Regional News from Pta. Arenas.
Relief among Magallanes sheep farmers; Skorpios inaugurates new jetty in Puerto Natales; Argentina and Chile eliminate migratory red tape; Airline project delayed; Medicine School in Magallanes; Cheaper flights from Río Gallegos.
Relief among Magallanes sheep farmers
The recent controversial and failed attempt to sell Chilean Tierra del Fuego's main abattoir, government managed Sacor, to the private sector is again in the headlines of Punta Arenas.
Magallanes Region Cattle Breeders Association, Asogama, president Pablo Sapunar said that recent remarks from Sacor CEO Arturo Saavedra had brought some degree of relief to local farmers when he insisted that the Porvenir abattoir will be working normally this coming season.
"Mr. Saavedra has publicly said that the coming season will be normal and that everything is ready to begin working. We're very glad to hear his assurances since farmers are still fearful and uncertain about the reaction of the System of Government Enterprises that is responsible for auctioning government assets".
Mr. Sapunar also praised the public assurances of the regional representative of the Chilean Finance Ministry Bernardo Troncoso who said the Porvenir abattoir will remain open.
Last week workers of the Sacor abattoir fearing the closure of the plant threatened to occupy the premises if they were forced to take anticipated vacations. Workers believed that the anticipated paid holiday decision was geared to begin a redundancy process. However Mr. Saavedra insisted that "all is ready to work at full capacity this coming season".
According to Asogama the Sacor abattoir is responsible for the processing of 30% of local production while Simunovic concentrates 50%. The rest is divided among smaller plants. Sacor and Simunovic are licenced to export lamb and mutton to the European Union.
The possibility of another abattoir project, financed by the local Magallanes company Wool & Meat, was also considered positive by Mr. Sapunar who said this would have a positive impact on efficiency and therefore "better prices and payment conditions" for farmers. Skorpios inaugurates new jetty in Puerto Natales
Skorpios inaugurates new jetty in Puerto Natales
A new extended jetty that will facilitate cruise visits to Puerto Natales was inaugurated last week by Constantino Kochifas head of Skorpios Patagonia Sur, a Chilean company that specializes in weekly tours to some of Chilean Patagonia most spectacular glaciers.
Puerto Natales a fishing village that lies to the north of Punta Arenas, very close to Torres del Paine national Park has enjoyed a rather modest tourist industry development compared to the rest of Chilean Patagonia.
With the new jetty 120 meters long cruise vessels from Skorpios Patagonia Sur will be docking weekly in Puerto Natales, hopefully full of visitors.
"Magallanes is one of the most beautiful regions of Chile. Its wonderful fiords, channels and impressive glaciers give the area a grand tourism potential that we are determined to promote", said Mr. Kochifas who revealed he first discovered the area in 1963 when he was involved in fisheries. In 1986 Mr. Kochifas returned determined to make his dream a reality.
Besides the jetty, offices, warehouses and repair shops covering 1,500 square meters and demanding an investment of almost 800,000 US dollars were inaugurated.
The jetty was named Waldemar Hoffman, a former Punta Arenas port official and close associate of Mr. Kochifas.
Magallanes mayor Jaime Jelincic, naval authorities and members of the Hoffman family were present at the ceremony.
The jetty became operational this very Saturday with the arrival of the first Skorpios cruise. Argentina and Chile eliminate migratory red tape
Argentina and Chile eliminate migratory red tape
Argentina and Chile advanced considerably in coordinating the elimination of migratory paperwork for citizens from both countries, which should be officially implemented as of next January 2004. Chilean Minister of Interior Jose Miguel Insulza and his Argentine counterpart Anibal Fernandez held talks this week in Buenos Aires following on the initiative announced by presidents Ricardo Lagos and Nestor Kirchner during last August's official visit to Buenos Aires and Patagonia by the Chilean head of state. "The new system virtually eliminates borders between both countries and will enable Chileans, Argentines and citizens from other countries who travel from Argentina to Chile, to have to fill an only migration form in one of the two countries", indicated Mr. Fernandez. The system will take off in the airports of Ezeiza, El Calafate, Bariloche and Mendoza, and in four of the most important border crossings, Libertador and Los Horcones in Mendoza; Paso de Jama, Jujuy; Cardenal Samoré, Neuquén; and the Tierra del Fuego-Santa Cruz crossing in Chilean territory. "We believe the new form will be simpler, quicker and less tiresome, without loosing in essential controls", added Mr. Fernández.
