A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘latin america

[LINK] “The Blue Amazon, Brazil’s New Natural Resources Frontier”

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The Inter Press Service’s Fabiola Ortiz has a nice overview of Brazil’s growing interest in the resources in the exclusive economic zone off the Brazilian coast, on its continental shelf and beyond.

The Atlantic ocean is Brazil’s last frontier to the east. But the full extent of its biodiversity is still unknown, and scientific research and conservation measures are lagging compared to the pace of exploitation of resources such as oil.

The Blue Amazon, as Brazil’s authorities have begun to call this marine area rich in both biodiversity and energy resources, is similar in extension to the country’s rainforest – nearly half the size of the national territory.

And 95 percent of the exports of Latin America’s giant leave from that coast, according to official figures.

Brazil’s continental shelf holds 90 and 77 percent of the country’s proven oil and gas reserves, respectively. But the big challenge is to protect the wealth of the Blue Amazon along 8,500 km of shoreline.

“We haven’t fully grasped just how immense that territory is,” Eurico de Lima Figueiredo, the director of the Strategic Studies Institute at the Fluminense Federal University, told Tierramérica. “To give you an idea, the Blue Amazon is comparable in size to India.”

“But we aren’t prepared to take care of it; it isn’t yet considered a political and economic priority for the country,” the political scientist said.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 20, 2015 at 10:51 pm

[LINK] “Cash-Strapped Latin American Countries Turn to China for Credit”

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The Inter Press Service’s Mario Osava notes how, following Angola, many Latin Americans needing credit have turned to China.

[S]everal Latin American countries in financial difficulties have recently turned to China as a sort of lender of last resort. Argentina and Venezuela, for example, lacking access to international credits, obtained large loans from Chinese banks.

For China, it makes no sense to refuse loans to countries with strong agricultural production or that possess plenty of commodities, especially oil and gas. There is no need to be concerned about their solvency if their products guarantee their loans, whatever the reasons for their difficulties.

Brazil’s state oil giant Petrobras announced on Apr. 1 an injection of 3.5 billion dollars from China to relieve its finances, which have suffered from the corruption scandal that has rocked the economy, the government, large companies and several political parties in the country since 2014.

The loan from China Development Bank is helping Petrobras weather a storm that also includes gross management and planning mistakes which raised the cost of constructing two refineries, of the purchase of another plant in the U.S. city of Pasadena, Texas, and of other projects by tens of billions of dollars.

The crises faced by potential Petrobras suppliers provide opportunities for China, but are not seen as indispensable. China Development Bank previously loaned Petrobras 10 billion dollars in 2009, when the oil company appeared prosperous and had recently discovered vast reserves in the pre-salt layer off the Brazilian coast.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 13, 2015 at 10:44 pm

[LINK] “Brazil’s urban Indians confront city life head on, with headdress off”

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Al Jazeera America’s James Young notes how Brazil’s increasingly urbanized indigenous peoples are facing serious problems in their new environments. This story is sadly familiar to this Canadian.

The bow and arrow, recipes for plant-based medicines and traditional headdress hanging on the walls contrast sharply with the jumble of office blocks visible through an open window and the industrial clank of a nearby train transporting iron ore from a mine outside the city. The Center for Urban Indians, a resource center and meeting space, is housed in a cramped room in a drab two-story building on one of the busiest streets of this sprawling city in the southeast of Brazil.

“Everything changed when we arrived in the city,” said Paulinho Aranã, 54, who along with 14 family members moved to Belo Horizonte from the Jequitinhonha Valley in the north of the state of Minas Gerais in 1979. “We had grown up in the forest. The only thing we knew was animals, not cars or planes.”

“The first time I had an electric shower, I was terrified that the water would be electrified,” remembered Juliana Pataxó, 35. “So I’d fill a bucket with water and take it into the bathroom and use that instead. When my cousins asked me what I was doing, I’d lie and say it was to clean the bathroom afterward.”

Araña and Pataxó — both leaders at the center — are two of more than 315,000 of Brazil’s approximately 817,900 indigenous people who live in urban areas.

“Many come for work or for health care,” said Pablo Camargo, a historian and representative of the Minas Gerais branch of FUNAI, the National Indian Foundation of the Brazilian Government. “Also, life on Indian territories can be difficult. Many are small, and old ways of life such as hunting and fishing are no longer practical. Social problems such as alcoholism and unemployment are common. And today younger indigenous people have access to technology and so are becoming more and more interested in what the cities have to offer.”

The profile of urban Indian populations can vary greatly from city to city, with indigenous culture enjoying greater visibility in the more remote north and west of Brazil. In the vast cities of the prosperous south and southeast of the country, such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, however, urban Indians often struggle to be seen and heard.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 12, 2015 at 11:36 pm

[LINK] “Killer of Chilean folk singer Victor Jara to face US justice”

Al Jazeera America’s Alfonso Serrano reports.

More than four decades after Chilean folk singer Victor Jara was tortured and executed in Santiago’s Chile Stadium, in the wake of the military coup that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973, an army lieutenant accused of killing the musician will face a civil lawsuit in the United States.

A U.S. district court in Florida agreed this week to hear the case against Pedro Barrientos Nuñez, the former lieutenant now residing in south Florida, who is alleged to have assassinated Jara, the poet and songwriter who became an iconic symbol of the struggle against Pinochet’s regime and one of Latin America’s most prominent protest singers.

[. . .]

