EnCompass Chile 2019: Meeting Notable Political Figures

March 13, 2019
Gabriella Lopez-Gutierrez

Today we had a meeting with Sergio Bitar at the Rockefeller Ctr. Harvard. It was an honor for me to meet a former minister and senator. Sergio Bitar was the Mine Minister when he was detained as a prisoner of war and later exiled during the Pinochet regime. Yet Mr. Bitar’s passion for his country did not desist, he came back to Chile in 1985 to usher the successful reconstruction of the Chilean democracy in 1990.  For this reason our meeting was focused on democratic transitions around the world. After his presentation on the ten major characteristic necessary for democratic transition we had time for questions. We did not hesitate to lose the opportunity of clearing our doubts on the topic. Mr.Bitar very willing to answer our questions and his engagement encouraged us to continue inquiring on the topic. It was an honor to learn from a man with his level of wisdom, not only as a political scientist but also as someone who experienced the affliction of the loss of democracy. We appreciated the time he invested with us as we are conscious of the enigmatic figure he is. Mr. Bitar is the symbol of how democracy lies in the hands of each individual, and its recovery is achieved with systematic hope and perseverance.

After the meeting with Mr.Bitar we had lunch with two officials from the current government, Roberto Munita and Andres Villar. Our reservation was at Club de la Union, an impressive colonial construction. Here we were given a private salon. The conversation with the two government officials was focused on current controversies. Mr. Munita, director of research from the Chilean Whitehouse,  replied to our questions concerning executive policies. While Mr. Villar, from the ministry of defense, answered our questions concerning military administration and intelligence. It was of great advantage having them, as we could receive different perspectives over similar issues. The discussion was less constrained, it varied from topics related to foreign policy to national administration.

Our last official activity was a tour at the Moneda Presidential Palace equivalent to the U.S. White House. Here we learned about the different tasks and protocols that are held daily. The significance of the place on our learning experience was the reflection on class lectures. We learned that the palace was once bombed by the Chilean armed forces in 1973 while the president was inside.

 - Gabriella Lopez-Gutierrez

EnCompass is a pilot program of the Office of International Education that is designed to increase study abroad access for populations of students who may be reluctant to take on international travel or whose academic requirements make study abroad difficult.