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Saturday, November 29

Three years online

This month this site and this weblog completed three years in their current incarnation. I can safely say that I joined the blog nation well before it became fashionable, and I've got the archives to prove it. I got my own domain name several months before, but it took me a while to retrofit the content from my old side to the new format, which was based on cascading style sheets. I have started tweaking the design a bit to simplify management. The three-column design was just too cramped. I am still using a lot of sidebars for additional content, but I also wanted more space to highlight the photography.

More recently, I switched all my Internet and technology content over to the sister site, Backdoor Tech. I will soon be retiring all those pages from this site.

There may be some pages that I missed in the code conversion process so please drop me a line if you see anything weird.

Friday, November 28

Peru Congress approves cut in controversial tax

Peru Congress approves cut in controversial tax: "On Thursday night, Congress approved cutting the 2 percent 'solidarity tax,' -- also known as IES -- to 1.7 percent, beginning next January. Economy Minister Jaime Quijandria is evaluating whether to completely eliminate the tax if a proposed tax on banking transactions generates enough revenue." Forbes / Reuters Lagging tax revenue has always been the weakeness in government policy. A better world economy could provide a big lift because export revenue does not hit as hard at payrolls.

Tourist boom threatens Peru's Machu Picchu

Tourist boom threatens Peru's Machu Picchu: "Unbridled growth in tourism is irrevocably damaging the United Nations World Heritage Site and its surrounding attractions, destroying one of the world's premier archaeological sites, some planners say. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) will issue a report in January recommending Peru make major changes to its management of Machu Picchu and the Inca trail, regulating visits to the site. If not, UNESCO says it will place Machu Picchu on its list of endangered sites -- a 'moral sanction' against the Peruvian government's handling of the monuments." Reuters AlertNet Tough message for tourism industry that uses Machu Picchu as the main attraction for visiting Cusco. If you have to get on a waiting list to see the legendary citadel, what does that mean for Peru's tourism marketing.

Opposition remains strong aginst Manhattan Mineral's plans for gold mine

Manhattan Mineral stock dives on Peru mine ruling: "Peru's Energy and Mines Minister Hans Flury told a congressional commission on Wednesday that Manhattan had until Dec. 1 to prove that it had net assets of $100 million or more and a 10,000-tonne treatment plant in order to meet the terms of its option, which expires next May. A ministry statement said Flury said the state mining company Centromin Peru had turned down Manhattan's request for extra time to meet the requirements to build a gold mine in the northern Peruvian town of Tambogrande." Forbes / Reuters This feature, Decision looms for Peru Tambogrande mine project, explains the dynamics and social forces that are building up behind this project that would affect a coastal farming valley, that stands out as an example of sound agriculture. On the other hand, Peru has more mining potential elsewhere.

Unrest rises against Toledo again

One dead as protests sweep Peru: "Peru has been swept by a wave of protests in recent days by people demanding President Alejandro Toledo, who has a popularity rating of around 16 percent, make good on his promises of reducing poverty and creating jobs. In the latest tactic to draw attention to their plight, some 50 nursing auxiliaries stuck needles into their veins and dripped blood to demand Toledo meet his promise of doubling their pay, currently some $180 a month." Reuters AlertNet

Footbal championship playoff canceled

Strike cancels Peru's national tournament: "Players' union president Francesco Manassero said he was disappointed that the federation declaration did not address the pay issue at the heart of the strike, which he said would continue. Manassero has said that all but four teams have failed to pay full wages -- with partial pay dating back to 2001 in some cases. Peru's two most popular teams, Alianza Lima and Universitario, are among clubs accused of not keeping up with salaries, he said." Sports Illustrated / AP No word yet if the regular season will be played out. More and more proof that the professional clubs are anything but professional.

Tuesday, November 25

Peruvian government proposes compensations to victims of rights violaitons

Top Peruvians slam Toledo for not condemning army: "The August report recommended compensation be paid to victims and their families. Toledo responded on Friday pledging reparations of 2,845 million soles ($820 million)." Reuters AlertNet

Peruvian asparagus hits the big time

Fresh from Peru: "Blessed with low labor costs, a special exemption from U.S. import duties and an ideal climate that produces high yields and allows harvesting year-round, Peruvian asparagus growers are on their way to putting U.S. farmers out of business. While the rise of Peruvian asparagus has proved a boon to U.S. consumers and Peruvian farmers and their workers, it illustrates how free trade has both its winners and losers. There were 18,920 asparagus farms in Peru in 2002, according to the government, in the coastal states of La Libertad, Ancash, Lima and Ica. In all, the asparagus industry employs 50,000 workers." Miami Herald Another crop that holds potential for export income and rural development, at least on the coast. I can remember 20 years ago speaking to development experts who said that this was the direction to go for Peru, but the market environment was not right -- subsidies and title constraints meant that farmers kept growing sugar, which is water intensive.

