Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Las Meninas (Spanish for The Maids of Honour) is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez, the leading artist of the Spanish Golden Age, in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.
Read more at:
Lear: Ay, every inch a king!
Shakespeare, King Lear, Act 4, scene 6
Today, when the third different reader mailed me with the link to an interview with "The King of Copper" featuring ex-Codelco headman Juan Villarzú pumping the metal to $2.00 or $2.50 or $3.00 per pound (I'm still not sure which one really is his target), the slightly annoying BS being served up for the masses just got under my skin once too often. Here we go with the antidote:
- The interview in question was conducted by a certain Andrew Mickey of Q1 publishing (and you're not alone, as I've never heard of the dude or his company, either).
- Mr. Mickey interviews Villarzú, the chairman of Apoquindo Minerals (AQM.v) and ex-head of Codelco.
- AQM.v is a junior copper miner in Chile, so has everything to gain from a higher copper price. Mr. Mickey discloses that he is long AQM.v.
- However, Mr. Mickey also writes that SQM is a "leading copper producer" and waxes lyrical about how it has benefitted from the recent Cu rebound. This is strange, as SQM is the well-known and very large Chilean potash/iodine/lithium company. Not copper. Not even close to copper.
- Meanwhile, in the interview itself Villarzú informs us of his call for copper. JV says, "I think copper will be at $2 by the end of the year, and will be above $2 next year." Villarzu then goes on at length about China demand for copper as the reasons behind his bullishness. Of course, all this is immediately turned into some type of gospel, because Villarzú is "The King Of Copper" and (in the words of Andrew Mickey) "...has an impressive track record many mining executives would envy."
- Today, this press release hits the wires from Kin Communications that repeats in big bold letters that; “I think copper will be at $2 by the end of the year, and will be above $2 next year.” says Juan Villarzu, Former President and CEO of CODELCO Chile, world’s largest copper producer. Kin Communications is the investor relations people for Apoquindo Minerals, by the way, but don't let that worry you.
- For example, in October 2005 he said that copper prices would drop to U$1.25/lb in 2006. It zoomed to way over $3/lb.
- In February 2006 with copper over $2.30/lb, he called for it to drop to $1.50 to $1.70/lb in 2006, citing Chinese demand reasons. Copper finished the year averaging $3.06/lb. Oops, not the right call when you're the CEO of the biggest copper company in the world, is it?
- Then the call for $1.00/lb copper in 2007? Nah, that didn't work out very well either, really.
- It was at the same time as these calls that Villarzú "was allowed to step down" at Codelco, being replaced by José Pablo Arellano. Strange coincidence that, isn't it?
All I'm saying is that it sucks being named "King of Copper" by a paid hack who owns stock in Villarzú's junior copper company but clearly doesn't know Jack about the copper industry.
Then getting this obviously biased and uninformed puff-piece stuffed in my face from the same company's IR dep't and a bunch of people who should turn their own bullshit alarms on sometimes really sucks.
And Juan Villarzú's track record in calling spot copper really, really sucks.
Translated via Ottotrans™, and here's the original Spanish report to prove that I am not making this shit up. I promise I'm not. It's word for word. Enjoy, gentle reader.
"It was an incredible trip"
YVKE Web Press / Agencies
Tuesday March 31, 2009. 3:30pm
On her web page, Mendoza explained that both beauty queens visited the Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba on Friday March 20th in order to greet and entertain the military personnel stationed there.
"It was an incredible experience," said the Venezuelan. "They (in Guantanamo) knew that Crystle and I were coming to visit and the first thing we did was to sit down to an enormous lunch. Later we went to one of the bars they have there."
Since the beginning of 2002, the USA has held hundreds of men at Guantanamo, captured in different parts of the world as supposed terrorists and has held them prisoner without trial or appeal. Many of them have been subjected to torture, according to reports from human rights organizations.
Mendoza said that she and her friend talked with Guantanamo personnel "about the base and what life was like there, and in the following days we had a great time, it was a really memorable trip." The base personnel took the two women on a visit in a 'boat', unidentified by Mendoza, and a sightseeing tour that "was a lot of fun."
"We also saw the military dogs and they gave us a cute demonstration of their obedience", added Mendoza. "All the army people behaved themselves very well with us".
"We visited the detention camps and saw the jails, where they bathe, how they are entertained with movies, art classes and books", she added. "It was very interesting". The young Venezuelan added that "the water in Guantanamo Bay is sooooo beautiful. It was incredible and we were able to enjoy it for at least an hour."
