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Cracks appear in miners' pact as media offers roll in

THEY were united for 69 days under the ground, and are divided after just six days on the surface.

For 69 days, the solidarity of the trapped Chilean miners enabled them to survive their subterranean prison, solemnly vowing to maintain a silence about their experience once confronted by the media circus that awaited them some 700m above. Less than a week after their deliverance, cracks are beginning to emerge in that unity forged underground.

Amid offers of free holidays to Greece and tickets to see Manchester United, "Los 33" have started speaking about their ordeal, with some openly requesting money in return for interviews.

Quite where the opening of bidding for interviews sits with a reported agreement between the men to split evenly the proceeds from the telling of their stories is unclear.

But as the heroes of Chile began to be released from hospital over the weekend, a market was rapidly developing for access to the miners whose ordeal captivated the world.

Veronica Quispe, the wife of Carlos Mamani (24), the Bolivian national in the group, told reporters arriving at their home in a slum in Copiapo that they were charging for interviews.

She told 'The New York Times': "We're poor -- look at the place we live. You live off our stories, so why can't we make money from this opportunity to feed our children?"

The going price for an audience with one of the 33 varies dramatically. The partner of one miner asked for a bottle of Argentine alcohol, while some miners have requested only €28. Others, however, are asking for substantially more, with figures of €18,000 being discussed by some families.


The 'Mail on Sunday' published an exhaustive account from Mario Sepulveda -- the flamboyant machine operator who led rescuers in a chorus of singing when he became the second to emerge from the escape capsule six days ago.

The newspaper said Mr Sepulveda, known as "Super Mario", had granted the interview because of what he described as the "dignity and kindness" with which the paper had treated his family.

Other media groups are willing to go further, with broadcasters, magazines and newspapers offering to fly miners to Italy, Japan and America.

Jonathan Franklin, an American-born journalist who has signed a deal to publish a book on the miners, said: "There are some secrets that they should keep. I know things that I'm never going to publish in my book. But we're going to know what happened down there."

The material compensations for their physical and mental traumas are already being provided to the men. A Chilean mining magnate has written a cheque for 5m pesos (€7,450) to each of the miners, while a Greek mining firm has offered a free one-week holiday to each man and a companion.

Mr Sepulveda said: "We were swallowed into the bowels of hell but we have been reborn and now I feel it is my duty to tell what went on and the lessons to be learnt."

Others are more reticent, for the moment at least. Omar Reygadas (56) went to look at the tent in the San Jose copper mine where his family had camped during his ordeal, followed by a crowd of cameramen and photographers.

Turning to the reporters, he said: "I've had nightmares these days. But the worst nightmare is all of you."

Irish Independent