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Bulletin 10 February 2010



Chile: new president excludes prominent pinochetistas from cabinet

altChile’s president-elect Sebastián Piñera (pictured left with outgoing President Michelle Bachelet) has decided to exclude from his cabinet prominent members of the Pinochet regime, and has chosen instead a mix of liberals and conservatives, old and young.

Although Piñera has included technocrats who worked for the dictator, he has selected just one emblematic political leader from the Independent Democratic Union (UDI), the biggest member in his coalition and a party close to the Pinochet era. He is the former mayor of the capital Santiago, a defeated presidential candidate, Joaquín Lavín, who will be education minister.

He has appointed Jaime Ravinet, a former minister in the outgoing government coalition, the Concertación, to head the important ministry of defence. Another member of the Concertación, Javier Etcheverry, will be minister for public works.

Piñera will be sworn in on 11 March as the first conservative president of the post-Pinochet era.

La Tercera (Chile, Spanish)

El Pais (Spanish)

Latin America unites to help Haiti

altAt a summit attended by presidents and high-ranking officials in the Ecuadorean capital, Quito, the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) decided to donate US$100 million to help in the reconstruction of Haiti.

Unasur has been criticised in the past for being a toothless coordinating body of countries that can rarely agree on common policies, due to profound ideological differences between its member countries.

Peruvian President Alan García said that helping Haiti will give Unasur “a great opportunity” to demonstrate “the reason for its existence”. He underlined the importance of the Quito summit, saying that it offered the bloc the chance to “act with a single policy towards Haiti, while leaving every member free to do its own thing too”.

The meeting, which representatives of the European Union also attended, agreed to increase trade with Haiti and to ask creditors to forgive the country’s foreign debt.

Listin Diario (Dominican Republic)

El Comercio (Peru, Spanish)

Regional energy crisis continues: this time it’s Paraguay

altThe crisis in the energy sector, which has caused blackouts in Venezuela and shortages in Ecuador and Brazil, is affecting Paraguay.

The government’s energy committee met on Tuesday to discuss the crisis. It suggested buying generators from Argentina, as well as reducing working hours to avoid major blackouts.

Itaipú Binacional (pictured), the biggest hydroelectric plant in the world, managed by Brazil and Paraguay, has decided to clamp down on illegal electric connections in order to reduce energy consumption.

A report by the National Electricity Administration (ANDE) says that government buildings consume an excessive amount of electricity, despite the fact that the office hours in ministries during the summer are from 7 am to 1 pm.

Ultima Hora (Paraguay, Spanish)


Mexico: highest inflation rate in ten years

altInflation has soared to an annual rate of 4.46%, the highest since 2000, mainly due to an increase in public transport fares, petrol and telephone services.

The rate of inflation surprised the Central Bank (pictured), which was expecting 3% at most. The consumer price index rose by 1.9%, again the highest in a decade. According to the Central Bank, this is due to an increase in VAT, especially on cigarettes and beer.

Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the state-owned oil company, has already said that the price of fuel, gas and diesel will continue to go up throughout the year. The private sector has warned that fuel price hikes will increase production costs.

La Jornada (Mexico, Spanish)

El Universal (Mexico, Spanish)


Mexico: alternative energy to dry xoconostle

altMeaning “sour cactus fruit” in the local Nahuatl indigenous language, xoconostle (pictured) has long been part of the local diet in Chapantongo, an arid region in central Mexico.

In 1990 a local woman, Isabel Cortés, started to use solar energy to dry the fruit on the roof. This has expanded the market, for it means that the product can be stored much longer.

Gabriel Cortés, who runs a local company, told Inter Press Service that “production levels are small, so we are geared to the gourmet market. Solar drying maintains the nutritional properties as well as the flavour.” Xoconostle is in particular demand in posh restaurants in Mexico City.

Other companies are starting to use solar energy to dry sea salt and to produce organic produce.
Mexico benefits from high levels of insolation level, which means that solar energy is a readily available resource.

The use of solar energy has increased in the last few years but Pablo Mulás, an expert from the National Autonomous University, says that his country is still a long way from taking full advantage of solar energy.

Inter Press Service

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