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South America Breaking News

Tuesday, May 28th 2002 - 21:00 UTC
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Some Headlines: Spanish interest in Punta Arenas port. Argentina closes squid season.Hake, toothfish quotas.Impact of Argentine crisis.

Debating competition

Ten delegations of British Schools students from Santiago, Concepción and Viña del Mar arrived in Punta Arenas over the weekend for the annual debating competition among Chilean bilingual educational institutions. The idea behind the initiative is to achieve a greater integration among British schools in Chile and promote English since the debates are to he held in that language. This is the first time the event is held in Punta Arenas since 1995. The thirty visitors are living in homes of Punta Arenas British School students while the teachers that accompanied them in local hotels. The English language teachers are scheduled to participate in pedagogic work shops. According to the program the different teams will have to debate on four main topics: religion, marihuana consumption, female participation in society and work differences between men and women.

Spanish interest in Punta Arenas port

The port of Punta Arenas will be receiving substantial investments from Spain in the coming years both in infrastructure for the harbor and to promote the tourist industry. According to Santiago's most influential newspaper, El Mercurio, a Chilean business delegation headed by Economy Minister, Jorge Rodríguez, currently in Spain, indicated that the Spanish company Puerto de Valencia is interested in upgrading the port of Punta Arenas and in improving conditions to promote European tourism to the Patagonian region. However Punta Arenas Mayor Raul Hein when questioned about the news by the local press said that "so far we're in the good intentions stage; we have to wait and see the real amount of money involved. Anyhow it's good news for the region and let's hope it materializes". Apparently the investment initiative is in the framework of a co-operation agreement signed two months ago between Puerto de Valencia and the port of Punta Arenas involving technology transference and investments.

Uribe shows his grip

Elected Colombian president Alvaro Uribe anticipated he will be requesting an extension of the United States funded "Colombia Plan" to combat terrorism, kidnapping, massacres and occupation of villages. In an interview with Spanish newspaper ABC, Mr. Uribe defines himself as a "social-democrat" and stressed that "we need new forms of international cooperation against violence". The "Colombia Plan" was originally set up under US president Bill Clinton to help Colombia fight the drug trade and included military equipment and training. However it was made clear that those resources could not be used to fight the Marxist oriented guerrilla movements in Colombia, although it has been proved FARC and ELN have close links with the drug cartels, assisting them in protecting crops, field laboratories and their transport routes. The Bush administration is confident that Congress in the coming weeks will include fighting Marxist guerrilla movements that dominate great extensions of Colombian territory, as part of the objectives of the Colombia Plan. According to ABC and most of the Spanish press the landslide victory of Mr. Uribe with 53% of the vote, staving off a second round, was nurtured in the failure of the three years peace talks process with the guerrilla, sponsored by outgoing president Andrés Pastrana. Mr. Uribe, a hard liner educated in Harvard and Oxford, after he was declared winner said he was prepared to talk to the guerrillas if they called an unconditional ceasefire and gave up their weapons. "They have wasted many opportunities for peace. They will always have opportunities", remarked Mr. Uribe. Nevertheless he added that "the international community must know Colombia has expressed a wish to restore civility, order. Colombia does not want the world to hear only bad news of violence". Mr. Uribe has promised to double Armed Forces and Police numbers and set a network of a million informers to keep track of guerrillas. The elected president has a long standing feud with the FARC who fifteen times attempted to kill him and in 1983 murdered his father in the family farm in Antioquia. With Mr. Uribe as governor of Antioquia in 1995, FARC suffered one their worst defeats, when they were expelled from the province by right wing paramilitary forces, that allegedly are closely linked to the new president, but so far remain unproven.

Argentina closes squid season

Argentine authorities have decided to anticipate the closure of the Illex squid season south of parallel 44 . According to a publication in the May 22nd., Official Gazette edition, the Argentine Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food bans squid catches by all types of vessels south of parallel 44. The ban will stand until the end of the current squid season. The decision was taken following a recommendation from INIDEP, Argentina's Fisheries Research and Development Institute, given the significant drop in the biomass needed to ensure a sustainable development of the fishery and future seasons. The estimated biomass in the area was estimated in 224,000 tonnes.