UPDATE: The NYT's lede blog is running the story too. I could have saved myself all that translation bother. Thanks for the link, RB.
Freeport (FCX) up 0.4% at $38.70 and my heads-or-tails quicktrade from yesterday will make me the price of a decent botle of wine if I sell 'em now (once commish is deducted). I'll sell 'em before the bell today whatever happens, but something over $39 would be nice...could buy a mixed case of a fair Argentine Malbec.
ECU Silver (ECU.to) down 2.15% at $0.455. ECU.to released this PR today that told us they're capable of building a processing plant...I think. Best commentary came from reader 'B' who wrote and said about ECU's PR, "personally, I would be more impressed with a longer list of achievements...like, umm, restocked the bathrooms with lightbulbs and paper products and cleaned the toilets...". It made me laugh at least.
Troy Resources (TRY.to) down 5.8% at $1.13 on pitiful volume (though bid is now $1.16). The best laid plans of mice and men. Fortunately this is not like the CZZ situation, as 1) i'm already 35% or so up and 2) I'm happy to give this stock all the time it needs. DYODD
Corriente Resources (CTQ.to) (ETQ) up 4% at C$5.98. This PR put through the Ottotrans™ sez "Tongling doesn't want to pay our asking price." Caveat emptor, baby.
- that ran a U$16.8Bn trade deficit in 2008
- that has an economy set to drop by 5% this year according to Morgan Stanley
- and that according to this Bloomie report, is about to accept thirty to forty billion dollars in bailout cash from the IMF
The new composition starts tomorrow (the beginning of the 2nd quarter) and as well as removing three minor-weighting companes from the index (Mirgor, Molinos Rio and Aluar) the sages have decided to raise the weighting of seamless tubemaker Tenaris (US-listed as TS) from 35.22% to 46.48%. Or in other words, nearly half the index is now dependent on a foreign company*. Add the 13.69% weighted to second placed Petrobras, another non-Argentine entity, and over 60% of the supposedly Argentina index is made up of two non-Argentines that happen to do a minor part of their business in the country.
How Argentina still manages to get a seat at the G-20 summits is quite beyond me.
*Sorry guys, we've been through this before; whatever Argentines might try to tell you Tenaris is most definitely not an Argentine company. I've won money betting on this line item.
Firstly, and by way of a preamble, let's look some of the recent issues around Colossus Minerals (CSI.to). We can sum up what we need to consider in the following way:
- CSI.to has a gold project in South America (Brazil)
- It's a well-known artisanal mine in the area
- The project has rich gold-bearing mineral and drilling in the right place is all but guaranteed to return excellent grades
- The area has serious political issues, especially with the local artisanal miners, that the company either ignores or claims are not important
- Sheldon Inwentash of Pinetree is on board with a sizeable investment
- The recent upmove in the stock price has come on the back of press releases containing those excellent drill returns and a concerted PR campaign (that has totally ignored the political risk) from people like....Sheldon Inwentash. I particularly loved the way he said that CSI.to was "almost too good to be true"....a real hoot! Here's the three month chart of CSI.to
So let's imagine, for our purposes at least, that CSI.to is some kind of blueprint for what might be about to happen at Latin Amerian Minerals (LAT.v). The basic idea here is that LAT.v is doing a Mini-Me on CSI.to. Consider the following:
- CSI.to has a gold project in South America (Paraguay)
- It's a well-known artisanal mine in the area
- The project has rich gold-bearing mineral and drilling in the right place is all but guaranteed to return excellent grades
- The area has serious political issues, especially with the local artisanal miners, that the company either ignores or claims are not important
- Sheldon Inwentash of Pinetree is on board with a sizeable investment.
