Chile earthquake

Less than two months after the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, another Hemispheric neighbor has fallen victim to the ravages of nature. The earthquake that struck Chile in the early hours of February 27 measured 8.8 on the Richter scale and was one of the most powerful quakes in a century.

Again as they did in response to the massive Haiti earthquake, the American people stand with President Barack Obama in expressing condolences and in offering support to the Chilean people in face of such a horrific natural disaster.

Chile is an important friend of the U.S., a robust free trade partner, and a vibrant democracy with respect for representative democracy and individual rights. It possesses a professional military and police force capable of responding to the current disorder and disruption caused by the massive devastation of the earthquake.

Chile’s deep commitment to free market policies earned it a #10 overall ranking the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, the highest degree of economic freedom in the South and Central American/Caribbean. This commitment also makes Chile more resilient and better able to surmount what are certain to be the enormous economic costs imposed by the earthquake.

The tragedy will cast a somber shadow over the government transition scheduled for March 11 when the center-left presidency of Michelle Bachelet and social democratic Concertacion coalition yields executive power to the center-right government of President-elect Sebastian Piñera. Chileans can be counted on to put partisan politics aside as they respond to a national crisis.

For the moment, Chile has requested from the United Nations help with mobile bridges, generators, water filtration equipment, field hospitals and surgical centers, as well as assistance from damage-assessment teams.

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton briefly visits Chile on March 3, she should be forthcoming in helping facilitate a positive U.S. response to these requests.