Airline project delayed Sky Airline that had announced the inauguration of flights to Punta Arenas from Santiago beginning November has delayed the decision at least until next year. Alan Peet, head of Sky Airline Traffic Control and responsible for the company's link with Magallanes region confirmed that even when all the documentation and legal paperwork are ready, "we've been overworked with the delayed arrival of seven to eight new aircraft, and this takes time to sort out". "I'm the most disillusioned of all, because I was the most encouraged with the idea", said Mr. Peet, "we were thinking of four to five flights to Punta Arenas". However, Mr. Peet pointed out that the following tentative date for the beginning of flights is January and if not in the second quarter of 2004. Expectations for a second air carrier are high in Punta Arenas given growing protests from local residents, that have reached Chilean Congress, regarding what have been described as Lan Chile's "monopoly practices". Sky Airline is a recently created domestic Chilean air carrier that has been steadily growing and operates mainly with Boeing 737-200 with a 124 passenger capacity.
Medicine School in Magallanes Before the end of 2003 the University of Magallanes, Umag, will be signing the contracts for the investment of the equivalent of two million US dollars in the construction of a specific building to lodge a future Medicine School. Umag Dean Victor Fajardo made the announcement during the 42nd anniversary celebrations of the founding of the then regional Technical School that later was to become the Magallanes University. Mr. Fajardo recalled that in the last five years, 1997-2002, Umag had invested the equivalent of six million US dollars in infrastructure and 11,000 square meters of classrooms, laboratories, library, students dinning room and a Students Affairs Office. The funds were provided by the Chilean Ministry of Education, National Development Fund, Magallanes Region Development Fund and the University itself. The creation of a Medicine School that has the full support of the regional government is a top priority for the Umag administration, and will enable local residents to begin studying medical related sciences in Punta Arenas. Apparently Umag also has a well known Geology Department and in involved in Antarctic research activities.
Cheaper flights from Río Gallegos Punta Arenas residents in growing numbers are flying to Buenos Aires from Río Gallegos following the naming of an Aerolíneas Argentinas agent in the city. Besides from Buenos Aires Chileans can take advantage of special promotions to fly to Brazil and the United States. The cost of flying to Buenos Aires from Río Gallegos is also considerably less than through Santiago. According to a Punta Arenas estimate, Santiago-Buenos Aires with Lan Chile costs 169 US dollars, but including taxes reaches 209 US dollars. Getting to Santiago from Punta Arenas with the cheapest fare demands 175 US dollars, adding to a total 384 US dollars. Rio Gallegos-Buenos Aires return fare is the equivalent of 255 US dollars plus the bus trip from Punta Arenas to Rio Gallegos, which is another 17 US dollars, totaling approximately 272 US dollars. However some additional differences: Aerolíneas must be paid cash; the cheapest Lan Chile fare from Punta Arenas demands a minimum booking anticipation of a week and no possible changes. Santiago-Buenos Aires is a one hour 55 minutes flight. Rio Gallegos-Buenos Aires 3 hours 55 minutes direct and 4 hours 55 minutes with a stop in Comodoro Rivadavia. Punta Arenas-Santiago flight demands for hours and ten minutes and a similar amount of time the bus ride from Punta Arenas to Rio Gallegos including Customs and Migration. But Lan Chile lands in Ezeiza and Aerolíneas in Aeroparque in downtown Buenos Aires, since it's a domestic flight.