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Bicentenary of the Battle of Valparaiso is commemorated in Chile

Chilean Navy commemorated the Bicentenary of the' Battle of Valparaiso' between Great Britain and the United States of America.

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Commemoration of the Battle of Valparaíso.
Commemoration of the Battle of Valparaíso.

HMA Fiona Clouder participated at the reception held on 28 March at the Naval Operations Command in Valparaiso organised by the Chilean Navy to commemorate the Bicentenary of the Battle of Valparaiso between Great Britain and the United States of America. The reception followed a remembrance ceremony at sea at the site of the battle and a further ceremony at the ‘Cementerio de los Disidentes’ where there is a memorial to the American fallen.

In addition to HMA were present the Ambassador of United States Mike Hammer, the Valparaiso Mayor, members of the Navy’s high commanders including Admiral Larrañaga, and members of the UK and American community.

Mrs. Fiona Clouder delivered the following speech to mark the occasion:

I am delighted to be with you all here and in particular those that accompany us today from the Chilean Congress, the Chilean Navy, the National Arts and Culture Council, the Municipality of Valparaíso, our colleagues from the United States Embassy and the British and American communities living in Valparaíso. I am here today to honour and remember an event that whilst it represents a low point in our relations serves as a marker in how far the relations between the United States, Chile and my country, the United Kingdom have come.

Today, 200 years ago, the British and United States navies confronted each other in Valparaiso Bay in an effort to enforce their particular trade objectives which, in fact, placed both countries on opposite sides of the ideological discussion of that time – with the subsequent loss of human lives and a damaged relationship which has thankfully been resolved with the passing of time.

I am sure that many of you know the story better than myself, but I think it is really important to share a moment to remember our respective countrymen who gave their lives, to defend the ideals promoted by our countries at the beginning of the 19th century, a battle that wouldn’t occur today due to the common views we share on this and many other topics. A further sign of how the relationship has flourished.

The fierce combat between the ships commanded by Captain Hillyar and Captain Porter opened a wound that reflected the violent and destructive trade policy prevailing at that time, very different from the policies shared by our countries today - when the building of enduring links contributes to the development of our nations. No doubt, this is the best legacy that we can remember and treasure in this place where members of the Chilean, American and British communities have gathered today – with the view towards the future but always remembering and respecting the past.

Today, the United Kingdom, the United States and Chile can share and promote many values and ideals, both at a regional and international level, the respect for the rule of law, the protection of human rights, and the free exchange of products and services aimed at strengthening and developing of our countries. It is important to remember here the extremely valuable work that we carry out with Chile, not only in the Human Rights Council and the talks around the Climate Change Convention, but also in the Pacific Alliance – where the UK is an observer, and indeed in the United Nations Security Council where our three countries are committed to prevent events such as the one we are remembering today.

Today’s reality shows us that conflicts bring nothing but the loss of lives and the worsening of economic conditions; from examples like this we can see the best way to resolve conflicts is by direct and honest negotiations that allow common points to be found and alliances to be created that boost the well-being of our peoples. I think this is a view that our countries share and firmly believe in.

Valparaíso has always played a crucial role in Chile’s history, first as a port for the exchange of goods and then as a port of entrance for most of the foreigners choosing to settle in Chile. Today, reaffirming this significant role, Valparaíso is the home of the legislative powers of the State. Furthermore, this is the Chilean city that has always enjoyed a special connection with the UK, both commercially as the most important port of the South Pacific coast. Also, as the place where from the early times of the Chilean Republic so many British nationals made their permanent home. These settlers thus became ‘porteños’ and gave a British flair to the cultural, social and political life of this city. Those present here who are descendents of those adventurers, who saw Chile as the starting point for a new life or simply fell in love with this crazy and beautiful landscape. You are the best reflection of this mix of cultures and our ‘frontline Ambassadors’ to ensure events like we are remembering today can positively evolve into peaceful relationships with a goal to strive for the progress, security and well-being of us all.

This event could not take place without the efforts of the Chilean Navy who despite not having played a direct role in the actions of 1814, where willing to join forces with us to remember a moment in history that influenced our diplomatic relations.

As a final word, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Chilean Navy and particularly the Servicio de Búsqueda y Salvamento Marítimo for their incredibly professional rescue of Andrew Halcrow on the 9th of March. His yacht was dismasted in the high seas off Southern Chile and in what were very difficult weather conditions they coordinated his safe retrieval by helicopter to Punta Arenas.”

We have all come a long way during the last 200 years to be an example of cooperation, friendship and support among nations and communities with a great love for the sea.

Thank you.

Further information

For more información about this event, please contact Paula Militzer of the Defence Section, British Embassy, Santiago.

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Published 1 April 2014