‘I want my wife and mistress there’

Yonni Barrios Rojas embraces his girlfriend Susana Valenzuela after being rescued.

Yonni Barrios Rojas embraces his girlfriend Susana Valenzuela after being rescued.

Published Oct 12, 2023


Camp Hope, Chile - Probably the bravest of all the 33 trapped miners was the one who asked for both his wife and his mistress to greet him on reaching the surface.

Yonni Barrios initially became known as the group’s “doctor”.

He used knowledge gained from looking after his diabetic mother to work with medical teams on the surface to diagnose and help the men trapped with him.

But very soon the 50-year-old miner became even better known for something rather less noble. His wife had found another woman holding a vigil for him in Camp Hope.

Marta Salinas, 56, whom he married 28 years ago, almost came to blows with Susana Valenzuela, 50, when they faced off in the mine’s dining area. The pair had to be pulled apart.

Barrios walked out on his marriage less than a year ago and recently moved in with Valenzuela - apparently without taking the trouble to divorce his wife or even inform her.

He met his mistress on a training course some years ago. Despite living in the same area of the small town of Copiapo, the two women had never met.

When news of their clash reached him underground, Barrios, did not seem too upset. As his wife begun to get involved in his affairs on Camp Hope, he instructed teams on the surface to deal with his lover instead.

And as the day of the rescue finally approached, he asked for both of them to wait for him as he emerged from the borehole.

“He is either very cheeky or very idiotic,” said a source within the rescue team. “He didn’t seem worried at all.”

In the end he was greeted by his mistress, his wife choosing to stay away. He emerged at 10:32pm SA time to be met by tearful Valenzuela.

He looked calm as he gingerly walked towards his mistress, who was wearing a bright blue dress and gave him a long and tight hug, crying on his shoulder and occasionally pulling back to look at him as if to make sure the reunion was really happening.

After greeting government ministers and the medical team, with whom he had worked while below ground, he was put on a stretcher and taken to the medical centre.

Earlier his wife had said she still loved him but had declined the invitation to be there when he surfaced, insisting he had to make a choice.

“It’s a miracle of God, but I’m not going to go see the rescue,” she said.

“He asked me to, but it turns out he also asked the other woman and I am someone with self-respect. I have made it clear - it is her or me.”

The affair threatened to bring drama of the wrong kind to the Chilean government’s well-rehearsed rescue operation before the eyes of the world. Even first lady Cecilia Morel intervened.

Marta Salinas said President Sebastian Pinera’s wife spoke to her about the matter and the two agreed she should not go. “She put herself in my place,” she said. “She said my decision wasn’t bad, to let her (the lover) go without worries.”

But the conflict has left her reeling. “I’m not even going to watch the rescue on television,” she insisted. “It will be enough for me to hear he is ok.”

The affair led the rescue team’s chief psychologist Albert Iturra to joke: “Yonni doesn’t want to come up.”

Barrios is not thought to be alone in his predicament.

According to reports, another Barrios - Carlos - who was rescued yesterday, has a five-year-old son with a woman he has not divorced and his girlfriend of seven months is pregnant.

Another miner, who has not been named, is said to have four women claiming his affections and perhaps soon-to-be-increased income - a wife he has not divorced, his current live-in girlfriend, a third woman who claims to have had his son and another who says she is having an affair with him. - Daily Mail