Chilean President-elect Sebastian Piñera offered a glimpse Tuesday of just how deep his pockets stretch, selling one of his relatively minor investments – a nearly 10 percent stake in a posh Santiago hospital – for a cool US$37 million. Read the rest of this entry ?
Archive for February, 2010
Home to one of the world’s most extensive oil and natural gas reserves, energy-rich Venezuela is nevertheless experiencing serious power problems at the moment, grappling with an acute electricity crisis that has resulted in rationing, rolling blackouts and periodic protests.
The government blames Mother Nature. In recent months a prolonged drought has parched the country, causing severe water shortages. A side effect has been decreased water flow (and thus reduced capacity) to the massive Guri Dam, a 10,200-megawatt (MW) behemoth that supplies more than 70 % of the country’s electricity. Located along Bolivar State’s Rio Caroni, the 1,300 meter-long dam – officially called the Central Hidroeléctrica Simon Bolivar – is the world’s third largest after the Three Gorges Dam (18,300 MW) in China and the Itaipu complex (14,000 MW) along the Brazil/Paraguay border.
A series of “unprecedented” bilateral meetings between US and Salvadoran officials have brought renewed attention to an issue with major economic and human rights implications in both countries: immigrant detention and deportation.
In recent years, US authorities have detained and deported a growing number of Salvadoran immigrants – roughly 20,000 in 2009 – as part of a post-911 security-oriented crackdown that pushed the overall number of immigrant deportees from 190,000 in 2000 to nearly 360,000 in 2008. Mexicans and Central Americans together accounted for just over 90 % of the forced removals in 2008, according to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a powerful and controversial branch of the Department of Homeland Security that operates with an annual budget of more than US$4 billion dollars.
Citing Chile’s first post-Pinochet leader, Patricio Aylwin, as his inspiration, President-elect Sebastian Pinera on Tuesday unveiled his much-anticipated cabinet choices: a “transversal” collection of 22 men and women who the conservative leader promises will guide the country through a “second transition.”
“What Chile asks of us is to keep the good, correct the bad and improve the mediocre,” said Pinera, recalling the words Aylwin used when kicking off his own presidency (1990-1994). Aylwin – a member of the centrist Partido Democrata Cristiano (DC) and the first of four straight presidents from the center-left Concertacion coalition – is credited with leading Chile’s transition from dictatorship (1973-1990) to democracy. Pinera, who beat former President Eduardo Frei (1994-2000) in a tight runoff last month, promises a second transition for Chile after two decades of Concertacion rule. He is Chile’s first elected conservative leader in more than half a century.
“We’re not starting from zero,” said Pinera in a clear nod to his Concertacion predecessors. “A lot has been accomplished, and we’ve always recognized that. But I also want to make it clear there’s still a long and arduous path that must be followed.” Read the rest of this entry ?
Chilean president-elect Sebastian Piñera, who narrowly won last Sunday’s runoff election against Sen. Eduardo Frei of the governing center-left Concertación coalition, has added new meaning to an old adage: to the victor go the spoils.
Piñera, a billionaire businessman and former senator from the center-right National Renovation (RN) party, beat Frei 51 percent to 48 percent to end the Concertación’s two-decade-long grip on power and become Chile’s first elected conservative president in more than half a century.
For Piñera, however, the win has more than just historical significance. It’s also meant a huge personal payoff for the mogul/politico, who has seen his extensive stock portfolio – which includes a controlling stake in Chilean airline leader LAN – balloon in recent days.
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There is a place in far southern Chile, in the remote region of Aysén, where the long road south – the famed Carreterra Austral – simply comes to an end. Beyond lies a magical and uninhabited land dominated by the earthly elements, where rock, ice and wind combine in a breathtaking and intimidating mosaic of mountains, glaciers, lakes and fjords. Read the rest of this entry ?
ANCUD, Chile – It’s halfway through a late, Friday morning practice session in Ancud’s murky, municipal gymnasium and Kevin Sowell’s killing it. Fifteen footers. Three pointers. Everything’s dropping in. “Game,” shouts the lanky American, throwing his arms in the air after draining a 25-foot “buzzer” shot to win a quick, one-minute shooting drill.
The setting is reminiscent of something out of “Hoosiers”: a dank, empty, poorly-lit gym that could easily be home to a rural, 1950s high school team. The year, though, is 2007 and Sowell, a 26-year-old native of Hamilton, Ohio, isn’t anywhere close to Indiana.
Welcome to Ancud: a rainy, wind-swept fishing town of some 35,000 inhabitants located on the northern top of Chiloé. A large island off the coast of Southern Chile, Chiloé is about as backwater as it gets. The Chilean capital of Santiago is nearly 1,000 miles to the north. To the south lies the tangled wilderness of Patagonia, a sparsely habited land of rushing rivers, massive glaciers, sweeping forests and fjords. Read the rest of this entry ?
In the living room of Joe Orr’s north end Halifax home is a collection of photographs, portraits mostly. Some are old, some more recent. Several of the people pictured here have passed away. At 43, Orr’s lost far too many loved ones already. Others live outside of Halifax, or in different provinces, or halfway around the world.
There’s a picture of the Pope. Several of Orr’s two-year-old dog Apollo. In one photo Orr appears with his close friend Bill Stewart. The picture, published in a daily newspaper, shows Orr helping his friend from a wheelchair during a Remembrance Day ceremony. Stewart passed away last year at 92.
On another shelf is a picture of Lester. His big, brown eyes stare directly forward. His ears stick out a bit. He has short, dark hair and the strained, awkward grin of an 11-year-old posing for a school photograph.
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Quellón, REGION X – In the dwindling light of a crisp autumn evening, snow-covered Corcovado and its sister peaks shine pink above the silhouetted fishing boats that stretch out beyond the harbor in Quellón. The alpine glow is short-lived, though, and as the sun drops below the horizon the tempting distraction of the distant volcanoes fades to black.
Lights flicker on in the mostly empty hotels and restaurants that line the Costanera, a bay-front road stretching the length of the city. The air smells of wood smoke, salt water and decay. A handful of drunks lurch by in the direction of Quellón’s main pier, where a dozen other men lean idly against a railing. Surrounding the dock are boats of all shapes and sizes. Too many are anchored. The city, some people fear, is dying. Read the rest of this entry ?
La creciente preocupación de la población sobre los problemas que puede causar la construcción de represas a gran escala no ha desalentado a las autoridades gubernamentales chilenas para aprobar una serie aparentemente interminable de proyectos hidroeléctricos.
En los últimos dos años, una campaña ambiental de alto perfil llamada Patagonia sin Represas ha ayudado a generar un debate a nivel nacional sobre los planes de la empresa energética HidroAysén de construir cinco represas a lo largo de los ríos Baker y Pascua, en la Patagonia chilena. HidroAysén es un proyecto conjunto entre la gigante española de electricidad Endesa, propiedad de la compañía italiana Enel, y la chilena Colbún.
Lo que comenzó como una oposición local se convirtió en una campaña a nivel nacional que presionó sobre las empresas involucradas y, al menos por el momento, ayudó a detener el proyecto. Según recientes encuestas, la mayoría de chilenos desaprueban actualmente el multimillonario plan, a pesar del apoyo recibido por varios altos miembros del gobierno de la presidenta Michelle Bachelet. Read the rest of this entry ?