....especially considering LAT.v went way above a loonie once upon a time when the company got pumped by the normally astute Coffin Brothers (hey...nobody's perfect), but that's the point of considering it as a possible splash'n'dash investment right now. Better to be chased than to chase in this game. Also, LAT.v isn't an exact apples-to-apples with CSI.to as it has its own baggage (including diamond-hunting and that very silly lithium potash thing in Argentina that they might use to throw stardust into the eyes of the unsuspecting), but what is true is that our Sheldon has been picking up chunks of LAT.v in the last couple of months:
|Mar 27/09||Mar 20/09||Pinetree Capital Ltd.||Indirect Ownership||Common Shares||10 - Acquisition in the public market||100,000||$0.180|
|Feb 26/09||Feb 17/09||Pinetree Capital Ltd.||Indirect Ownership||Common Shares||10 - Acquisition in the public market||434,500||$0.204|
|Feb 13/09||Feb 04/09||Pinetree Capital Ltd.||Indirect Ownership||Common Shares||10 - Acquisition in the public market||100,000||$0.145|
|Feb 11/09||Feb 02/09||Pinetree Capital Ltd.||Indirect Ownership||Common Shares||10 - Acquisition in the public market||200,000||$0.134|
|Feb 04/09||Jan 26/09||Pinetree Capital Ltd.||Indirect Ownership||Common Shares||10 - Acquisition in the public market||50,000||$0.080|
|Feb 02/09||Jan 23/09||Pinetree Capital Ltd.||Indirect Ownership||Common Shares||10 - Acquisition in the public market||51,000||$0.080|
|Jan 30/09||Jan 22/09||Pinetree Capital Ltd.||Indirect Ownership||Common Shares||10 - Acquisition in the public market||150,000||$0.080|
|Jan 23/09||Sep 19/08||Pinetree Capital Ltd.||Indirect Ownership||Warrants||00 - Opening Balance-Initial SEDI Report|| || |
|Jan 23/09||Dec 23/08||Pinetree Capital Ltd.||Indirect Ownership||Common Shares||10 - Acquisition in the public market||74,000||$0.075|
|Jan 23/09||Dec 19/08||Pinetree Capital Ltd.||Indirect Ownership||Common Shares||10 - Acquisition in the public market||400,000||$0.063|
That's a chunky 1.5m shares to add to the bunch previously held at Pinetree. So with this press release today to tell the world that LAT.v is drilling once again at its Paraguay gold prospect and that visual returns have been good, the chances are that the next press release(s) contain(s) drill returns that everyone at the company knew would be good....much like the recent Colossus tactics, to put it bluntly. Give 'em the old razzle dazzle, boyz.....
The bottom line is that although LAT.v is more than a bit suspect as a long term investment (errr...that's putting it as diplomatically as possible...I've been trying hard to avoid the S word while writing about both CSI.to and LAT.v today) it may be about to get the full-court Canadian pumperooney treatment. I personally have this whole BS integrity baggage that stops me from buying into these things normally, but there are times when I tell myself to "lighten up dude...just buy a few...it ain't illegal" and I might just do that this time. This kind of attempt to second-guess the market is a high risk activity, get that straight in your head and crystalline in its clarity, but LAT.v does have the hallmarks of being set up for the mark right now. We shall see.
Über-important to DYODD on this one, dudettes and dudes; check out that latest press release and if you speak Spanish I'd recommend that you Google "Paso Yobai Paraguay" and find out more about the local issues involved with the project.
Why I Laugh At SinkingAlpha (metals section). When you start your article with the title "Why the Mining Sector Doesn't Need Banks" it either means you're off your meds or you've never talked to a junior miner CEO, CFO, COO etc in your life, let alone in the last 18 months. The problem is that some people will actually take this person seriously. Intensely bad, even for SinkingAlpha's standards.
Peru: February exports are down 29.2% YoY. But don't let that worry you, because Twobreakfasts said the country is growing.
Argentina: Raúl Alfonsín's condition has deteriorated somewhat overnight. I'm not going to make this blog into some RaúlWatch, but I thought I'd pass this on at least becauseI am concerned about the dude.
Venezuela: Chávez's latest "give 'em something to think (laugh) about" idea is throwing his oil-backed world reserve currency idea at the assembled Arab bigwigs at the Qatar conference. H/T Boz for the headsup. Hugo is always coming out with these chestnuts; anyone remember those natgas powered vehicles that are about to be sold to the population of Caracas this year?
More Peru: For some reason those pesky consumers have the temerity to ask why they should pay 6% more for their electricity beginning May '09. These so-called "citizens" have no sense of national loyalty and should realize that there's a recession on. I mean, if they don't pay more all those beloved foreign investors won't make so much profit.
Two of the three major TV channels in Uruguay have refused to run the campaign. Apparently either kissing is an offensive activity, or there are no homosexuals where they live. Or both.
File this post in the "understanding South America" box.
This basically because I like the company and I'm glad they've been catching a bid these last few days (and it's my blog, so there). It's also 71.8% since Yoda from Star Wars guest-blogged the Trading Post on February 26th and said;
"Vena Resources (VEM.to) UNCH at $0.16. My Jedi powers see a bright future and happy news. Stock to keep on your radar in the near future, this is. Hmmmmmm."
He may be small and wrinkly, but that Yoda is one smart dude. Disclosure: I own and I also know people that do. DYODD.
