Just days after the 33 Chilean miners were freed from their underground prison, the unity that helped them survive the 69-day ordeal has already begun to unravel. While underground, the miners famously agreed to keep silent about the first harrowing 17 days of their entrapment, before rescuers located them. But under intense media pressure, the pact is beginning to break down. (Watch a CBS report about the pact.) Here's a quick guide:
Who broke the pact first?
Mario Sepulveda, the exuberant 40-year-old miner nicknamed "Super Mario," spoke to British tabloid The Mail on Sunday about the first 17 days in the mine. He later gave an interview to ABC News.
Why did he break it?
"There are certain things which need to be told," he told reporter Caroline Graham. "I want the world to know the truth about what we went through down there." He added, "People have been gossiping and saying things and I think it is important for one of us, me in this case, to tell it as it was." Specifically, rumors were circulating of bloody fights, cannibalism, and gay sex.
Were those rumors true?
Sepulveda conceded that "when you are in a stressful situation like that, you do and say things in extremes" — but said salacious rumors of sex and cannibalism were untrue. "No, nothing like that ever went on. We were too busy trying to survive to think of sex."
Did Sepulveda spill any compromising secrets?
Not really. The story he tells is generally of the miners' growing desperation. At first he and others tried to find a way out — then he describes attempting to keep his fellow miners' spirits up with humor and a regular sleep schedule while they waited to be rescued. "We all tried to keep faith alive," he recalls. "But, to be brutally honest, by those last few days I am not sure if any of us truly believed we would be found."
Is there anything he won't reveal?
Yes. "There are some things I will never talk about," he says. "But they are things that would embarrass some of the kids. Nothing sexual, more that they acted like kids. It is important, even now, for the older ones to protect the younger, more vulnerable ones."
Is Sepulveda the only miner to have spoken out about the first 17 days?
No. Miner Jorge Galleguillos told Reuters the "pact was non-binding," and said he would agree to be interviewed for a fee. "I have to think about myself," he said. Others refused to break the pact — both Claudio Yanez and Mario Gomez refused to talk to Reuters about the early days in the mine. Another miner, Omar Reygadas, said only that there was an "agreement for us to speak as a group, to avoid distortions that can arise when we speak individually."
Why are some miners breaking the pact already?
In short, says Cahal Milmo in the London Independent, because of the "sizable phalanx of broadcasters and journalists" willing to pay for access. There was "intense pressure" on the miners to sell out even before their release. "Negotiations for interviews even began while the group were still underground with tentative offers being made via letters sent down a plastic tube." Tellingly, Reygadas said to reporters: "I've had nightmares these days. But the worst nightmare is you."
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