Argentina

Cruise lines to abandon Antarctica

Some cruise lines will cease traveling to Antarctica after this cruise season, as a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil goes into effect next year. The ban came after a 2007 incident when a Gap Adventures ship got punctured by ice and sank, causing a mess. [link]

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Untethering

Everyone seems to agree that the economies of Latin America are experiencing a nice little recovery. The IMF, for example, just raised its forecasts for the region and is now projecting 4.1% GDP growth for the region, with 4.2% growth for Mexico and 5.5% for Brazil. Oh boy, numbers.

But here’s something interesting.

In an analysis of the region’s sovereign debt prospects (PDF), Fitch Ratings divides the region’s economies into three “camps.” One camp includes countries like Venezuela, Argentina, and Ecuador, whose recovery will be slower than that of the rest of the world for reasons that should surprise no one (high inflation, weak institutions, poor fiscal discipline, if you must know).

In a second camp are countries like Chile, Peru, and Brazil, whose good fiscal discipline, low political risk, and safe investment environments mean their economies will be growing like weeds this year and next.

Then we have the middle camp, which is basically countries that cast their development lot with the United States: Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador. And here’s the interesting part. Fitch projects this group will see only a moderately-paced recovery specifically because they’re tied to the US.

Meanwhile, Fitch says the Chile/Peru/Brazil group is doing particularly well partly because it does more business with China.

So I ask you: At what other point in recent history has easy access and close ties to the US economy been seen as a disadvantage?

(Original image courtesy H. Langos via Wikimedia Commons.)

Also posted in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Economy, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela | Tagged | Leave a comment

New kind of NIMBY

Mining is a nasty activity, one that inevitably preys on countries with weak institutions and desperate populations, and with predictable results: environmental devastation, child labor, corruption, increased crime and prostitution, etc.

This advertisement, aired in Argentina, sums it up nicely.

Problem is, by my count, about half the people in this video are wearing jewelry. It’s black-and-white, so it’s difficult to tell exactly what variety – but my guess is that at least some of it is gold. These are movie stars, after all.

Countries like Argentina and the United States, with largely educated populations, relative wealth and abundant natural resources, are most prone to this kind of behavior. It’s a mutation of NIMBY-ism (Not-in-my-backyard) and not a particularly flattering one. You see, if we rich white folk (and anyone in the middle and upper classes of the very countries where such projects are proposed), are going to insist on wearing flashy jewelry, then we damn well better find a sustainable, socially-just way to mine precious metals in our own backyards, where we can keep a close eye on it.

Simply saying no to resource extraction in our home countries yet continuing to use them wastefully (Exhibit A: Petroleum), punts the problem to a less-developed country, where the very same issues take place with virtually no oversight and more extreme impacts (just a few examples here). We’ll give Argentina, and the folks in this video, the benefit of the doubt (Technically, it’s a developing country). But the United States, for example, sits atop the world’s largest gold reserves, yet in 2004, consumed 5 million ounces more than it produced.

What’s their excuse?

Also posted in Economy | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Another Google product still in beta


Google appears to be rather proud of its new-found freedom of expression spine. It just released a snazzy new product mapping out the countries in the world whose governments have requested information be removed from one of the company’s products (Blogger, YouTube, etc.).

Unfortunately, in order for numbers to be useful, you need some sort of baseline, and Google’s map doesn’t give us one. Maybe if you combine it with data on the number of people in each country who use the internet?

For example, Argentina has a population of about 40 million, only 28% of whom are connected to the internet. Google in Argentina has received 42 requests to remove information from one of its products, which breaks down to about 0.38 complaints per 100,000 internet users.

Though the raw numbers make it look worse, Brazil is about the same as Argentina, with 0.40 complaints per 100,000 internet users. But Germany beats everyone, with 3.1 removal requests per 100,000 users.

In the end, I’m not really clear on what Google’s trying to tell us. That Germany has greater internet restrictions than Cuba? Or that Brazil’s government is the only one in the world that gives enough of a damn about Google to file legal challenges against it?

The power of interactive mappy-thingies for promoting human rights causes is indeed great, but this is where the engineers should have maybe consulted with a social scientist.

Also posted in Brazil, Human Rights | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Kissinger and Operation Condor

The good folks at George Washington University’s National Security Archive project report that recently-declassified memos show U.S. Secretary of State and Nobel Prize winner Henry Kissinger directly ordering underlings to cancel warnings against launching Operation Condor to military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay .

Four days later, a car bomb killed former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and his secretary Ronni Karpen Moffitt as they drove through Washington, D.C.

Frankly, I don’t find these documents as scandalous as the NSA does, although the AP says controversy over this particular point of history has been raging for some time. Avoiding warning other governments against committing atrocities is not nearly as outrageous as directly participating in or encouraging those atrocities. I suppose the implication is that if you avoid issuing warnings, you’re probably involved somehow.

What is interesting to me is the tone of the State Department communications. To wit:

What we are trying to head off is a series of international murders that could do serious damage to the international status and reputation of the countries involved.