Another "Lost Crop of the Inca" makes headlines

Root from Peru holds hope for dieters, diabetics: "Yacon, which is native to an Andean region stretching from Venezuela to northern Argentina, has a crunchy texture like a water chestnut and is refreshingly sweet and juicy. Left in the sun, its sweetness intensifies, and it can be eaten as a fruit, consumed in drinks, syrups, cakes or pickles or in stir-fries. Though packed with sugar, its principal appeal to the health conscious lies in the fact that the sugar in question is mainly oligofructose, which cannot be absorbed by the body. That means yacon is naturally low-calorie -- a jar of yacon syrup contains half the calories as a same-sized jar of honey -- and its sugar does not raise blood glucose levels." Reuters AlertNet The International Potato Center (CIP), where I used to work, has been researching for 20 years to get some of the marginal Andean root and tuber crops back into the agricultural mainstream.

Saturday, November 22

Peruvian football players claim they are owed $800,000 in back salaries Global: Striking Peruvian players seize stadium: "Peru midfielder Nolberto Solano, who plays for English premier league Newcastle United, said he sympathised with the players. 'When you're a professional and have a contract, it should be respected,' he told RPP radio in an interview from England. 'But in Peru, they do what they want to the players. It's time for Peruvian footballers to be respected.'" ESPNSoccerNet / Retuers This story is two-weeks old, but I chanced across it. The fact that players are often shafted is not new. The clubs have been impoverished, even the elite ones like Universitario and Alianza Lima. They frequently have incompetent management. The best players are just hoping that they will be noticed by a foreign team and taken abroad. An impoverished pro league means that your chances of fielding a good World Cup team are minimal.

At 2,800 meters above sea level, Peru survives a tough match Global: Peru 0-0 Ecuador: Quito stalemate: "The draw left Peru with five points from four games in the South American group after their second draw in four days. Ecuador have four points." SoccerNet / Reuters So far Peru has been dodging bullets. Only one loss, and they've actually surprised in the rest of the games. Because the World Cup elimination round is a really long process, you want to avoid loss and at least steal a tie in away games. And when you play Brazil at home, be glad that you got a tie. I am surprised by the number of people checking out my football page. Looks like the relative success is sparking some curiosity.

Toledo apologizes for abuses during fight against Sendero

Peru plans reparations for rights abuse victims of military in war against Shining Path: "Toledo promised to incorporate the commission's key findings into school textbooks and declared Dec. 10 'National Reconciliation Day.' He also said that the Attorney General's Office and the judiciary will bring to justice those members of the security forces who committed 'painful excesses' while cracking down on the Shining Path." Albuquerque Tribune / AP Apologies are cheap, just like campaign promises, so it's doubtful if the people that suffered during the fighting will feel better.

Monday, November 17

IMF gives passing grade to Peruvian economic policy

The International Monetary Fund has issued its report card on Peru, "Third Review Under the Stand-By Arrangement--Staff Report." Its online version is in Adobe Acrobat format, 1.75 megabyte (hope you have a high-speed connection). It is 59 pages long with lots of tables, graphs, footnotes and appendixes. The report says "good progress has been made." Enjoy the reading.

Peru ties Brazil in homefield match

Solano gives Peru draw to Brazil: "Brazil had chances to wrap up the game as they ran Peru ragged before halftime. But the home team, coached by Brazilian Paulo Autuori, fought their way back into the game after the break and Brazil were ultimately grateful for a point." ESPNSoccernet / Reuters Peru has never defeated Brazil in a World-Cup qualifying match.

Peruvian flicks draw attention in Miami festival

A showcase for Peru's nascent, struggling film industry: "Peru started making feature-length films in the late '70s. The films are characterized by their anecdotal, slice-of-life style, a constant in most of Latin America's cinema -- and most of its art expressions, for that matter. Peru's film production has been hampered by limited budgets and the unstable conditions in which filmmakers have had to work." Sun-Sentinel Francisco Lombardi's been making films for 30 years.

