While the men endured their darkened days below, life at "Camp Hope" has turned into a spawning ground of intrigue, envy and rivalries that have divided the miners' relatives holding vigil here — just as their shared plight unites them.
After 68 days of shared fears and jitters — all of it under the close scrutiny of dozens of reporters that have now grown to a battalion — the early fellowship has frayed. Some relationships, once at least cordial, are as hostile as the desolate sands of the surrounding Acatama desert.
"Here the tension is higher than down below. Down there they are calm," said Veronica Ticona, sister of 29-year-old Ariel Ticona, a trapped rubble-removal machine operator.
Relatives privately shared stories of the divisiveness with an Associated Press reporter who spent the past month at the camp, frequently bedding down in a tent beside theirs, sharing coffee and gossip. stories...
Pinera told the mother of 31-year-old Florencio Avalos that he'll be the first of 33 men to be rescued from the collapsed mine.
His mother, Maria Silva, says he's not surprised he was chosen and that she's very proud of him. Avalos is a married father of two children and one of the mining crew bosses.
Florencio Avalos will followed by Mario Sepulveda, 39, an electrician, and then by Carlos Mamani, the only Bolivian in the group, according to media reports, which cited government officials.
"We made a promise to never surrender, and we kept it," Pinera said, shortly before two rescue workers were expected to go down to prepare the miners for their trip. The president said the first miner will be brought up about two hours later.