Museum Director fired before state visit

Chile Salmon Museum DirectorThe case of Museum Director Alberto Serrano was addressed by protesters outside the National Library of Santiago when the Norwegian Royal Couple attended an event there on Thursday. Several in the Norwegian delegation, including King Harald, Queen Sonja and the Minister of Fisheries, witnessed the demonstration. Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix

Chilean Museum Director fired before Norwegian state visit

A few days before Alberto Serrano was to show the Norwegian Royal Couple around the museum, he has been fired. “The reason is that I have demonstrated against the salmon industry,” Serrano claims.

“It struck like lightning from a clear sky. It’s surreal,” the Chilean Museum Director tells NTB.

On Sunday, King Harald and Queen Sonja land in the world’s southernmost city, Puerto Williams. During the six-day state visit to Chile, the Royal Couple has been met by demonstrators in both the capital Santiago and Punta Arenas. The demonstrations are against Norwegian salmon farming companies. More of those are expected in Puerto Williams.

One of those who previously demonstrated against salmon farming is Alberto Serrano. He is Museum Director of the anthropological museum Martin Gusinde in Puerto Williams.

The museum is subject to the Chilean Ministry of Culture. Serrano says he received a letter this week saying he lost his job after 11 years at the museum.

“The reason is that I participated in peaceful demonstrations against salmon farming in my spare time,” Serrano claims.

Not confirmed

NTB has queried about the case both to the Chilean Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. None of them has so far responded.

NTB has also requested to view Serrano’s notice of termination, but he does not want to share this for privacy reasons. It is, therefore, difficult to verify the information. The information has, however, been referred to by several Chilean media.

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that they are aware that the case is discussed in Chilean media, but that they do not know what the facts of the case are.

Serrano claims that he was first informed of the dismissal by telephone and that he was informed in writing at the end of this week. So far he has continued his work.

Hopes that they take an about turn

After the case has received attention in Chilean media, the Museum Director has been called in for a meeting by the central authorities in Santiago.

“We’ll see what happens. I have a hope that they realise they have done something stupid and give me the job back,” he hopes.

As far as Serrano knows, the plan is still that he will show the Norwegian Royal Couple around the museum, tell about the situation and the history of the indigenous Yagan who are indigenous to the region.

The Yagan is currently in conflict with the authorities and has been critical of opening their original territories to salmon farming.


The Museum Director is convinced that the reason he is fired is that he has participated in Yagan salmon farming demonstrations.

“The dismissal is justified by the fact that I have participated in public demonstrations,” Serrano maintains.

“The salmon farming industry will be very damaging to the Yagan and to this small community, and I have told about that,” he continues.

The Puerto Williams Museum is, as mentioned, subject to the Chilean Ministry of Culture. In parallel with Serrano’s job loss, another ministry has been in contact with him, namely the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They have asked if he can guide the Norwegian King and Queen on Sunday.

“It’s a surreal situation that two ministries supply these different messages,” Serrano muses.

More demonstrations

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (UD) has informed the Norwegian press that demonstrations are expected in connection with the Royal Couple’s museum visit in Puerto Williams. It states that the indigenous people, with the mayor at the forefront, are to hand over a letter to the Norwegian royals.

Serrano is unsure whether he will take up his work situation with the distinguished guests. He also states that he will not speculate on whether the dismissal is related to the Norwegian state visit.

The UD also states that the plan is still that Alberto Serrano will show the couple around the museum. They have not addressed the matter with the Chilean authorities.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today
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