Yesterday, October 18, President Sebastian Piñera of Chile and his wife, Cecilia Morel, attended a private meeting with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace. President Piñera brought a highly symbolic gift with him–a piece of rock, displayed in an elegant case, from the mine where 33 Chilean miners were trapped for over two months.
Queen Elizabeth receives symbolic rock from mine where 33 Chilean miners were trapped
The rock came from the San Jose copper and gold mine, from which the entrapped miners were rescued last week. According to reports, the president took the time to explain to the Queen how the rescue had been carried out.
The rock was brought out by Mario Sepulveda, the second miner to be pulled out of the mine. All but one miner has been released from hospital.
The Queen appeared fascinated and touched by the unusual gift, examining it closely. Queen Elizabeth and the presidential couple spoke for almost 40 minutes before they were presented with a traditional gift for visiting dignitaries: A framed picture of the sovereign and Duke of Edinburgh, signed by the royal couple.
Chilean rock gift for Queen Elizabeth symbol of changes within Chile
More cynical reports have suggested that the rock is not so much symbolic of the rescue as of an attempt to change the image of Chile from that of General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, which ended in 1990, to a caring and proactive country.
President Piñera was interviewed live on the BBC and explained that the disaster “changed everybody in Chile.” He felt that the Chilean response to the disaster could be used to address other problems, such as poverty and lack of development in Chile.
President Pinera visits Prime Minister Cameron, British politicians and dignitaries
On his visit to Britain, President Piñera also met with Prime Minster David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, along with several business owners and law makers. He also met members of Manchester United, which invited the miners to visit its club.
Prime Minister Cameron also received a piece of rock from the San Jose mine, and presented the Chilean president with 33 bottles of British beer–one for each miner.
President Piñera has now moved on to Germany and France as part of his week-long tour of Europe.
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