Anti-Dam Election Campaign Launches in Chile

Rosalind Adams
Thursday, June 13, 2013

Campaign urges congressional candidates to make public commitment and reject dams in Patagonia

Originally published the The Santiago Times

The Vota Sin Represas Campaign is launched in Santiago
The Vota Sin Represas Campaign is launched in Santiago

Legislators and congressional candidates gathered in Santiago’s former Congress building Monday to pledge their support for clean energy alternatives to major hydroelectric dam projects in Patagonia.

Launched by the Defense Council of Patagonia, the campaign “Vota Sin Represas (Vote No Dams),” calls for presidential candidates to formally pledge their commitment to keep Patagonia free of dams and invest in renewable energy before this year’s election.
“It’s basically a political tool,“ Juan Pablo Orrego, president of the advocacy group Ecosystems told The Santiago Times, describing the campaign. “The Chilean people are against this dam and they’re not going to support a candidate who is for it. This campaign is a means to bring more transparency to the issue.”

HidroAysén is a major dam project which encompasses plans for five hydroelectric dams in the Aysén Region of Patagonia. Though the project was approved under the administration of President Sebastián Piñera, progress stalled in June 2012 due to widespread protests in Chile.

Some parliamentary candidates, present at Monday’s event, have already signed on to the campaign, including former student leaders Camila Vallejo, now running as a Communist Party (PC) deputy candidate, and Giorgio Jackson.

“I adhere to this cause, and hope that civil society will too, because it is in the long-term best interest of the country,” said Jackson, running as deputy candidate for the left-leaning Democratic Revolution (RD).

Candidates and legislators sign the Vota Sin Represas pledge on Monday at the former Congress building in Santiago
Candidates and legislators sign the Vota Sin Represas pledge on Monday at the former Congress building in Santiago

Other signatories included: Juan Pablo Letelier, Fulvio Rossi and Marcelo Diaz of the Socialist Party (PS); Party for Democracy’s (PPD) Mariano Ruiz Esquide, Guido Girardi and Cristina Girardi Víctor Barrueto; Christian Democrats (DC) Patricio Vallespín and Fuad Chahín; and Broad Social Movement (MAS) President Alejandro Navarro.

In addition to safeguarding the region from mega hydroelectric projects, the campaign is also calling for a fundamental rethink of the region’s energy generation.

“We need to look to a future transition from the existing matrix of oil, coal and hydroelectricity, to one which integrates applying efficient, non-conventional renewable energies such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydro — on a lower scale,” said the commitment that candidates signed on Monday.

The campaign has launched a vigorous online and social media campaign and hopes to rally the support of 20,000 voters who will commit to vote only for candidates who “say no to dams.”

All pledges and statements will be collected on the website in preparation for the general election Nov. 17.