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Clinton Lugs Satellite Phones to Chile

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, March 3 2010

Credit: U.S. State Department

It might lack the glamor of sending Ashton Kutcher to Moscow, but it's worth noting the degree to which Hillary Clinton's State Department has, as part of their "21st century statecraft" push, embraced the idea that telecommunications can be absolutely critical in life of death situations. In Haiti, we saw people texting from beneath rubble, but the Haitian telecom infrastructure's failings were a sad obstacle to relief there. It's a powerful lesson now being applied to the earthquake zone in Chile, where, at the request of the Chilean government, Clinton arrived this week bearing 20 satellite phones and a technician who knew how to set them up. From the Christian Science Monitor:

While clean water, food, medical support, and rescue workers are the priorities in the hours after a catastrophe, so too are phones – so that governments can properly assess the damage, dispatch officials to hot spots, and distribute aid to those most in need.

So, after opening up to foreign aid assistance, Chile’s first request to the US was communications equipment. And that’s what US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on part of a Latin America tour that was scheduled before the quake, has brought with her today as she visits Chile.

In other State Department news, tonight at 6 pm EST Clinton will participate in a live-streamed townterview (i.e., townhall + interview) in Sao Paulo, Brazil -- which we mostly mention because it's really fun to say "townterview."