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Breaking News from Chile

Monday, December 2nd 2002 - 20:00 UTC
Full article

Headlines: Austral Brewery expands; Torres del Paine air charters; Corruption: far more than “isolated cases”; Exponaval 2002; Fisheries agreement; “Norwalk” virus attacks Disney

Austral Brewery expands

Austral Brewery in Punta Arenas that exports to the Falkland Islands and Argentina is expanding its production after 50% of the company was taken by another larger brewery from Santiago, Compañía Cerveceras Unidas. According to John Kimber, Cervecería Austral CEO, the Punta Arenas plant production has increased from 25,000 hectoliters to 70,000, with most of the additional beer sold in Puerto Montt and further north "given the explosive jump in consumption". "Our Punta Arenas operation will concentrate in Patagonia, with some shipments to Falklands and Argentine Patagonia. However we're considering sales to Europe and the United States given the excellent marketing conditions for Austral beer, particularly the brand name and the fact it comes from so far South that makes it so attractive", Mr. Kimber told Punta Arenas press. Mr. Kimber further on revealed that the Premium brand has had a very good acceptance and from 1% of the regional market has jumped to 15%. "The beer market in the area grows a modest 2% annually while Premium has reached 6%, we're very encouraged. Tierra del Fuego, Río Grande and Ushuaia are showing the greatest potential for this brand".

Torres del Paine air charters

The renowned Chilean National Park Torres del Paine will become considerably more accessible for cruise passengers who visit Punta Arenas. Although the park is further north, next to Puerto Natales but given the fact most Chilean coast cruise vessels stop at Punta Arenas, an air bridge will begin this weekend between both locations. The visitors who will be inaugurating this season's charter flights to Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine park are travelers from the "Silver Shadock" that is expected to reach Punta Arenas December 8th, and will only remain for twelve hours. According to Chilean officials Puerto Natales airport is licensed to operate mid sized aircrafts with daylight and thirteen of these charters with visitors for the Torres del Paine national park have already been booked for this season.

"Norwalk" virus attacks Disney

The jumbo cruise vessel "Magic" belonging to Disney company was forced last week to a quick retreat to port after at least 160 people, between passengers and crewmembers suffered the effects of the "Norwalk" virus. "Magic" has a crew of 1,000 and can carry up to 2,400 passengers, and usually sails in the Caribbean. Disney spokesperson Mark Jaronski in Orlando said that at least 140 passengers and 20 members of the crew from "Magic" were reported ill having suffered diarrhea, stomach aches and vomits during two days. According to the United States Federal Center for the Prevention and Control of Diseases this type of virus are frequent in closed environments. The irruption of the virus comes as a severe blow for Disney cruises since this is the third time this year "Magic" has been forced to cancel the trip because of the same virus in spite of having fumigated the vessel several times. Ten days before this last frustrated cruise "Magic" had been completely disinfected following a previous outbreak with 275 people reported ill.

Corruption: far more than "isolated cases"

Another complicated month is forecasted for Chilean president Ricardo Lagos whose government is rapidly loosing standing and prestige and analysts don't discard a cabinet reshuffle. Following the disbarment in November of five members of Congress belonging to the ruling coalition allegedly for corruption, President Lagos had to sack the board of the Chilean Railways, the head of the Accounting Office, admit that most officials receive additional payments supposedly for "office representation" and additionally has had to learn to live with a public opinion skeptical about the extent to which Justice will punish offenders from the political system. A complete new railways board of directors was named following the terrible accident of a 23 year old medicine student who fell on the rails when crossing from one wagon to another and lost her four limbs. The public relations mismanagement of the accident forced the immediate firing of the former directors given the public uproar. Just three days after her confirmation for another mandate as head of the National Accounting Office, President Lagos had to dismiss Clara Szczaranski for having refused access to the building of a press reporter from El Mercurio who apparently wrote an article that was not of her liking. A procedure not uncommon in Chilean politics but given the recent approval of a bill lifting censorship and promoting greater transparency, Ms. Szczaranski had to go. Regarding the "office representation sums" for officials in high posts, a public opinion poll indicated that they are simply "undercover additional salaries" and 95% of those interviewed said they should be taxed as income. Besides 42,3% believe President Lagos knew their existence and he himself benefited in previous posts; 26,5% were inclined to trust the president but 32,2% responded they didn't know or refused to answer. A great majority of those interviewed, 62% are convinced that these additional "representation sums" are also used to finance party activities and staff and only 18% believe they are special compensations in high jobs. As to who are most involved in the manipulation of these funds, the opinion poll points towards the Minister of Public Works, Home Secretary and President Lagos cabinet Secretary. When asked about the innocence of the five disbarred members of Congress, 83,3% of those interviewed said they were guilty of receiving money in exchange for political favors; only 1% believed in their innocence and 15% preferred not to answer. The poll also indicted great skepticism about judicial procedures. More than half, 57%, believe Justice will be lenient with members of the political system and only 33% think that the whole weight of the law will fall upon those accused. How can corruption and "additional sums" be eliminated from the system? Better salaries according to 27,5% of those interviewed; 27% a greater rotation in office and an end to political posts distribution (Chile's ruling coalition has been in power since the return of democracy in 1990) and 13% elimination of the "reserved contingency funds", that should be spent in national security. Finally last week a former governor of one of the country's thirteen regions (Vth) and her Chief cabinet minister, both from the ruling coalition and with arrest warrants, turned up in Court with their solicitors. They face fraud charges involving redundancy and employment stimuli funds. Contrary to President Lagos initial reaction a few weeks ago, when he said it was a matter of "isolated cases", corruption and fraud seems to be quiet more extended than initially believed.

