Chile cancels 5th World Congress of Spanish Language after quake

10:43, February 28, 2010      

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The Culture and Arts Council of Chile said on Saturday it suspended the fifth World Congress of the Spanish Language, to be hosted from March 2 to 5 in Valparaiso city.

The Council said in a statement that the Congress was canceled due to the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that shook the center-south of Chile early Saturday morning, killing 147 people.

The King and Queen of Spain, as well as hundreds of experts on Spanish Language had confirmed their attendance to the congress.

Also canceled is the Song Festival of Vina del Mar, which was scheduled to open Monday and last until Saturday.

Local media also said that the U.S. government suspended the visit of the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which was scheduled for March 2.

In Washington, Clinton said she is to stick with her plan to visit Latin America starting Sunday, and she is to remain in close contact with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

"I leave for the region tomorrow and will be in close contact with President Bachelet and other leaders," Clinton said in a State Department statement.

Clinton was scheduled to travel to Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica and Guatemala from February 28 to March 5. She made no reference in the statement whether she still plans to visit Chile. State Department said last week Clinton was due to meet Bachelet and President-elect Sebastian Piera in Chile.

Clinton said the United States is closely monitoring reports from Chile and across the Pacific rim, reiterating that the United States stands ready to provide necessary assistance to Chile.

The earthquake struck at 03:34 a.m. local time (0634 GMT). The official death toll is 147 at the moment.

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