Really? That’s what you’re concerned about? The “reputations of the countries involved?” I would have been concerned about the people to be extra-judicially tortured and murdered.

Anyway, it’s not like we needed further proof that Kissinger is a war criminal. Can you un-nominate someone for a Nobel Peace Prize?

Also posted in Chile, History, Human Rights, Uruguay | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Concessioning a town

I’ve heard of mining companies doing some brazen, awful things in Latin America, but this might take the cake. The concessions granted to Australian mining company BHP Billiton near the controversial Agua Rica mine in Argentina give it the right to expropriate the town of Andalgalá itself for metal extraction.

From the official document, via Página/12:

“The mining area includes the city of Andalgalá, a situation that is normal since, according to the Mining Code, two properties – both the mine and the surface property – can coexist. In this case, the mine’s purpose is prospecting and exploration, and in the event that it begins extraction, the corresponding compensation must be provided and the greatest public interest must be considered, giving priority to development.”

I’m not a natural resources attorney, but this sounds like a green light to expropriate the town for the greater good, and that’s how the residents of the 17,000-person town are taking it as well. Andalgalá was founded in 1658. Mining in the region first started in 1994, with Yamana’s Alumbrera project. In 2004 that company opened its Agua Rica mine 17 kilometers from Andalgalá. It was recently met with violent protests:

If that’s how these people respond to a mining project 17 km away, good luck trying to kick them out of their houses.

Also posted in Environment | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Beef prices in Argentina

GlobalPost.com has published a great little video on beef prices in Argentina. The government has regulated prices and exports to keep citizens happy, but that means producers have been pinched. Some are no longer producing, which could result in a beef shortage in the country with the highest per capita beef consumption in the world.

Also posted in Economy | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Latin America is the most unequal region in the world, according to a recent report from the U.N. The wealthiest 20% of the population hold 56% of the total wealth. The most unequal countries in the region are Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, with Venezuela and Colombia also fairing particularly badly. [link]

Also posted in Brazil, Colombia, Human Rights, Mexico, Side notes, Uruguay, Venezuela | Leave a comment


Rioters in a town in Argentina set the municipality building on fire. They were angry after a police chase left two teenagers dead.

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Political analyst Rosendo Fraga says Argentina is right now facing “its most serious institutional crisis since the return of democracy in 1983.” It’s the first time since that year that a Peronist president has not also had control of the Congress, and the two branches of government are clashing. On the upside, the crisis might force the opposing sides to learn how to work together. [link]

Also posted in Politics, Side notes | Leave a comment
  • DAILY LINKS

    • The Nation has a long, wonky, wonderful article on Mexican maize cultivation, the effects of NAFTA, and the dangers of genetically-modified seeds. Author Peter Canby backs up his excellent writing with piles and piles of meticulous research. Not to be missed. [link, via SM] (Image from Joel Penner.)

    • Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas ended his hunger strike yesterday after 134 days. Farinas decided to end his strike after the Cuban government said it would release political prisoners rounded up in the "Black Spring" crackdown of 2003. Get well soon. [link]

    • The Uruguayan selection, which has made it to the quarter finals of the World Cup, just received a shipment of half a ton of fine cuts of beef for the mother of all asados in preparation for a contest against Ghana on Friday: "450 kilos of lomo, 200 of entrecot, 75 of vacío, 75 of colita de cuadril, 150 of ojo de bife and 50 kg of picaña." [link]

    • Hitmen have assassinated the PRI candidate for governor of Tamaulipas State, Rodolfo Torre Cantú. Torre was gunned down along with six others at about 10:30 this morning on a highway on the way to a campaign event. Drug mafias are assumed to be responsible. [link]

    • From the days when coups were something of a regional sport, new documents detail a famous British ballerina's role in a plot to topple the government of Panama. The plan was to use her yacht to gather men and arms, then "land somewhere and collect in the hills." It didn't work. [link]

    • Mexico's Attorney General's Office has posted on its web site irrefutable evidence that gold-plated AR-15s and diamond-studded pistol grips are not nearly as cool-looking as they sound. The deadly knick-knack collection is said to belong to Valencia Cartel leader El Lobo. [link]

    • Two Brazilian ranchers were sentenced to 30 years in prison apiece for ordering the killing of an environmentalist nun: "Prosecutors said the pair offered to pay a gunman $25,000 to kill the 73-year-old [Dorothy] Stang because she had prevented them from stealing a piece of land that the government had granted to a group of poor farmers." [link]


    • This video of a kidnapping and car chase in Mexico is notable mainly for the bad-assitude of the TV journalists who were on this like white on rice. Well done, gentlemen.

    • The Economist takes a peak at the Mockus phenomenon in Colombia: "His moustacheless beard gives him the air of a Baltic pastor... He is financing his campaign with a bank overdraft. His supporters rely on Facebook and make their own posters; street vendors sell unofficial campaign T-shirts." [link]

    • Some cruise lines will cease traveling to Antarctica after this cruise season, as a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil goes into effect next year. The ban came after a 2007 incident when a Gap Adventures ship got punctured by ice and sank, causing a mess. [link]