Friday, November 14

Hear the Sounds of Peruvian Music

The BBC World Service will broadcast a radio program entitled "Music Review: Travelling Instruments" by Juan Carlos Jaramillo featuring the coastal music of Peru on Tuesday, 18 November. For those who can tune in to the BBC, the program will appear at the following EST: 10:30 AM, 5:30 PM, 9:30 PM on November 18. You can check it out online by using Media Player between November 18 and 25.

The broadcast will include several musical examples, a demonstration of Marinera de Lima and 'Son de los Diablos' performed by master musician Pepe Villalobos Cavero and an interview with Victoria Santa Cruz, main protagonist of the Afro-Peruvian musical movement.

The program tapped several researchers on aspects of musical traditions associated with Peru's black population, including the Peruvian all wooden box drum, or 'cajón': Guillermo Durand, Researcher at Peru's National Museum; Chalena Vasquez, Direcor of the Centre of Music and Dance at the Catholic University, Lima; and David Mortara, Research Fellow of the Centre for Latin American Cultural Studies, King's College London.

This information was provided by David Mortara, via the LASA Peru Section mailing list.

Tuesday, November 11

Peru trade minister quits after scandal

Peru trade minister quits after scandal: "The opposition newspaper Correo last week accused Diez Canseco of hiring his alleged girlfriend for a job it said she was not qualified for, and getting two of her cousins well-paid jobs. It also said Diez Canseco had favored her father's company by signing a tax exemption law. Diez Canseco has denied the woman is his girlfriend and any favoritism toward her family. He said he would be quizzed by a congressional commission on Tuesday in order to 'establish the truth.'" MSNBC / Reuters Raul Diez Canseco was the commerce and tourism minister and is still the vice president of the country.

Sunday, November 9

News from the front

Peru captures Shining Path rebel leader: "The leader captured is Jaime Zuniga, also known as 'Cirilo' or 'Dalton,' and officials said he took part in planning the kidnapping in June of 71 workers of Argentine company Techint, who were working on a gas pipeline in the Peruvian jungle." Reuters AlertNet Sendero recently raised its profile in the Ayacucho Ayacucho foothills, and many in Lima are scared. But the increased activity makes SL more susceptible to detect.

Saturday, November 8

Reopening the offensive against coca growing in the Amazon

Peru police launch massive drugs raid in jungle: "The operation, involving 11 armored helicopters, was continuing on Saturday but the Interior Ministry said five people who had been working in the cocaine processing sites had been arrested and 10 stolen vehicles had been recovered." Reuters AlertNet The never-ending struggle to keep the cocaine trade within tolerable levels so that the U.S. government does not blacklist the country. Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi, a former far left militant and progressive journalist, knows that it's a no-win situation but he has to put up the fight to keep Peru eligible for U.S. funding. There is a lot of irony in his position.

Money in the bank

Peru attorney closer to Fujimori money dealings: "Calderon said the check shows that Fujimori's brother-in-law, then the ambassador to Japan, set up a bank account in Lima to receive the aid money via the Peruvian embassy in Tokyo, but then diverted the funds to Fujimori." Reuters AlertNet Fujimori always ran these charities and non-profit institutions as if they were extensions of his persona. But if the prosecutor's accusation proves true, the diversion of charity funds would be small beans compared to Vladimiro Montesino's rip-off enterprise.

Friday, November 7

Another Inca find near Cusco

Inca city found in Peru jungle: "They found stone buildings, including a solar temple and houses covering several square kilometres in the same alignment with the June solstice sunrise as Machu Picchu, which was a sacred centre. Not only was Llactapata probably a ceremonial site, excavations show it might also have acted as a granary and dormitory for its sacred neighbour, Mr Thomspon said." Guardian (UK) / Reuters

Wednesday, November 5

Ayahuasca hallucinegenic used to treat addiction in Peruvian Amazon

Peru seeks tribal cure for addiction: "From the outset, the purpose of Takiwasi was to offer an alternative to traditional methods of dealing with addiction. Patients are expected to stay at the centre for between nine and 12 months, and should not have any contact with relatives during the first three months." BBC Addiction to cocaine base and cocaine is a huge problem in the growing areas because of the abundance of the drug.

Bail for Sendero's European spokesman

Court frees UK-based Peru dissident: "Adolfo Olaechea, a Maoist who had lived in England for more than 20 years, was taken into custody while travelling in Spain and extradited to Peru in August. He denied being a leader or active member of Shining Path, which waged a campaign of massacres, political assassinations and car bombings that almost toppled Peru's government during the 1980s and 1990s" Guardian / AP Most terrorism cases in Peru don't lead the accused out on bail, but Olaechea was more an apologist and propagandist for Sendero than anything else.

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