SANTIAGO – One of the 33 men who endured 70 days trapped in a mine in northern Chile is fleeing from the fame acquired after last week’s dramatic rescue, saying that he and his comrades are victims of the irresponsibility of the owners of the San Jose mine.
“People call us heroes, but no, we’re not heroes, we are victims. We fought for our lives because we have families. We are the victims of owners who do not invest in safety,” Franklin Lobos said in an interview with the Santiago daily El Mercurio.
Lobos, a 53-year-old former professional soccer player, said that the “vast majority” of the 33 workers believed that the San Esteban company, owner of the San Jose mine, was going to leave them at the bottom of the pit after the Aug. 5 cave-in.
“The vast majority thought the company was just going to leave us there. It was going to be much cheaper to let us die than to rescue us,” the miner, who last Wednesday was the 27th to be rescued, said.
The noise of the drilling through the rock to find us brought back a little hope, though he acknowledged that there were tears when the first bore hole went wide of where they were.
“And we cried...because we saw that a chance to get out of there was escaping us,” Lobos recalled.
As for the future, he seemed ready to go back to mining, a job he has done for the last four years to support his family.
“The mine didn’t want to take us, the mine wanted us alive because we weren’t the bad guys, we were victims of the owners who pocket millions and never give a thought to the suffering of the poor,” Lobos said.
Known as the “Magic Mortar” in the 1980s for his skill with free kicks, Lobos has received an offer from FIFA – soccer’s global governing body – to give motivational talks based on his experience at the bottom of the mine, where he kept his fellow miners doing physical exercises to keep them in shape.
Though he still has not made a decision on the offer, he was sorry it came as a consequence of being buried in the mine, and said that the miners’ current hounding by the media won’t last long.
“We’ll have it all, they’ll be calling us from all the media, but in two weeks it will all be over,” Lobos said. EFE