Exponaval 2002

Possibly the major naval expo in Latinamerica will be taking place this week in Valparaíso with the participation of ninety exhibition stands, official delegations from at least eighteen different countries and an estimated 8,000 visitors mainly from United States, Europe and Latinamerica. Exponaval to be inaugurated this Tuesday will extend until next Friday with the sponsoring of the Chilean government and the country's Navy. According to the prospects, the main objective of the show is to link the navies of the region with world naval defence suppliers, emphasize Chile's maritime standing and act as a meeting point for the sharing of modern technology in the different fields. "For the Chilean Navy it's essential to promote our maritime standing given our geography, but it's not only naval, it's very closely linked to all maritime fields, that's the importance of this exhibition", indicated Rear Admiral Oscar Manzano. "In a globalised world inter action, inter operational activities with other navies are critical for the Chilean Navy, and is possibly the main issue of our academic discussions", added R/A Manzano. Carlos Parada General Manager of Exponaval expects business involving anywhere close to 700 million US dollars will be taking place during the week. "Construction, maintenance, refurbishing of naval units are the areas where we expect most business activity", added Mr. Manzano. The Chilean Navy is currently in the process of deciding a renewal of its fleet and so far has received offerings from Britain, Italy, France, Spain and the United States. Several of these countries will be present with naval units in Valparaíso. During the weekend a task force of three vessels from the South Korean Navy arrived in Chile.

Fisheries agreement

The controversial extension for another ten years of the current Chilean Fisheries Law apparently will have the necessary votes in the Senate following a political agreement between president Ricardo Lagos and the leader of one of the two opposition blocks in Deputies Pablo Longueira. "I'm satisfied with the agreement reached with President Lagos, our Deputies and Senators will vote the ten years extension taking into account the views of the coastal fishermen so that they can also have the necessary stability and not be in disadvantage with industrial fishing. The fisheries belong to all Chileans and not only to a few industrialists", said Mr. Longueira. Last week an attempt to approve the extension in Deputies lacked the sufficient support given the rejection of the opposition and some members of the ruling coalition who belong to areas with strong coastal fishing interests. Deputies actually proposed an alternative project extending the Fisheries Bill for only one year, aborting the government's attempts to speed up several bills that supposedly will help the sagging Chilean economy to pick up again and have been promised to the business community by President Lagos. The unexpected defeat surprised a furious president Lagos who warned the opposition and some of his rebellious Deputies emphasizing the "need for serious and responsible attitudes in such a critical moment for the country". With Mr. Longueira's support the bill mathematically should have no problems in passing both houses. However much will depend on rallying the dissident Deputies of the government. As a direct result of the failed voting in Deputies, the president of the Chilean Senate Andrés Zaldívar, who was accused of having interests in the fishing industry, announced he was divesting all his and his wife's fisheries related shares. "The accusations have been maliciously intended against my family's honor. They have an only objective to discredit me and my party. The shares we had were only savings. I will therefore initiate legal actions against those who spread these scandalous rumors", stressed Senator Zaldívar who added he will vote as originally intended by the government.

Fisheries agreement

Unemployment in Chile during the August-October quarter reached 9,6%, a 0,1% drop from the same period a year ago. The 9,6% is made up of 8,2% actually out of jobs and 1,4% going into the labor market for the first time. According to the latest release from the Chilean Statistics Office the country's labor force adds to 5,993,220, those actually employed 5,364,080 and those unemployed 569,140. Unemployment among women was 9,8% and 9,5% for men, with a 0,4% drop for the ladies compared to the same period in 2001 and a 0,1% increase for men. Regarding age, between 15 and 24 years, 23,6% (against 22,9%); 25-34, 11% (11,4%); 35-44 years, 6,9% (7,2%); 45-54, 5,6% (5,8%); 55-64, 5,5% (5,5%); and over 65, 2,2% (2,2%). The most dynamic sectors of the Chilean economy as far as employment is concerned were and in the following order: Financial Services, Transport and Communications; Public Utilities; Commerce; Construction; Agriculture, Fisheries and Hunting and finally Manufacturing. Areas that actually decreased are Personal, Social and Community Services plus Mining. Regarding Chile's regions, compared to the same quarter a year ago, unemployment increased in eight of them and decreased in five. In the Third Region from 9% to 9,5%; Fifth, 11,2% to 13,6%; Sixth, 8,8% to 10,7%; Seventh, 14,4% to 14,8%; Eighth, 10,6% to 11%; Tenth from 6,4% to 7,4%; Eleventh from 4,8% to 4,9% and finally Magallanes, 6,9% to 7%. Unemployment decreased in the First Region, 11,3% to 9,1%; Second, 9,6% to 7,5%; Fourth, 10,3% to 6,8%; Ninth 7,1% to 6,4% and in metropolitan Santiago it dropped from 9,4% to 8,7%.

Categories: Mercosur.

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