German federal council head visits Chile

One day later than expected, federal council head Bodo Ramelow landed in Santiago. On the agenda are talks with political leaders and a visit to the area of former Colonia Dignidad. The most important agenda items, however, revolve around economic cooperation and renewable energy.

The president of Germany’s Bundesrat, or federal council, has arrived in Chile. Bodo Ramelow, who also serves as minister president of Thuringia state, arrived one day later than planned. A collision in mid-air with a goose forced an overnight stay in Cologne, where his plane had to be inspected.

Ramelow will meet with Senate president Álvaro Elizalde, energy minister Diego Gonzalo Pardow, and economy undersecretary Javiera Petersen Muga. He will also talk to representatives of non-specified NGOs, according to a federal council press release.

During his weeklong visit, Ramelow is expected to lay a wreath at Colonia Dignidad and talk to victims and their families. Colonia Dignidad was a sect led by former Nazi Paul Schäfer. He abused children sexually but, as a dictatorship collaborator — numerous opponents were tortured and killed during Pinochet’s reign — the deeds were ignored.

Schäfer died in a prison in Santiago in 2010. His henchman, Hartmut Hopp, was convicted in Chile but fled to Germany, where the public prosecutor and courts prevented his extradition. He lives a quiet life in Krefeld.

Also read:

Germany refuses to imprison former Colonia Dignidad doctor

Ramelow will also visit the tomb of Salvador Allende.

Innovation and Economy

At the core of his trip, however, is economic collaboration. Germany is interested in green hydrogen. While Germany’s fossil-fuel culture is hindering progress on sustainable energy development, Chile has ample solar and wind resources to produce — and export — green hydrogen. The Merkel and Piñera governments already signed related agreements.

In Antofagasta, Ramelow will meet governor Nalto Espinoza Hurtado, visit the Atacama desert, and the Paranal astronomical observatory, Thuringian publication OTZ reported recently. Telescope technology was developed by Carl Zeiss GmbH in Jena, a city in Thuringia hosting world-class public and private research facilities.

Aside from several research and commercial exchange meetings, officials also seek to boost trade between Chile and Germany, and Thuringia specifically, as exports from the latter to Chile currently reach around 42 million euros and imports 3.4 million euros per year, OTZ reported.

The German delegation is also interested in deepening cooperation on battery production and lithium trade, which is crucial for the energy transition.

Union Roots  

Ramelow is a member of Die Linke (The Left) party, which integrates parts of West German left forces and the PDS, the successor to the SED communist party which imposed its rule on East Germany until reunification.

He is seen as a pragmatist and sharpened his profile as union leader and dealmaker in former West Germany before going to Thuringia.

In 2014, Ramelow was elected minister president and reelected in 2020, although that process involved controversial backroom deals between the Christian Democrats, the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), and the far-right AfD, which wanted to block Ramelow and succeeded in installing the state’s FDP head as minister president for a brief period.

Yet, Ramelow has been able to govern Thuringia scandal-free and relatively frictionless since then.

His one-year term as head of the federal council will end on Oct. 31.


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