The largest population of Palestinians outside the Middle East live in Chile. Most came to Latin America in the early 1900s and now constitute a growing demographic in the region. In fact, there are sizable Arab populations throughout South and Central America, especially in Honduras. Current Salvadoran president Tont Saca is the descendant of Palestinian immigrants and the late Shafik Handal, the man Saca beat in the 2004 elections was himself the son of Palestinian immigrants.
The Chilean government recently admitted 117 Palestinians displaced by the war in Iraq and the first 39 arrived just a few weeks ago. The rest are set to arrive in coming weeks and will be resettled in Santiago. Under an agreement with the Catholic Church and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Chile has been one of a few countries that have extended help to people displaced by the Iraq War. The newcomers have been embraced by the large Palestinian community and the Chilean government. Deputy Interior Secretary Felipe Harboe told the newcomers:
“Leave your suffering in the past and let Chile be the fountain of your newfound happiness”
Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman traveled to La Calera to see how the new ‘Chileans’ are adjusting.
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