Chile honours Bono

President Ricardo Lagos presented U2 frontman Bono with Chile’s highest award for the arts, telling him he should learn to play the traditional Andean instrument known as the charango.

The arts medal is named after late Chilean Nobel Prize laureate Pablo Neruda, a poet Bono said he greatly admired. “He moved me very much,” Bono said of Neruda, who died in 1973.

During the ceremony at the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Lagos also presented Bono with a charango, a small lute-like Andean folk instrument.

“When we were talking before, Bono told me that one must study throughout one’s life,” Lagos said. “So for his next concert here, I hope he’s learned how to play the charango.”

It was not the only distinction for Bono during U2’s stop in Chile for a Sunday night concert before an expected crowd of nearly 80,000 in Santiago’s main soccer stadium.

Shortly before the concert, Bono received Amnesty International’s 2005 Ambassador of Conscience award, which was also granted to the other members of U2 – Edge, Larry Mullen, Adam Clayton and manager Paul McGuinness.

The ceremony was attended by Chile’s president-elect Michelle Bachelet, the nation’s first female leader, who is to be inaugurated on March 11.

“You are a reminder to all of us that the world is not changed only by politicians and governments,” Bachelet told the musicians. “The world is changed by all of us.”

After the ceremony, Bono met relatives of political dissidents who disappeared during the 1973-90 dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

Bono has met leaders and received gifts during other stops on the band’s swing through Latin America.

While in Brazil he discussed the government’s anti-poverty programme with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and received a packet of condoms and anti-Aids information from the Health Ministry.

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