Jara was assassinated five days after the U.S.-backed Sept. 11, 1973, coup ousted democratically elected Salvador Allende from power. Jara, a member of Chile’s Communist Party, had served as Cultural Ambassador under Allende. He was also a professor and theater director at Santiago’s State Technical University when it was overrun by military troops a day after the coup.

Jara, along with hundreds of other university teachers and students, was loaded onto a bus and transported to Chile Stadium (subsequently renamed Victor Jara Stadium) before he was recognized by military personnel and separated from other prisoners.

In 2009, former soldiers told a Chilean court that Jara was placed in Barrientos’ custody. Soldiers under the lieutenant’s command tortured Jara before Barrientos allegedly shot Jara to death. A Chilean appeals court in 2009 determined that Jara was killed on Sept. 16 as a result of 44 gunshot wounds.

That same year, Chilean prosecutors indicted Barrientos and seven other men for Jara’s death. Barrientos, however, fled Chile in 1989 and currently resides in Deltona, Florida, and is beyond Chilean court reach. However, Chile’s Supreme Court in 2012 approved an extradition request for Barrientos, and the former lieutenant could one day face a criminal trial in his native country.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 20, 2015 at 9:54 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • blogTO examines the nature of Toronto’s abundant consumption of electricity.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a study of the atmosphere of Wasp 80b.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Russian rocket manufacturer Energomash may go out of business as a result not of sanctions but of threatened sanctions.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money does not approve of Kenya’s plan to deport Somali refugees.
  • Mark MacKinnon shares an old 2003 article of his from Iraq.
  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at the new Vulcan rocket.
  • pollotenchegg maps, by province, the proportion of Ukrainians claiming Russian as their mother language.
  • Registan argues that NATO and Russia might be misinterpreting
  • Spacing Toronto shares a screed on cyclists.
  • Towleroad notes that Chile now has same-sex civil unions.
  • Transit Toronto notes that the TTC has hired an external corporation to manage the problematic Spadina subway extension.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy argues that libertarians do exist as a distinguishable political demographic.
  • Window on Eurasia examines turmoil in Karelia and terrorism in Dagestan.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • blogTO shares vintage photos of Weston Road.
  • Centauri Dreams features a guest post on the fast radio bursts that had all astir.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper about the circumstellar disk of AB Aurigae.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes problems with Russia’s development of a stealth fighter.
  • Language Hat links to an examination of the way the words “chikungunya” and “dengue” are used to describe the same disease.
  • Languages of the World takes a look at one dying Russian dialect of Alaska.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money is surprised anyone is surprised Britain is spying on Argentina.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that demand in China and India is already driving research and development.
  • Peter Rukavina looks at the mechanics of the Internet presences of Island political parties.
  • Savage Minds announces the return of the intermittant online anthropological journal Anthropologies.
  • Transit Toronto links to a collection of Greater Toronto Area transit news.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy reacts at length to the finding of the report on Rolling Stone‘s mistaken rape story, noting that the fraternity in question has a good case for libel.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Crimean Tatar news outlet closures and notes that Ukrainian government ministers widely speak English.

[LINK] “Water, Fire, and Costa Rica’s Carbon-Zero Year So Far”

Wired‘s Lizzie Wade examines the reasons why Costa Rica was able to run of non-fossil fuel electricity for nearly three months this year. Good luck has something to do with it.

Costa Rica’s energy utility hasn’t burned any fossil fuel this year. None. The country of nearly 4.9 million people ran on nothing but renewable power for 75 days, a goal that many richer countries—including and especially the United States—can only dream of. So how did Costa Rica do it? Smart infrastructure investments and an assist from an unlikely ally: climate change.

Like Paraguay, Colombia, Brazil, and many other Latin American countries, Costa Rica gets most of its energy—about 80 percent—from hydroelectric plants. Damming rivers has environmental consequences too, obviously, but the energy from the resulting power plants is carbon-free. Hydropower is also more reliable and easier to scale up than existing wind and solar technologies.

So in that sense, Costa Rica’s 75-day streak may be impressive, but it isn’t surprising, says Juan Roberto Paredes, a renewable energy expert at the Inter-American Development Bank. On average, the country’s energy matrix was already nearly 90 percent renewable, making it the second most “renewable country” in Latin America (after Paraguay, which gets nearly all of its energy from just one dam).

But a reliance on hydropower still puts you at the mercy of the elements—just different ones than solar or wind. The key to hydropower is rainfall. Less rain means less water behind the dams, which quickly translates into less power. Just last year, Costa Rica declared a state of emergency in the country’s northwest because of an El Niño-fueled drought, and hydro’s contribution to the country’s electric grid dropped, forcing the utility to switch on some diesel generators. (Brazil is currently experiencing a similar crisis, with a catastrophic drought endangering many of the hydroelectric plants that power São Paulo and the rest of the country’s populous southeast.) But this year, Costa Rica’s four largest hydropower plants have enjoyed unusually heavy rains—so far.

Here’s where climate change comes in. Almost all climate models predict that “one effect of climate change will be a concentration of rainfall, and as a consequence of that, longer periods of drought,” explains Walter Vergara, a climate change specialist focused on Latin America at the World Resources Institute. Especially in tropical countries like Costa Rica, more rain will fall in less time. That’s great for hydroelectric plants, but terrible if you worry about, say, flash floods and mudslides. Plus, rainfall now might just mean drought later. Costa Rica’s rainy winter won’t last, and comparable levels of precipitation might not return for a long time. “Only El Niño and La Niña can tell us how much longer we won’t need fossil fuels to generate electricity,” says Julio Mata, an energy expert at the University of Costa Rica.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 1, 2015 at 10:29 pm


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