Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Around Latin America

-Brazil is going to resume construction on its third nuclear power plant this September. Construction had originally halted on Angra 3 in 1986 after environmental groups and media reports led to the shutdown. In explaining the return to construction 23 years later, state-run Electronuclear president said "Our nuclear program will not be as spectacular as those of China or India, but we will have a moderate and constant growth from Angra 3 on." The timing of the decision is strange - Brazil has been facing growing power concerns, but it has found ways to address those (see the next story), and the option for wind energy remains undeveloped in Brazil. However, the "from Angra 3 on" suggests Electronuclear plans to continue developing nuclear power plants beyond Angra 3, and while it may be nothing, I find the reference to China and India interesting. There's nothing to say this is the case, but I wonder if the decision to return to Angra 3 after 23 years is in part based on fears of falling too far behind other emerging world powers in Brazil's own quest to become a global leader.

-I commented last time that Brazil and Paraguay had reached an agreement on the power supplied by the Itaipu dam. Apparently, that deal is based on the agreement that Brazil will be paying triple what it had been paying to Paraguay for Paraguay's excess energy, as well as helping Paraguay develop infrastructure for the smaller country's own needs. As for who wins in this, I agree with Boz: both Lula and Lugo come away winners, especially Lugo.

-For those who get worked up in a froth over the sheer fact that illegal immigration can happen, there is this tragic reminder that many times, illegal immigration happens to reunite families. Not that the "family values" party would ever stop to consider the irreconcilability of fierce anti-immigration and so-called family values (which, to be fair, they clearly only spout for Machiavellian purposes without ever practicing what they preach).

-Apparently, it has gotten increasingly difficult to find a movie theater in Guyana over the past couple of decades (though I doubt the inability to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster " has in some way resulted in the decay today of the current moral fibre" of Guyana, as the author ponders).

-Greg found some mystifying data suggesting that Bolivians and Hondurans feared military coups the most in 2008, with 36% and 29% respectively believing their countries were heading towards coups. Strangely, Chile came in with 11%, as did Costa Rica, which doesn't even have a military.

-Greg also does an excellent, concise job in pointing out the ridiculous-ness of the charges from the left and the right against Obama in dealing with the Honduras crisis. To quote Greg:

It has become almost a political game to determine who is influencing Barack Obama with regard to Honduras. It can be tough to keep track.

Heh. Indeed.

-An interesting new study says that climate change allowed the Incas to build Machu Picchu, as a receding treeline created more space for farming, cultivation, sculpting steppes, and building the roads that allowed them to reach Machu Picchu. I don't know if the science is accurate or not, but it's an interesting suggestion. (And I'd be worried about wingnuts in the U.S. pointing to this as evidence that the current environmental crisis we're facing is good, but that would require them to both look outside of the U.S. and acknowledge the genius of pre-Contact non-European civilizations, and that doesn't seem too likely).

-There's been a lot of hubbub and misunderstanding over Zelaya's stance on re-election (once again: he wasn't seeking it for himself, and it wasn't for this election; he was overthrown because he wanted a vote to determine whether the Honduran population could decide in the next election if they wanted to allow re-election or not). However, Alvaro Uribe continues to show far more anti-democratic tendencies than Zelaya. Uribe has postponed until September his decision on whether or not to run for re-re-election. No word yet on whether the military is planning on overthrowing him, too, or if the Republicans will be able to defend the coup in Colombia.

-Daniel Ortega could be taking the Uribe-path, too, as he is considering removing term limits in Nicaragua, conveniently enough so that he could possibly be re-elected. Sounds like it's time for another coup*.

-Speaking of Nicaragua, the total ban on abortion has had about all the effects one would expect, "endangering the lives of girls and women, denying them life-saving treatment, preventing health professionals from practicing effective medicine and contributing to an increase in maternal deaths across the country."

-While relatively under the radar, things are getting tense in the northern part of South America. FARC guerrillas were discovered having Swedish weapons, including surface-to-air missile launchers, weapons which Sweden said it sold to Venezuela. Sweden and Colombia are demanding an explanation, while Venezuela is saying that the allegations are lies meant to harm Venezuela and to justify Colombia's recent agreement to allow more U.S. troops in Colombia. And tonight Venezuela has cut diplomatic ties with Colombia over the allegations. While relations between Colombia and Venezuela are often full of bluster and posturing, this seems like it could become fairly serious.

-Finally, I've mentioned before the environmentally appalling conditions and devastating consequences of salmon farming in Chile. In spite of a claim that the Chilean government would try to reducethe use of antibiotics in salmon production, things continue to be depressingly grim, as a report has been issued that says that Chile uses more than 350 times the antibiotics in its fish that rival Norway uses in its salmon production. I fortunately don't eat salmon, but if I did, reports like this would convince me pretty quickly to abandon that habit.