Chilean Ambassador to Norway Aníbal Barría showed his warm hospitality to us in his residence and we had an insightful and sincere talk on everything from football to cooperation in Chile and Norway.
The minute the door of the residence opens I am welcomed by the warm smile of the embassy personnel, Ambassador of The Chilean Republic Juan Aníbal Barría followed with yet another bright smile.
He welcomes me to a beautiful decorated living room and dining room, it’s not very surprising, yet from the way the house is decorated, you can feel the warmth and joy of the people living inside it. We set on our interview with the accompaniment of delicious tastes from Chilean cuisine such as Pastel de choclo and Empanadas de Pino.
Ambassador Barria is representing Chile, a country of startling contrasts and extreme beauty, with attractions ranging from the towering volcanic peaks of the Andes to the ancient forests of its Lake District.
For anyone who has ever been fascinated by geography, the long, impossibly thin line of Chile has always produced a tiny moment of astonishment. Chile stretches over 4,300 km (2,700 mi) along the southwestern coast of South America, a distance roughly the same as that from San Francisco to New York, or Edinburgh to Baghdad. At the same time, its width never exceeds 240 km (150 mi), making the country more than eighteen times longer than its widest point.
Ambassador Juan Aníbal Barría is a lawyer who has been a lecturer on the topic of international law. He has been at the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 26 years and has served in Embassies in Costa Rica, Peru, and the Holy See as well as the Mission of Chile to the Organization of American States.
He is married to Maria Angelica Olgui, and from this blessed marriage they have four children: 3 daughters and a son. Their youngest children, 19-year-old twins, completed their education at Berg Vidergående skole and have recently returned to Chile to take their college entrance exams. In the emails they send, they say that they miss the quiet and that they prefer Norwegian winters to Chilean summers.
As a country for which he has always had a fondness, he has been posted in Norway since 2009, which has received him warmly. He was born in Punta Arenas in the southernmost state in Chile, at the same place where the first Norwegians immigrants to Chile arrived. He remembers classmates with Norwegian last names like Olsen, Samsing, and Pedersen among others. Today, the governor of Punta Arenas is of Norwegian origin, Arturo Storaker. He was fascinated with the Ibsen’s House of Dolls, which is mandatory in Chilean literature classes. He is currently a fan of writer Sigrid Unset and finds her life very interesting. He is also a great admirer of Edvard Much. He describes the celebration of 17th of May as his favorite in Norway; he calls it as a real national party.
Ambassador Barría, when we started our interview, said he was very happy about the ongoing cooperation on Chile’s work of transparency of public information and reminds that there will be a seminar on this issue in January with high level participation from Norway.
The Nordic Page (TNP): In which other areas do Chile and Norway Cooperate?
Ambassador Barria (AB): We have good relations and cooperation with Norway both politically, economically and culturally. We have an indigenious community in Chile and share our experience with Norway. We also have a close relationship with the Sami Parliament in Norway and work hard to improve the cultural rights of the indigenious people.
Moreover, Norwegian companies have invested in a wide array of fields- energy, aquaculture, wine, fish feed, fishing equipment, mining and banking in my country. They seem happy with the conditions that our country offers of a stable legal framewok that is friendly to foreign investment. In 2009, Norway was Chiles third largest FDI investment partner with investments of USD 325 million. Moreover, Chile’s exports to Norway have grown in an impressive fashion from USD 26 million in 2006 to USD 93 million in last year. Our tourism agencies have also reported an increase in the number of Norwegian tourists to several Chilean cities, including those wishing to see our deserts in the North, those traveling to the landscapes and vineyards of Central Chile, and those that enjoy our fjords to the south.
TNP: What does Chile promise for investors?
AB: Chile is one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations. It leads Latin American nations in human development, competitiveness, globalization, economic freedom, low perception of corruption, and a state of long-lasting peace. It is also in the 34th most business friendly country in the world according to the latest index. There are very good investment opportunities in energy, mining, aquaculture, banking, and wine. The Norwegian companies such as DNB, SN Power are also active in these areas.
TNP: I know Chile has a multicultural population living in respective peace. But Europe has serious challenges in this area. What is the secret of your country in peaceful coexistence?
AB: Chile has always been a country which attracts many people from diverse backgrounds. There is a large community of French, English and Palestinian Christians. We have football teams having the names of these communities. Throughout time, we realized the importance of dialogue very well. You know democracy is truly a practice of dialogue, dialogue and again dialogue. The consensus through this dialogue leads us to common ideals and I believe. These common ideals set by dialogue and consensus, are the main ingredient of our peaceful coexistence.
TNP: Latest Diplomatic Visits between Chile and Norway
AB: Lately there have been important visits from Chile to Norway, such as that of Minister of Defense, Andrés Allamand and that of the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Fishing, Mr. Pablo Galilea. In both cases the outcomes of the meetings were very positive. In the cultural arena, Grammy award hip-hop artist Ana Tijoux was invited to play at the World Music Festival, and the Films from the South Festival invited Director Matías Bize. In 2010 the President of the Storting, along with a parliamentary delegation, visited Chile in 2010; there will soon be a visit from a parliamentary representative expert on legislative transparency to an upcomming seminar on this topic.
After Chile endured the 17-year long military dictatorship (1973–1990) of Augusto Pinochet, Chile is today one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations.
In May 2010 Chile became the first South American nation to join the OECD.
Chile is a founding member of both the United Nations and the Union of South American Nations.
In 2006, Chile became the country with the highest nominal GDP per capita in Latin America.
The unemployment rate was 7.8% in 2006, and continued to fall in 2007, averaging 6.8% monthly
Total foreign direct investment (FDI) was $3.4 billion in 2006, up 52% from a poor performance in 2005. However, 80% of FDI continues to go to only four sectors: electricity, gas, water and mining.
On February 27, 2010, Chile was struck by an 8.8 MW earthquake, one of the largest ever recorded in the world. As many as 500 people died; hundreds of thousands of buildings were damaged. The earthquake was followed by multiple aftershocks. Initial damage estimates were in the range of US$15–30 billion.
The most important non-mineral exports are forestry and wood products, fresh fruit and processed food, fishmeal and seafood, and wine.
Full name: Republic of Chile
Population: 17.1 million (UN, 2010)
Area: 756,096 sq km (291,930 sq miles)
Major language: Spanish
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 76 years (men), 82 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: Chilean peso
Main exports: Copper, fish, fruit, paper and pulp, chemicals
GNI per capita: US$9,420 (World Bank, 2009)