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Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Chilean president to talk about new Chilean-California pact

– Chilean President Michelle Bachelet will speak at the University of California, Berkeley, this Thursday (June 12) at 5 p.m. on the challenges facing her country and the impacts of a new agreement between Chile and the state of California.

The pact, to be signed the same day at noon in Sacramento by Bachelet and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, will build upon shared economic ties between California and Chile and will promote active collaboration in alternative energy, higher education and innovation.

The agreement could become a model for cooperation in the Americas, and University of California campuses will play a central role in fostering joint programs for research and academic exchange, said Harley Shaiken, chair of UC Berkeley's Center for Latin American Studies, which is hosting Bachelet.

Bachelet was elected Chile's first woman president in 2006 after campaigning on a platform that included environmental protection and investment in renewable energy - critical issues in a country that imports nearly three-quarters of its power. In addition, Northern Chile is facing an energy shortage that threatens operation of its lucrative copper mines, and the government is considering installing solar power plants in the region's Atacama Desert, home to a fifth of the world's copper.

Bachelet and other Chilean government officials - including her minister of energy, minister of the economy and minister of foreign affairs, and members of the Chilean Congress - are visiting California and Nevada this week, in part to explore new research and developments in alternative energy. They will meet Thursday afternoon at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for a briefing with leading energy researchers from the lab and UC Berkeley on energy conservation practices and sustainable energy technologies.

In an annual address to Chilean lawmakers, Bachelet said recently that Chile will be exploring various forms of alternative energy and noted that the country will spend more this year than previously on infrastructure and establish a $6 billion fund abroad to finance foreign study.

UC Berkeley's Center for Latin American Studies has had a close relationship with Chile for nearly two decades. Beatriz Manz, a previous chair of the center and now chair of the campus's Department of Ethnic Studies and a professor in the Department of Geography, is a native of Chile. The center hosted now ex-Chilean President Richard Lagos as a visiting professor in fall 2006, and Chilean Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdés was a guest of the center in January 2008. Chilean Energy Minister Marcelo Tokman earned his Ph.D. in economics at UC Berkeley in 1999.

After learning about the new Chile-California pact and plans by the Chilean delegation to visit California, the center immediately extended an invitation to Bachelet, who served as defense minister and as health minister in the Lagos cabinet, to make a stop at UC Berkeley.

"Our goal is to inspire links between Chile and the UC Berkeley academic community," said Shaiken. "We think the Center for Latin American Studies is ideally suited to make this happen."

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau will introduce Bachelet, whose talk, "The Transformation of Chile," is free and open to the public. It will run from 5-6 p.m. in the Chevron Auditorium at International House, 2299 Piedmont Ave., Berkeley. On the day of the address, free tickets will be available at the auditorium on a first-come, first-served basis. No backpacks, large bags, food, banners, signs or sound-making devices will be allowed.

Brief, single-topic questions can be submitted in advance of the talk by e-mailing Beth Perry, the Center for Latin American Studies program coordinator, at maperry@berkeley.edu. More information about this event and other Center for Latin American Studies programs is online at the Center for Latin American Studies Home page.