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Breaking News from South America

Wednesday, December 18th 2002 - 20:00 UTC
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Headlines: British frigates for Chile; Three weekly flights to Spain; Uruguay expects 74 cruises; Deer hunting in Tierra del Fuego; Poultry influenza losses.

British frigates for Chile

In the coming days Chilean Defence Minister Michelle Bachelet will recommend President Ricardo Lagos the purchase of Royal Navy frigate HMS Sheffield that has been offered by the United Kingdom. However according to Chilean press reports Minister Bachelet will go further and propose the acquisition of the whole Lot 3 of Type 22 frigates, that is HMS Cornwall, HMS Cumberland, HMS Campbelltow and HMS Chatham, that would be delivered between 2004 and 2006. Apparently the Chilean Defence Ministry and Chilean Navy have agreed in their assessment that second hand vessels, not older than fifteen years, should all be purchased from an only supplier, Great Britain. A Chilean decision on the renewal of equipment has been urged by the recent purchase by the Peruvian government of four Italian Lupo Class frigates that will begin to be delivered in 2003 and double Chile's northern neighbour surface fleet potential. Nevertheless the Chilean Navy has not entirely scrapped its original Trident program to build four German Meko A200 Type frigates, (one in Hamburg and three in Chile) at a total cost of 1,3 billion US dollars to be paid in 16 years. When the plan was rejected because of budget difficulties, an alternative option costing 960 million US dollars to be paid in 12 years was presented. Chilean Navy Commander Admiral Miguel Angel Vergara said in a recent interview that the force does not oppose the purchase of used vessels, but stressed the benefits of building new frigates in Chile. The Chilean Navy is currently operating with a "historical minimum" of three destroyers and three frigates, and besides given the age of the vessels, "they are very costly to keep running". The Chilean Navy's operational budget is over 400 million US dollars annually with additional financing from the surplus copper fund specifically earmarked for the renewal of equipment but shared among the three forces.

Three weekly flights to Spain

Uruguay's flag carrier Pluna inaugurated this month three weekly flights to Madrid Spain with a Boeing 767-300, chartered from an Australian consortium. The 1997 built aircraft can carry 217 passengers plus an additional 20 in executive and 14 tons of cargo. Pluna's president Milton Rodríguez said the new incorporated aircraft will fly directly from Montevideo to Madrid with an only stop in Rio do Janeiro, and on Saturday's reinforce the Montevideo-Sao Paulo connection. "Two years ago the company was technically broke, but we managed to renew the fleet with Boeing 737-300 for the short range routes and the 767-300 to our traditional destination in Spain, with connections to the rest of Europe", said Mr. Rodríguez. The new aircraft decorated with the "Uruguay Natural" seal will also act as a "tourist agent for Uruguay", promoting Uruguayan wine, cheese, beef and other organic produce. Films onboard will present the country's different tourist attractions. Pluna is chartering the aircraft for half a million US dollars a month.

Uruguay expects 74 cruises

Uruguayan Tourism Ministry officials expect 74 cruises in the current season extending from November 2002 to December 2003, with a total of 79,000 visitors. This represents 15 vessels more than last in the last season. According to Tourism Ministry estimates, 70% of visitors usually contract a day tour of Montevideo or Punta del Este, while the rest make their own arrangements. Each of the tour visitors spends an average 150 US dollars per day, with the Americans and British most shopping compulsive. Argentines and Brazilians are the more thrifty, a radical change from just three years ago when they were exactly the opposite. However not all retailers are so enthusiastic, "most are retired people, some can barely walk and they are very fearful of crime", indicated Graciela Zubía who owns an antique shop in downtown Montevideo. Good food, beef and wine, leather goods and football shows, figure among the leading attractions for visitors. According to Uruguayan Tourism Ministry officials cruise business in Montevideo has more than doubled in the last five years, however it's still insignificant compared to the this industry at world level. "We've experienced an annual growth of 10%, but still the South Atlantic only represents 1,8% of the world cruise industry. The Caribbean absorbs 40% of the trade", said Ignacio Bordaberry, Uruguay's Tourism Minister.

Deer hunting in Tierra del Fuego

Red deer (cervus elaphus) originally from Germany and brought to Chile over half a century ago is now been experimentally bred in Tierra del Fuego estates with the purpose of attracting foreign hunters in the near future. Red deer over the last fifty years has been confined to strictly guarded farms in Osorno, under close surveillance by Chilean sanitary authorities. The project now is geared to create closed hunting grounds in Tierra del Fuego and challenge overseas hunters to shoot deer for the very coveted horn trophy. The first of these farms is located in the Tres Hermanos settlement, 80 miles south of Porvenir in Tierra del Fuego, and according to Chilean tourism officials the cost of hunting a full grown buck is in the range of 10,000 US dollars. Tres Hermanos should be ready to operate in a couple of years.

Poultry influenza losses

Chicken influenza losses in Chile totalled 22 million US dollars, according estimates from the Chilean poultry industry. In a symbolic ceremony held this week, President Ricardo Lagos and Agriculture Minister Jaime Campos officially confirmed Chile free of chicken influenza, the viral disease that kills poultry but does not represent health risks for humans. Last June there was an outbreak of chicken influenza in three Chilean poultry processing plants that forced a massive sanitary killing of chickens and cut Chile from its export markets in Latinamerica and Europe. "Shipments this year will reach 50 million US dollars, compared to 67 million in 2001", said Juan Miguel Ovalle president of the Association of Poultry Farmers. Chilean poultry exports were growing at double digit rate and were forecasted to reach 90 million US dollars in 2002. The outbreak and consumers scare had poultry prices falling for most of the year besides the 600,000 chickens that had to be sacrificed.

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