A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘latin america

[LINK] “Colombia’s Unconquered, Empty Half Can Be Developed, Santos Says”

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Bloomberg’s Christine Jenkins has a brief article about a push for development in Amazonian Colombia that has obvious potential environmental repercussions.

Remote, sparsely-populated regions of Colombia will see “spectacular growth” when they become open for development following a peace deal with Marxist rebels, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said.

“Half of our country is unconquered, unoccupied; there’s nothing there,” Santos said Friday in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “These are productive lands. There’s a lot of interest from private companies and we are establishing private-public initiatives to develop this half of the country.”

A peace deal would boost economic growth by 1.5-to-2 percentage points per year, with remote regions growing as fast as 9 percent, he said. Santos has set a March deadline for talks with the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to wrap up.

Most of Colombia’s 49 million inhabitants live in the Andes mountains and on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. The vast plains and rain forests east of the Andes, which make up about half of the national territory, are very thinly inhabited. Vichada province, a territory about the size of Kentucky that borders Venezuela, has a population of 72,000.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 7, 2016 at 3:18 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly advises readers how to conduct interviews.
  • City of Brass’ Aziz Poonawalla thanks Obama for quoting his letter on Islam in America.
  • Crooked Timber takes issue with The New Yorker‘s stance on Sanders.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes the complexity of interactions between stellar winds and the magnetospheres of hot Jupiters.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that ex-gay torturers in the United States have gone to Israel.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the scale of the breakdown in Venezuela.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at changing patterns in higher education.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that carbon capture is difficult.
  • Peter Rukavina shares a preliminary printed map of Charlottetown transit routes.
  • Savage Minds notes the importance of infrastructure.
  • Strange Maps shares very early maps of Australia.
  • Torontoist notes an early freed slave couple in Toronto, the Blackburns.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the implications of global warming for Arctic countries.

[LINK] “Small-scale Fishing Is About Much More than Just Subsistence in Chile”

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Marianela Jarroud’s Inter Press Service article describes the traditional fisheries in Chile, which look at first glance not unlike those of Canada. I suspect that the feared corporatization of what had been a traditional lifestyle will take place. I hope Chile will do better in managing its fisheries than Canada.

“Fishing isn’t just for making a living, it’s also enjoyable,” said Pedro Pascual, a 70-year-old fisherman who has been taking his small boat out to sea off Chile’s Pacific coast in the early hours of the morning almost every day for the past 50 years, to support his family.

Impish and ebullient, he told IPS that he doesn’t like to eat much fish anymore, although he is aware of its excellent nutritional properties, which make it a key product in terms of boosting global food security. “The thing is, eating what you fish yourself is kind of boring,” he said.

“Sometimes my wife has to go out and buy fish, because I come home without a single fish – I sell all of them, so I don’t have to eat them,” he confessed, in a mischievous tone.

Pascual was born and raised in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, 100 km west of Santiago.

“Artisanal fishers who used to have a quota, a share of extractive fishing activity, were left without rights, and many lost their work.” — Juan Carlos Quezada

The son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen, he stressed that fishing is everything for him and his family, as he prepared bait on counters built on the beach, which are used by some 70 local fishers.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 3, 2016 at 5:14 pm

[LINK] “Chavez’s Dream of Unity Stumbles Ahead of Latin American Summit”

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Bloomberg’s Nathan Gill notes one consequence of Venezuela’s economic issues: without money, Venezuela’s plans for Latin American unity are not likely to be realized.

Before he died, Venezuela’s late president, Hugo Chavez, had a dream to unite Latin America and the Caribbean against the dark forces of the U.S. empire. It’s not working out like he planned.

As presidents and prime ministers from the regional group CELAC meet Wednesday in an attempt to knit closer ties, President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s hand-picked successor, finds himself fending off attacks from the nation’s former ally, Argentina.

“Why does a country have to put up with the whole onslaught of right-wing governments,” Maduro said Saturday after Argentina’s newly-elected president, Mauricio Macri, criticized his government’s human-rights record. “I’m going to the summit of Latin America and the Caribbean nations in Quito with everything. No one is going to shut me up.”

While it’s unlikely anyone will shut Maduro up, his feud with Macri highlights political divisions across the region, where governments from Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff to Ecuador’s Rafael Correa are struggling to fend off allegations of corruption and economic mismanagement after a collapse in global commodity prices plunged their economies into recession. The bickering can only weaken CELAC, said Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin America program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

“Venezuela historically has wanted to push confrontation with the U.S. and within Latin America,” Arnson said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “If CELAC is going to be merely a forum for ideological confrontation, it will quickly lose relevance.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 30, 2016 at 7:15 pm

[LINK] “Venezuela is on the brink of a complete economic collapse”

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Matt O’Brien’s Washington Post article was widely syndicated this afternoon on my Facebook friends list, and for good reason. The spectre of economic collapse in Venezuela it portrays is plausible, and its realization will have huge consequences for the world at large and the region in particular. (The future of left-wing radicalism in South America, for instance, would be open to question.)

The only question now is whether Venezuela’s government or economy will completely collapse first.

The key word there is “completely.” Both are well into their death throes. Indeed, Venezuela’s ruling party just lost congressional elections that gave the opposition a veto-proof majority, and it’s hard to see that getting any better for them any time soon — or ever. Incumbents, after all, don’t tend to do too well when, according to the International Monetary Fund, their economy shrinks 10 percent one year, an additional 6 percent the next, and inflation explodes to 720 percent. It’s no wonder, then, that markets expect Venezuela to default on its debt in the very near future. The country is basically bankrupt.

