Uruguayan president Jose Mujica and his host and peer Sebastián Piñera said they are committed to expand and intensify the presence of their countries in Antarctica which they described as a “continent of peace and of the future”.
Piñera and Mujica arrived Friday evening to the Chilean base President Eduardo Frei in a Chilean Air Force Hercules C-130 for a two day visit. Fully dressed in Antarctic gear the two presidents started their visit with a tour of the Chilean base in spite of the minus 8 degrees Celsius.
“We are prepared to expand and intensify our presence in the Antarctic continent”, said President Piñera. He added it was “a real privilege to be at the Eduardo Frei base next to the President of Uruguay because we are marking sovereignty in this continent, as must be for countries such as Chile and Uruguay that have a deep Antarctic calling”.
Piñera pointed out that Antarctica is the most important biodiversity greenhouse in the world and one of the crucial labs for future research plus one holding one of the largest reserves of fresh water.
“We have a commitment and a very special responsibility in this continent of peace and of the future”, he underlined.
”We are confirming our willingness to strengthen our presence here so that Chile as one of the founders of the Antarctic Treaty and the country closest to Antarctica can fully develop its tasks and opportunities in this continent of the future” underlined Piñera.
Mujica said he fully supported every word of his peer Piñera and thanked the Chilean people and their president for all the help and logistics received to bolster and expand Uruguay’s presence in Antarctica.
“Mr. President your words are my words, thank you and the Chilean people for all your support”, said Mujica.
From the President Frei base, the presidential delegations travelled to the Uruguayan scientific base General Artigas a few kilometres away for a formal reception. The base was set up in 1984 and Uruguay is a member of the Antarctic Treaty since 1985 when it was admitted with the sponsoring of Chile and the UK.
Saturday’s program includes a lecture on the Chilean Antarctic effort on board the Chilean navy supply vessel “Aquiles”, a helicopter tour of the area, lunch at the Uruguayan base and in the evening the two presidents will celebrate the birthday of the Chilean First Lady, Cecilia Morel.
On Sunday the delegation will sail on the Aquiles to Greenwich Island to visit the Chilean navy base Arturo Prat and later Deception Island for a tour of the remains of Chilean and British outposts which had to be abandoned in 1967 because of a volcanic eruption in the area.
In the evening the two couples and delegations return to Punta Areas and later on the Chilean Presidential aircraft to Santiago. The following morning Mujica and the Uruguayan First Lady return to Montevideo.
This is the second president hosted by Piñera who last year organized a similar program for the Ecuadorean leader Rafael Correa. Ecuador a longstanding Pacific ally of Chile and also has a scientific base in Antarctica which operates with a significant logistics support from Santiago.