Consul general talks Chile, diplomacy and life in Wilton

The Wilton Kiwanis Club welcomed Julio Fiol, consul general of Chile and a Wilton resident, as guest speaker at its March 25 meeting.
Approximately 50 people attended the luncheon at WEPCO, where Fiol discussed various aspect of Chile — from its government and economy to its weather, geography and tourism — as well as his role as a diplomat.
As a consul general, Fiol said, he is responsible for “solving problems.”
“People sometimes come with a very fixed idea — ‘I have a problem but I want it to be solved my way,’ and I have to tell them, ‘Look, you cannot get your way,’” said Fiol. “That’s basically what we do — we try to help people.”
Fiol said he also helps students get visas to study abroad and assigns powers of attorney for people looking to do business in Chile.
Working with foundations is also “a very important part” of a consul general’s job, said Fiol.
“We give time to help people — we raise money for handicapped children in Chile and we’re raising money for firefighters,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything more important in life than giving. I think people who give something are much happier than people who receive something.”


Fiol said Chile is similar to the United States in that it’s “a country made of immigrants.”
“People came from Europe and brought their knowledge and their families,” he said, “and many of us have European ancestors.”
Fiol said Chile has “no migration policy” and people from countries like the Dominican Republic, Haiti and even Spain “keep coming and coming.”
Fiol said Chile follows the Chicago Business School model of economics, which has led to its “fairly stable economic situation.”
“We have realized that the market is not the best thing,” he said. “You have to have some kind of balance — the market cannot decide everything for you.”
Following 17 years of a military dictatorship, Fiol said, Chile is now run by a “very strong” president who can “initiate and propose laws and do whatever he wants.”
Fiol said life under the military dictatorship — from 1973 to 1990 — was “a very difficult experience.”
“After that, we had 20 years of that center-left coalition, and then for four years, there was a government from the right-wing party,” he said, “and now we’re back to the center-left coalition.”

Geography, weather and tourism

Isolating Chile from the rest of South America are the Andes Mountains, which Fiol referred to as Chile’s “main backbone.”
From the northernmost part of Chile to the southernmost part, the country is “the same length as going from New York City to San Francisco,” he said.
“Since we’re north to south, we have desert climate, then kind of a Mediterranean climate and then at the very end it’s like Siberia — you don’t want to be there; it’s very cold.”
In terms of tourism, Fiol said, Chile has a lot to offer.
“If you like tiny rocks; if you like skiing — whatever you want to do, you can do it in Chile,” he said.
“Chile has lots of tourism because we are far away from all the main problems in the world, so people go down there.”
The only tourism concern when it comes to Chile, Fiol said, is the cost to travel there.
“The tickets will cost you like $800 — no less than that,” he said. “Regularly, we’re talking about $1,200 to $1,400, but once you’ve made it there, you will have fun.”

Life in Wilton

Fiol said he and his wife decided to come to Wilton because of its “wonderful education system.”
“You have managed to create a very nice balance. We like it very much,” said Fiol. “The schools are great here; people are great here — we feel very much at home.”
Fiol said he, his wife and daughter will be moving back to Chile by the end of the summer.
“We have had the chance and opportunity of meeting people, and my wife is worried we’re going to miss Wilton,” he said. “What you have here is very impressive. You should be proud.”