Chilean Cadets' Unsettling Rhymes Spur Diplomatic Conflict

PHOTO: Sailors from the Chilean Navy marched down Avenida Pedro de Valdivia in Santiago, Chile on September 19th, 2008.

Flickr/Matt.Hintsa

A video of young Chilean military trainees singing a xenophobic tune has led to a minor diplomatic incident in South America.

The video, which was uploaded to YouTube on February 5 and has already been seen more than 390,000 times, shows a group of 27 Navy cadets running through the streets of Viña del Mar while singing disturbing verses about slaying Argentinians, Bolivians, and Peruvians.

"Argentinians I will kill! Bo-o-livians execute! I will slit Peruvians' throats!" ("¡Argentinos mataré! ¡Bolivianos fusilaré! ¡Peruanos degollaré!") The chants have stirred outrage in the three named countries, which have issued statements condemning the Chilean military drill song and demanding a swift investigation of those involved.

"It is very regrettable and it must be condemned internationally, fundamentally by the Chilean society, because in the 21st century we can't have, among neighbors, enemies of this caliber," said César Navarro, Bolivia's vice minister of Social Movement Coordination. "Chile's government doesn't ask for unity in Latin America, and they see their neighbors as enemies, whether they're Argentine, Peruvian, or Bolivian," he added.

Argentina and Peru offered milder statements dismissing the actions portrayed in the video as intolerable and as somewhat ridiculous. On Monday, Chile's government announced a fast-tracked investigation. The next day, government officials said that they had already identified the group of cadets, and Andrés Chadwick, the country's Minister of the Interior, apologized for the video.

"This does not correspond to the doctrines that the Armed Forces are supposed to follow and protect," he said referring to the songs. On Thursday, South American newspapers highlighted a video uploaded to YouTube that day, which purportedly featured a chanted response to the controversial Chilean cadets from Argentine military trainees.

"Little Chilean!" the runners in the new video sing. "Be careful, for on a dark night, I will enter your house, and slit your throat!" (¡"Chilenito, ten cuidado, porque una noche oscura, a tu casa entraré, y tu cuello cortaré!")

Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia share a series of historical rivalries and animosities that date back to conflicts in the 19th and 20th century. In 1982, Chile spurned Argentina during the Falklands War by supporting Great Britain during the conflict. Four years before, the two South American countries had engaged in a border dispute that almost escalated into a war over several islands located near the Beagle Channel in the southern-most tip of the continent.

On the other hand, Peru and Bolivia lost large chunks of territory to Chile, including significant parts of the coast, during the War of the Pacific. Peru is still fighting to regain that land through lawsuits in the International Court of Justice in The Hague , and regaining access to the sea has been one of Evo Morales' main talking points throughout his presidency.

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