for Latin American Studies, (415) 723-2012.


By Kathleen O'Toole