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Showing posts from September, 2005

CONAMA Raises Qyestions About Barrick Gold Deal

(Sept. 29, 2005) Barrick Gold Corporation’s attempt to buy citizen support for the development of its US$1.5 billion Pascua Lama gold mine has not satisfied government officials in charge of reviewing environmental legislation. Paulina Saball, director of the Region III National Environmental Commission is still concerned about the proposed mine project even though Barrick has agreed to pay US$60 million for contamination and disruption of the Huasca River watershed.

The Company is proposing to relocate three glaciers from the proposed open-pit mining site to Guanaco, an area with similar surface characteristics and elevation located several kilometers to the south. Farmers from the Junta de Vigilancia, the group of local farmers that signed the agreement with Barrick, were concerned that the relocation of the glaciers would negatively impact their land that relies on the Huasca River for irrigation.

The protocol agreement between Barrick and the Junta was signed on June 30 by eight of …


(Sept. 28, 2005) President Ricardo Lagos met with the Assembly of Human Rights on Monday announcing that human rights violators would not be eligible for amnesty. The move was greeted with enthusiasm by the Assembly after waiting two years for an audience with the president and a recent series of set backs on the human rights front.

President Lagos drew sharp criticism on Sept 9 after he initially gave his support for a senate proposal to reduce the sentences of Pinochet-era human rights violators who have already spent 10 years in prison (ST. Sept 9). The initiative was brought to the floor by Hernán Larraín, senator for the right wing Independent Democratic Union Party (UDI).

Lagos’ statement was all the more startling coming so soon after he pardoned Manuel Contreras Donaire, a jailed military official involved in the 1982 murder of former trade union leader Tucapel Jiménez. However, the Human Rights assembly was very pleased that the president decided to change his position on the a…


(Sept. 27, 2005) Wine producers breathed a sigh of relief as Aníbal Ariztía, President of the Chilean Wine Association, announced a historic grape harvest this year - up 25 percent over 2004.

Wine producers have had a hard time over the last few years because of the high cost of primary materials needed to make their wine. In 2004 grape harvests decreased six percent from the year before at the same time as Chilean wine exports grew 20 percent. The high demand for grapes to create wine to export and the short supply of them in Chile drove up the overall cost of producing a bottle of wine.

On top of the rising cost of primary material, wine exporters suffered along with the rest of the world as the value of the dollar decreased on world markets. Chilean wine exporters have earned less in US markets because of the devaluation of the US dollar, further adding to their financial difficulties.

Vineyards have steadily increased the number of hectares planted with grape stock over the last seve…


(Sept. 26, 2005) The island home of Alexander Selkirk, the man whose true story inspired the famous novel “Robinson Crusoe,” has finally been uncovered on Robinson Crusoe Island, 645 kilometers off the coast of Chile in the Juan Fernández Archipelago.

Although the island has long been known as the place where Selkirk was cast away by the captain and crew of his British privateer, the location of his home where he spent four years waiting to be rescued has always been a mystery.

Japanese archaeologist Daisuke Takahashi led the expedition, sponsored by the National Geographic society, which discovered the remains of Selkirk’s base camp. Takahashi is the author of the Japanese best seller, “In Search of Robinson Crusoe” and has been searching for the site for over 13 years. He once spent a month alone on the island just to understand what Selkirk went through as a cast away.

The team found the remains of a fire pit, animal bones, and ceramic pots while surveying likely locations around the …


(Sept 26, 2005) Myth became reality last Wednesday when astonished explorers discovered what could be US$10 billion worth of gold, silver, and jewels buried on Robinson Crusoe Island. Using robot technology, a team from Wagner Technologies claims they have found the lost treasure of Spanish Conquistador Juan Esteban Ubilla y Echeverría.

According to legend, the treasure was originally stolen from the Incan Empire during the Spanish conquest of Peru in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Spanish navigator in charge of bringing the treasure back to Spain buried it on the island in 1715. Years later, an English pirate Cornelius Webb uncovered the treasure and reburied it somewhere else.

Last week the team brought one of their robots “Arturito” to search for the lost treasure buried on the island. The robot can detect and analyze the atomic composition of elements from metals to petroleum located up to 50 meters underground. It was used by the Chilean government to unearth an arms cache buried…


A team of engineers was run off by fishermen Monday after pulp and paper manufacturer Celulosa Arauco y Constitución (Celco) announced plans to dump industrial waste in their fishing grounds. The team was surveying potential dump sites near the coast of Corral in southern Chile when they were confronted by the concerned fishers and forced to leave the area.

