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IWC Chairman grilled by Chilean Parliament and civil society on pro-whaling proposal

Santiago de Chile, May 03, 2010 (Ecoceanos/CCC News) – Chilean parliamentarians, along with national NGOs conducted a press conference to demand an answer from the Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Alfredo Moreno, to a formal request made on April 21st in order to know the position of the government of Sebastian Piñera in relation to the negotiation proposal of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) that is being conducted by the Chilean commissioner and president of this international organization, Cristian Maquieira.

The press conference was conducted today in the premises of the former Chilean Congress in Santiago de Chile and counted with the presence of senator Juan Pablo Letelier, deputy Guillermo Teillier and representatives from Centro EcoceanosCentro de Conservacion Cetacea and the national coalition EcoAnimal.

Senator Juan Pablo Letelier, who is also member of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chilean Senate, affirmed that “we demand to the MFA to give an explanation – and if this explanation is that Chile has not changed its policy – to consequently dismiss the Chilean commissioner at the IWC, who seems to have given a personal opinion – and in foreign policy there is no space for personal opinions – or who is representing the interests of countries other than Chile”.

The deputy Guillermo Teillier, who is also member of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Deputy Chamber, affirmed that “we are going to oppose to this proposal and we will make everything possible so that the Environmental other commissions of the congress clarify the position of the current government, since it seems there has been a change in the historic pro-conservation position consolidated in Chile after the military government”.

This last statement made by Teillier was in relation to a recent presentation of the Director of the Environmental Affairs of the MAF, Fernando Danus, who recently declared his support to the Maquieira proposal in a meeting held in the Chilan Congress and affirmed that the whale populations of the Southern Ocean are recovering. Elsa Cabrera, executive director of Centro de Conservación Cetacea, refuted the argument stating “the majority of whale species found the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary are classified as vulnerable or endangered”.

Senator Letelier added, “It is a shame that Chile is being looked by the international community as a country that promotes and justifies whaling operations”.

Juan Carlos Cardenas, executive director of Centro Ecoceanos, affirmed, “the proposal is defective and does not represent the interests of Chile nor the countries of the southern hemisphere, that utilize whales by non lethal means”. Cardenas added that “there are alternatives to the whaling proposal tabled by Maquieira, like the initiative of the government of Australia that seeks to completely eliminate the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean, ban scientific whaling and effectively implement the moratorium on commercial whaling”.

Cabrera also added “there is another concerning element largely unknown by the public about this proposal. The people of the member countries of the IWC will fund the revival of the almost dead whaling industry through their taxes. Our taxes will be use to pay for the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean”. The environmentalists also made a call to the Chilean government to support the elements of the Australian proposal, since “it represents the interests of our region”.

“This proposal, this language, opens the doors to opinions that do not represent the interest of Chile because really, our position is much closer to Australia and other countries, and not Japans interests” affirmed Letelier.

For these reasons, the environmental organizations demanded the Chilean government to “publicly clarify the position of Chile about the unilateral proposal of ambassador Maquieira, that dos not reflect the national policy on whale conservation and isolates the country from the international community and the Latin American countries”.

Teillier added that ambassador Maquieira “will be invited to the Environmental Commission of the Congress to explain the proposal and the negotiation process that clearly ignores Chilean interests”.

Finally, senator Letelier affirmed that the congress will work expeditiously in a project of agreement of the Senate oriented to defend the Policy of State of Chile in whale conservation issues.

Source: EcoceanosCentro de Conservación Cetacea