That’s not an easy thing to do when you have the largest oil reserves in the world, but Venezuela has managed it. How? Well, a combination of bad luck and worse policies. The first step was when Hugo Chávez’s socialist government started spending more money on the poor, with everything from two-cent gasoline to free housing. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that — in fact, it’s a good idea in general — but only as long as you actually, well, have the money to spend. And by 2005 or so, Venezuela didn’t.

Why not? The answer is that Chávez turned the state-owned oil company from being professionally run to being barely run. People who knew what they were doing were replaced with people who were loyal to the regime, and profits came out but new investment didn’t go in. That last part was particularly bad, because Venezuela’s extra-heavy crude needs to be blended or refined — neither of which is cheap — before it can be sold. So Venezuela just hasn’t been able to churn out as much oil as it used to without upgraded or even maintained infrastructure. Specifically, oil production fell 25 percent between 1999 and 2013.

The rest is a familiar tale of fiscal woe. Even triple-digit oil prices, as Justin Fox points out, weren’t enough to keep Venezuela out of the red when it was spending more on its people but producing less crude. So it did what all poorly run states do when the money runs out: It printed some more. And by “some,” I mean a lot, a lot more. That, in turn, became more “a lots” than you can count once oil started collapsing in mid-2014. The result of all this money-printing, as you can see below, is that Venezuela’s currency has, by black market rates, lost 93 percent of its value in the past two years.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 30, 2016 at 7:12 pm

[LINK] On the disappearance of Lake Poopo, second-largest lake of Bolivia

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The Toronto Star features Carlos Valdez’s Associated Press article looking at the alarming scale of the catastrophe in Bolivia.

Overturned fishing skiffs lie abandoned on the shores of what was Bolivia’s second-largest lake. Beetles dine on bird carcasses and gulls fight for scraps under a glaring sun in what marshes remain.

Lake Poopo was officially declared evaporated last month. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have lost their livelihoods and gone.

High on Bolivia’s semi-arid Andean plains at 3,700 metres and long subject to climatic whims, the shallow saline lake has essentially dried up before only to rebound to twice the area of Los Angeles.

But recovery may no longer be possible, scientists say.

“This is a picture of the future of climate change,” says Dirk Hoffman, a German glaciologist who studies how rising temperatures from the burning of fossil fuels has accelerated glacial melting in Bolivia.

As Andean glaciers disappear so do the sources of Poopo’s water. But other factors are in play in the demise of Bolivia’s second-largest body of water behind Lake Titicaca.

Drought caused by the recurrent El Nino meteorological phenomenon is considered the main driver. Authorities say another factor is the diversion of water from Poopo’s tributaries, mostly for mining but also for agriculture.

National Geographic has more.

Lake Poopó gets most of its water from the Desaguadero River, which flows from Lake Titicaca (Bolivia’s largest lake). According to the published management plan, water managers are supposed to allow flow down the river into Poopó, but they have recently allowed that to slow to a trickle.

Titicaca has plenty of water in it, so that’s not the problem, Borre says. Officials just aren’t opening control gates often enough to send water down the river. Some of the water is being diverted for agriculture and mining. And even when water is available, the river is often clogged with sedimentation, due to the runoff from development and mining in the area.

Poopó is high, at 12,000 feet (3,680 meters), and the area has warmed an estimated one degree Celsius over the past century, leading to an increase in the rate of evaporation from the lake. And the lack of rain over the past year has sped the process even further. But these factors weren’t surprises, Borre says, they were foreseeable changes that scientists anticipated.

What happened to Lake Poopó is not unlike the drying of the vast Aral Sea in Central Asia, says Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project and a National Geographic Explorer. In both cases, a closed water system was overdrawn, with more water going out than coming in.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 22, 2016 at 3:54 pm

[LINK] “Venezuela Economy Head Calls for Creativity as Oil Hits Low”

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The scale of the economic collapse of Venezuela, as described here by Blkoomberg’s Nathan Crooks, is eye-catching. One wonders what will happen next.

Venezuela’s new economy minister, who has argued that inflation doesn’t exist “in real life,” said policies to be announced on Jan. 12 would seek to avoid sacrifices by ordinary people as the price the South American country receives for oil exports plunges to a 12-year low.

“Our goal is to see how we can respond to these external restrictions without making internal sacrifices,” Luis Salas, who President Nicolas Maduro put in control of the economy this week, said Friday in an interview on the Telesur network. “That’s going to take creativity.”

The falling price of oil, which accounts for 95 percent of exports, has exacerbated shortages of everything from medicine to soap and placed the economy as the number one issue on voters’ minds as they handed Congress to the opposition for the first time in 16 years last month. No single measure can solve the economic problems, said Salas, who went on to signal that he opposes raising subsidized prices for household goods in order to boost supply.

“We’re not doing anything to make products available if the people can’t afford them,” Salas said.

He downplayed a recession that saw the economy contract 10 percent last year, according to the International Monetary Fund. Inflation in Venezuela, already the fastest in the world, will increase to 204 percent this year, the IMF also estimates. The central bank hasn’t published any official data since the end of 2014.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 18, 2016 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Economics

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