Thursday, June 29, 2006

Winter has arrived

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Winter has arrived to Uruguay, too. Scarfs , woollen gloves, and hats are becoming more and more frequent in everybody's outfit, once again. In cold mornings you even get to see your condensed breath. Tough times for homeless people.

It's been a month of rains, cold, and even some mist. Rains were highly expected, and when they arrived, it poured. Unfortunately, it wasn't in the areas that really needed rain, so the energy saving policies are still ongoing (aka elevator queue syndrom).

The president's been making some ill comments about the uruguayan press, and how it is politically biased, against the government. The uncomfortable thing was, that he mentioned the exact list of newspapers, and tv channels that did not support the government. It was sort of the unhappy, unnecessary kind of comment, you wouldn't expect from the president, in a country with press freedom. Anyway, uruguayans, after our former president (Jorge Batlle), are kind of numb to stupid presidential declarations, noone could ever top him (he went public about how argentineans are all thieves and corrupt, and then had to go to argentina to beg for forgiveness.... historically sad).

We were visited by the brazilian ministry of foreign affairs to strengthen the mercosur bond, and to be offered a "new deal", since the mercour's presidency will be going to brazil in the coming period.

Nacional is the unnoticed victorious champion of the decaying national opening tournament (el apertura).

Today there was this big farmer's demonstration, against the upcoming economic tax reform. The government is in the final approval stages of a major tax reform, and there's unconformity in a lot of sectors that won't be at all benefited in the new taxing scheme, especially those that have right now some kind of excemptions, like farms ;)
The gov is implementing the tax to the rent of the physical person, something that does not exist in Uruguay, so far, and which seems very tricky to be implemented in a country with banking secrecy. Tomorrow there'll be what is known as a general partial strike for this reason, meaning all unions will stop working for some hours of the day. If it were all day, it'd be called a general strike, this ones are not very frequent (can't remember the last one).

Meanwhile, everybody talks, eats, reads, and breaths the world cup, the world cup match, players, and everythings. In every company small betting pots are made(called pencas no idea why :). Here, in Uruguay, everybody speculates about the world cup results, everybody has a formed opinion, everybody has a favorite, everybody "knows".

Right now, everybody is expecting tomorrow's Argentina Germany world cup match. As usually happens, when our neighbors play, opinions are divided in half, brazilian sympathizers (or just plain argentinian haters), will strongly support germany (the current "other"), while the rest will support argentina.

Me? I guess, like most uruguayans have mixed feelings towards tomorrow's match. On one hand I'd like to see a fellow south american, emerging country, win one of the most important world tournaments. On the other hand...who will be able to put up with argentineans if they win?... no one! they are waaay too cocky, and they are too close for that matter

(not to mention pulp mills) ;)

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Ecology from here sounds luxury

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The last couple of days Uruguay and Argentina's lawyers presented their initial statements in the international court of The Hague (aka Den Haag, La Haya), in the Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay (Argentina v. Uruguay) case.

For the newcomers the construction of two pulp mills by the riverside of the Uruguay river represents the biggest economic investment in Uruguay's history. Uruguay is still getting back from it's biggest economic depression, lived through in 2002-2003. Seems we are on a peaks decade.

Argentina's initial request is to stop the construction of the pulp mills as a provisional measure. Some say Argentina has to prove irreversible damage to have its request granted.

The case is expected to last around a couple of years and to cost loads of money in first class international lawyers. Uruguay has everything to loose here, if the request is granted thousands of persons directly or indirectly employeed will be left without their jobs, since stopping the constructions means waiting two to three years for a veredict, whatever may be.

When I read the international articles Uruguay seems like the bad guy, and Argentina seem just so noble, but living here I feel it's totally the other way around. These pulp mills will be equipped with the latest and less polluting technologies possible, while Argentina has already installed more than ten paper mills with, fifty years old, very polluting technology.

Last summer Argentinean demonstrations blockaded two of the bridges with Uruguay, looses are calculated around 400 to 500 millon dollars.

Meanwhile Corrientes, another argentinean provincia, by the Uruguay riverside, is reviewing a proposition to construct an even bigger paper mill.

The argentinean request to the international court is for the construction of the pulp mills not to take place, even though the paper mills are aligned with international standards.

I think industry and development always come along with some degree of pollution, and ecology in emerging countries seems to me a luxury we cannot always afford. It's sad, and true, and it's even more sad that argentina's attitude be that hypocrite, and that we've had to resort to an international european court to settle our affairs.

The country right now seems more concerned about the opening world cup match than anything else. Bottom line, I'm not supporting Argentina in the world cup series this time.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Turn off the lights, be a good citizen!

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Salto Grande Uruguay Long time, no rain, and since the biggest source of power in Uruguay is hydroelectric, and it's working under 10% of its capacity, we have a bit of a power crisis.

Usually Uruguay borrows/buy power from Argentina, but it seems our "cousins" are having it's own power crisis right now, which made them cut the wire, not to mention the current tensions in the relationship.

Brazil is lending some power also, but it appears we need even more.

There are other options on the table, like to buy natural gas from Bolivia, or oil from Venezuela, but there's nothing concrete yet.

Things have gotten badly enough that the state has started to take some measures, among them: buildings have to cut on half the number of working elevators, and shoppings have to use low consume lights at night. The consequences of this are that now waiting an elevator at 9:00am or 18:00 has become pretty much like waiting a bus, which you have to wait for a lot of minutes, and once you take it, it's crowded, and stops in every possible stop there is on the way. Regarding the lights now the city at night it's even more gloomy, just great!

If the situation does not improve (aka rains soon), restriction policies will start to apply to residences as well, which reminds me of the power cutting policies that were carried out in 1988, and 1989. Actually they are not bad memories, I remember my father taking out the car battery to power the tv set, and myself making hand shadows on candle light with my brothers, it was all very unusual stuff, funny at the time.... not anymore.

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