The fishermen were protesting Celco’s decision to pipe industrial waste into regional waters, fearing pollution levels would damage the local fishing industry. Attempts to install pipelines from the plant to the Pacific Ocean were originally defeated by local groups in 1996, causing the company to change plans and route its effluent into the Cruces River near the city of Valdivia.

Ten years later, Valdivian community groups blamed the company for contaminating the city’s drinking water and polluting the nearby Carlos Anwandter Nature Sanctuary, decimating large populations of black-necked swans. Celco closed the plant on June 8 in re…

Chilean Vineyards Bet of Carmenere

(Sept. 23, 2005) If you are looking for that distinctive taste of Chile, Carmenenère may be what you’ve been waiting for. Ten years after Chilean vineyards invested heavily in the distinctive wine, connoisseurs around the world are ready to taste the fruits of their labors.

There was a “rediscovery” of Carmenenère wines in Chile in the early 1990s that caused producers here to invest heavily in the product. Planting hundreds of hectares of Carmenenère grapes between Regions IV and VIII (latitudes 30 and 40 degrees south) Chilean vineyards are starting to harvest the first crops of what they hope is a very successful flavor.

“This is a grape stock that requires a lot of care.” said Sergio Correa, chief wine expert for Grupo Tarapacá, “It takes a long time to produce and must be planted in warm valleys.”

The creation of a new wine requires years of hard work as well. “Purple Angel,” a new Carmenenère from Viña Montes, took over ten years to produce. According to Aurelio Montes, president …


Tax Exemptions And Military Pension Fund Cost Chile Over US$5 Billion In 2005

(Sept 22, 2005) In an effort to reduce government spending, government officials reopened two controversial debates in Congress this past week: tax shelters for business development in the extreme regions of the country and the apparent insolvency of the military pension plan.

Fundamental problems with the pension plan and tax exemption laws will cost the state over US$5 billion in incomethis year. Speaking to Congress, Chile’s Minister of Defense Jaime Ravinet called the military’s pension deficit “absurd” and asked Congress to take immediate action to fix the bankrupt pension plan.

Finance Minister Nicolás Eyzaguirre called for a review of the myriad tax breaks and incentives originally designed to promote development in the mineral-rich north as well as the under-populated south. Last Wednesday, Eyzaguirre told Congress that these tax incentives were not achieving the desired results.

As early as 1966, Chile …


(Sept. 20, 2005) Chilean and Argentinean officials announced an agreement on wheat tariffs Friday. Following more than five years of tense negotiations, the agreement was greeted with mixed emotions around the country.

Chile agreed to suspend protective tariffs on 10,000 metric tons of Argentinean wheat - representing 0.8 percent of national wheat production – in return for Argentina’s agreement not to file anymore lawsuits against Chile with the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The move allows Chile to resume talks with Mercosur, the regional trade organization of which Chile is an associate, after a 2003 “stand by” was imposed on Chile pending resolution of the wheat issue.

Carlos Appelgren, Chile’s ambassador to Uruguay, praised the agreement as a step forward for Chilean business. He explained that because of the agreement, Mercosur will move forward on eliminating all import tariffs on Chilean manufactured goods to Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

Chilean wheat and flour prod…


(Sept 14, 2005) Ex-Colonia Dignidad doctor Harmut Hopp was released on bail last week after denying charges of human rights violations. Pointing the finger at Paul Schafer, leader of the right-wing paramilitary group of Germans in the south of Chile, Hopp denied any knowledge of illegal activities at the Colony compound.

Colonia Dignidad was a settlement founded by German immigrants in 1961 near Catillo in southern Chile. Members of the group have long been suspected of aiding the military regime of Augusto Pinochet to torture and execute political prisoners. The group’s leader, Paul Schafer, was arrested on March 10 outside of Buenos Aires after an eight-year man hunt. He was expelled from the country and returned to Chile to stand trial for multiple counts of child abuse, tax evasion, and human rights violations (ST Mar. 11).

Chilean authorities recently charged Schafer’s second-in-command, Harmut Hopp, as an accomplice in the kidnappings of three left-wing activists missing since 1…