Chilean Ambassador Felipe Bulnes visited Pittsburgh Monday as the guest of Chatham University, which granted him an honorary degree, and the World Affairs Council. Pittsburgh students, faculty and business people profited from the event by learning about his country, which is on the rise.
Mr. Bulnes has a rich background that includes study at Harvard Law School and service as minister of justice and minister of education. He will go on from Washington to become Chile's representative in an International Court of Justice case that pits Chile against Bolivia, which seeks to recover access to the Pacific coast that it lost to Chile in a 19th century war.
Chile suffered a rough patch when President Salvador Allende, a socialist reformer, died in 1973 in a military coup that put Gen. Augusto Pinochet in power. Although Mr. Pinochet's civil rights record as president was bloody, he initiated economic reforms that future governments used as a springboard to its current high level of development. America's relations over this dark night period were difficult, but they improved greatly, starting when democracy was restored.
Mr. Bulnes' principal message was Chile's admirable record of economic development, brought about in no small part by its increasing trade ties with the world, including the Pacific. Its approach is not different from that of President Barack Obama, who is seeking to pivot U.S. foreign policy toward closer ties and increased investment with Asian countries. Chile's largest trading partner is China.
Chile in many ways, because of its general focus on economic relations, is easier for the United States to work with than other Latin American nations. Brazil is touchy and sees itself as a rival to the United States for hemispheric leadership. Argentina still has rough financial moments. Venezuela, suffering from the hangover of 14 years of Hugo Chavez as president, has not yet come to terms with the United States. Mexico is already tied closely because of its common border and the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.
During his visit Ambassador Bulnes presented to Pittsburghers a Chile that is a most attractive candidate for deeper economic and political cooperation with the United States.