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Chile Aims To Focus Summit On Its Brighter Side


SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) â¿¿ European, Latin American and Caribbean leaders gathering for this weekend's economic summit will likely see only one side of Chile â¿¿ the polished, upscale country where tourists and investors stay in five-star hotels in a sparklingly clean financial district nicknamed "Sanhattan," well away from Santiago's slums.

Hundreds of security agents will ensure that presidents and prime ministers won't be exposed to activists demanding a wider distribution of Chile's copper wealth and decent educations for all. They also won't hear Mapuche Indians denouncing the dictatorship-era anti-terror laws used against Chile's largest indigenous group.

This 16.5 million-person Andean country has won worldwide acclaim for its modernizing economy and institutions, rarities in a region still struggling to leave behind centuries of economic dysfunction. Yet there's another side to the Chilean miracle, one that will sit just blocks from the conference halls and hotels where leaders will meet this week.

Chile, in fact, has the worst inequality rate among the 34 countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which includes other emerging economies such as Mexico and Turkey, according to the World Bank. Its rate of inequality is also worse than several Latin American countries with lower average incomes, including Peru, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador.

"Chile is a country of contrasts. We have two countries, and the people who come to the summit will only see one of them - 'Sanhattan' and the macroeconomic data," said pollster Marta Lagos.

"It might be good for the government that the people in the summits don't realize this, but it's bad for Chile."

Promoting sustainable development by fighting poverty, reducing income inequality and protecting natural resources are actually primary goals of the summit, which brings together more than 60 nations from the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the world's leading non-governmental organizations.

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