Hake, toothfish quotas

Argentina's Federal Fisheries Council is requesting documented information from companies involved in the hake, (Merluccius hubbsi), Patagonina grenadier (Macruronus magellanicus), Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) and Southern blue whiting (Micromesistius australis) fisheries. The information requested will be used for the allocation of future quotas. Fishing companies must file proof of all direct and indirect employment generated between 1996 and 1999; domestic investment up to December 1996 and production figures from 1989 through 1996. Investments in buildings, cold storage plants, fishing vessels, machinery, tools, vehicles and other fishery related items will be taken into account according to Argentine authorities.

Abundant Shrimp

After close monitoring Argentine authorities have opened the shrimp fisheries in the following areas: 45o 30' South and 66o 55' West 45o 30' South and the limits of Chubut's provincial jurisdiction 46o 00' South and the limits of Chubut's provincial jurisdiction 46o 00' South and 67o 20' West

Maradona banned from Japan

Diego Maradona has been denied a visa to enter Japan for the World Cup finals according to reports in the Japanese press. Tokyo newspapers claim that Maradona's application has been turned down because of a drug conviction. The former star of the Argentine team was sent home from the 1994 World Cup for drug abuse. After the match with Nigeria when Mr. Maradona scored, he failed to pass the drugs test and was forced out of the competition. Apparently the issue of a visa to Mr. Maradona led to a dispute between the Japanese Foreign Ministry, which favored the extension of the visa, and the Interior Ministry which rejected it. Argentina's first match in the coming World Cup will be precisely against Nigeria on June 2nd. in Ibaraki.

Carmona granted exile

Pedro Carmona the Venezuelan businessman who briefly replaced President Hugo Chaves during a failed coup last month was granted political asylum by the Colombian government. Mr. Carmona fled to the Colombian Embassy last week after a Judge ordered him transferred from house arrest to prison. Mr. Carmona is accused of rebellion and usurpation of the presidential office. However he claims the was asked by the military who led the uprising against president Chaves to form a transitional government. Colombian Foreign Minister Guillermo Fernández de Soto said the decision was taken after careful consideration and in accordance with international law. However Venezuelan Foreign Minister Luis Alfonso Davila criticized the decision arguing that Mr. Carmona was not facing death o being politically persecuted, but was under investigation for a criminal charge. Venezuela still has to decide whether to grant, or not, a safe conduct form Mr. Carmona to leave the country. "We will make known, in due time, the decision of the government of Venezuela", said Mr. Davila. Colombia and Venezuela have been at odds for some time following Colombian military claims that their Venezuelan counterpart provide shelter and sanctuaries to Marxist oriented Colombian guerrillas.

Impact of Argentine crisis

The direct impact of the Argentine crisis for neighbouring Uruguay has been equivalent to 600 million US dollars, according to the Uruguayan Ambassador in Buenos Aires Alberto Volonté. The direct impact is described as the drop in sales to Argentina and the collapse of the last summer season when Argentine tourists were notoriously absent. However it's the financial impact which has had its greatest toll since many Argentines fearing a contagion of the situation to Uruguay are withdrawing their deposits from Uruguayan banks, totaling so far over 2 billion US dollars in the last six months. According to Mr. Volonté the summer season represents for Uruguay an income of over 600 million US dollars, but this year it was barely 300 million. Similarly Uruguayan sales to Argentina averaged 400 million US dollars per year, but the crisis had reduced that volume to just 100 million US dollars. When asked to explain the loss of deposits by Uruguayan banks, Mr. Volonté said that many Argentines have been forced to appeal to their savings in Uruguay because they are unable to mobilize their savings in their own country, frozen by the "corralito".

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