After Chile quake 2010, Hillary Clinton to hand deliver aid

After Chile quake 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is personally delivering the first load of US aid - much-needed satellite phones - to Santiago, the capital. The South American country was hit by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake Saturday.

By , Staff writer

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will take the United States’ first offering of assistance after the Chile quake – a load of much-needed satellite phones – when she visits the capital, Santiago, Tuesday.

Chile was always on Secretary Clinton’s itinerary for her swing through South and Central America this week – but now the focus of her stop has changed in the aftermath of Chile’s 8.8-magnitude earthquake Saturday. (For Monitor coverage of the earthquake, click here and here.)

Clinton said earlier Monday, shortly after her arrival in Montevideo, Uruguay, for the inauguration of President José Mujica, that she would not only be delivering communications equipment requested by Chilean officials when she visits there Tuesday, but that more such equipment will follow. Clinton’s plane is also delivering a communications technician to help the Chilean government address its communications shortfalls with areas cut off by the quake.

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IN PICTURES: Images from the 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile

One of the objectives of her stop in Santiago will now be to take stock of other needs during her talks with outgoing President Michele Bachelet and with President-elect Sebastian Piñera.

“One of the reasons why [Chilean officials] have asked me to continue my trip is to assess whatever else they might need,” Clinton said, “and immediately to begin the process of providing it.”

In Washington, State Department officials say Chile has also requested water purifications systems and at least one field hospital.

Originally Clinton had planned to fly directly from Montevideo to Santiago to overnight there before meetings Tuesday – an itinerary that would have bypassed Argentina, a country that has had a number of differences with the Obama administration. But now Clinton will spend Monday night instead in Buenos Aires – where she was also to meet with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Differences between the two countries over Honduras and the appropriate response to last year’s coup d’etat there have colored recent relations between the two countries.

In briefings last week previewing Clinton’s trip, State Department officials responded to raised eyebrows over the lack of a stop in Argentina – Buenos Aires is just a quick hop across the Rio de la Plata from Montevideo – by saying Clinton’s focus was on Latin America’s recent smooth democratic transitions. (For more Monitor coverage of Clinton's trip, click here.)

In remarks to the press before leaving Montevideo, Clinton said the US stands ready to help resolve differences that have arisen recently between Argentina and the United Kingdom over British oil exploration around the Falkland Islands. Clinton said the dispute is for the two interested parties to resolve, but that the US is prepared to help in any way it can.

IN PICTURES: Images from the 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile

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