Cracks appear in Chile miners' "pact of silence"

COPIAPO, Chile Sun Oct 17, 2010 7:07pm EDT

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COPIAPO, Chile (Reuters) - Most of Chile's 33 rescued miners are honoring a pact of silence about the worst of their ordeal, but one indicated on Sunday he would talk if paid and another set the record straight about what didn't happen.

Lucrative movie and book deals have been flowing in since the miners' miraculous rescue on Wednesday after 69 days trapped half a mile underground after a cave-in, and several are now looking to safeguard their financial future.

So far, most of the men have not yet spoken of the very worst moments of their ordeal in a hot, humid tunnel 2,050 feet underground, particularly during the agonizing 17 days before they were found alive. The rescue was watched by hundreds of millions of people, a survival story that captured the world's imagination.

"We can't talk about those things, because there is a pact. We can't talk about the period from the cave-in until we escaped," said Mario Gomez, who at 63 is the oldest of the miners, as he helped his family dismantle the tent at "Camp Hope," the settlement they erected after the accident.

Fellow miner Omar Reygada said the pact aimed to ensure the real story was told about the days after the August 5 collapse. Some of the miners have said they were planning a book, and several said they had not yet decided as a group on the sale of rights to their story.

"There's an agreement for us to speak as a group, to avoid distortions that can arise when we speak individually," he said.

Still, miner Jorge Galleguillos said the pact was non-binding, and told Reuters he would tell his story for a fee. He refused to speak in detail otherwise.

"I have to think about myself," he said after attending a religious ceremony at the mine and touring the tent settlement where his family waited for his rescue.

Mario Sepulveda, a joker and the most charismatic of the miners, who thrilled the world when he emerged from the escape capsule that hoisted the men to safety with a bag of souvenir rocks, has already tested the pact's limits.

In an interview with Britain's Mail on Sunday, Sepulveda said he had at times lost hope of being rescued and had played dead in a macabre joke on the other miners.

He rejected the suggestion that the men had sex while trapped underground or that he had considered cannibalism.

"The reason I am speaking is that 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 down there, but also to answer some of the things that people are getting wrong," he told the paper.

"Saying we had sex down there with each other is just plain wrong," he added. "There are some things I will never talk about. But they are things that would embarrass some of the kids (younger miners). Nothing sexual, more that they acted like kids."

Sepulveda says he will use any money earned from his story to create a fund for his children's university education.

The 40-year-old, who spent his birthday trapped in the mine, did not join 13 of his colleagues at the ceremony on Sunday.

Miner Victor Segovia kept a diary the men plan to turn into a book. Parts of his notebook have been sealed with tape to ensure secrecy.

Some just don't want to talk about their darkest days underground, amid psychologists' warnings that the most lasting damage could be emotional and go on for months if not years.

"I don't want to talk about that yet," said Claudio Yanez, 34, who had been considering quitting the mine before the accident.

(With reporting by Juana Casas in Copiapo; Editing by Paul Simao)

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