Monday, March 30, 2009
So if you know what the devil Twitter is and know how to use it, this means
1) You know more than I do
2) You can now follow Inca Kola News on Twitter if you want to.
Go here, read the reading thing and sign the piece of e-paper. Do it! Now!
What is this Hope of which you talk, gringos? Dow 5 day chart.
Freeport (FCX) down 8% at $38.72. Here's a prime example of a potential buy this afternoon that you could sell at a profit tomorrow on that window dressing bounce. Even taking into account today's slump, FCX is 50% up this quarter and that ain't too shabby. DYODD, dude.
Chariot Resources (CHD.to) down 10.2% at $0.22, and those of you who bought the NOBS report and read it over the weekend would have been ready for this drop. The recommendations took this into account and gives a potential buying point that completely ignored Friday's bounce (the reasons are given, too). This isn't the last chance to buy the $10 report but it is the last time I'm going to unashamedly pump it on site. Here's the link to find out more.
Gold Hawk Resources up 16.7% at $0.035. Signs of life in the stock price, though volumes remain low. Wouldn't it be great to get some good news on this company soon........
Malaga (MLG.to) up 36% at $0.15 on tiny volumes. The verdict is on on MLG.to and that verdict is "untouchable". Trouble is brewing at Pasto Bueno between locals and management, with a nasty repression noted last week in the local press as protesters blocking access to the place were beaten up by police and MLG.to security staff. This is the kind of story that ends in tears, I'm afraid. Don't go long, don't go short, just avoid.
Troy Resources UNCH at $1.15 on zero volume, this despite the far more liquid Aussie stock rising 6.25% to A$1.445 last night. The forex arb would put TRY.to at C$1.24 or so in a freely-flowing world.
UPDATE (after the bell): Money where mouth is. I bot a few FCX and will sell them tomorrow whatever happens. Flip the coin, heads or tails, win or lose?
This is what it says:
The Subscription Agreement contemplated three staged equity investments in the amounts of US$4.5 Million, CDN$2.5 Million and CDN$12.5 Million, respectively. The first two stages of this transaction were successfully completed in September and October 2007. Since that time global market conditions related to the resource sector have materially changed and many of the conditions embedded in the Subscription Agreement and Letter Agreement became untenable. As such, both parties discussed the possibility of modifying the aforementioned Agreements; however a mutually-acceptable solution could not be agreed upon.
Damien Reynolds, President and CEO noted, "While we are disappointed that the commercial agreements could not be re-negotiated, we have parted company in a positive manner. Market conditions for financing early-stage exploration companies have changed significantly since the original agreements were signed. The shareholders of Cue were exposed to massive dilution of their equity should the third payment by Cameco have been executed. This dilution was deemed unacceptable, given the excellent potential of the Yuty project, even in today's turbulent financial environment."
And this is what it means:
The Subscription Agreement contemplated three staged equity investments in the amounts of US$4.5 Million, CDN$2.5 Million and CDN$12.5 Million, respectively. The first two stages of this transaction were successfully completed in September and October 2007. Since that time the ridiculous bubble in uranium juniors burst and marginal projects like searching for U308 in Paraguay of all places have become plain silly. As such, both parties discussed the possibility of modifying the aforementioned Agreements; however a mutually-acceptable solution could not be agreed upon because the guys at Cameco weren't born yesterday.
Damien Reynolds, President and CEO noted, "We're totally screwed on our only project now, but we have to put some kind of positive spin on the thing otherwise my salary for next year might be in danger. The shareholders of Cue were exposed to massive dilution of their equity, but that wouldn't have stopped us if Cameco had decided to move forward. It was good while it lasted, I suppose."
Previous Ottotrans™ available here
To paraphrase Animal Farm and mash with Nixon; We're all Keynesians now but some are more Keynesian than others.
"The Miracle Mission, and well done to them, operated on 1,500 (Peruvian) people in two years. Essalud, and better done, operated on 25,000 people in one year. And this is the best way of showing what is the good option, the most efficient option and therefore the people support it."
This only shows that Twobreakfasts' grip on reality is slipping fast. Some points to make:
- Essalud is the Peruvian semi-state health service. It is not free, as your average Peruvian has to pay a monthly quota for coverage. In fact Peru runs a two-tier hospital system with Essalud covering those who can afford it with an acceptable (nowhere near perfect, but acceptable) service and the virtually free SIS covering those who cannot afford Essalud with hospitals that have more cockroaches than patients.
- Thus Twobreakfasts compares a paying hospital system to a freely donated service available to one and all. Be clear that the 40% of Peruvians that live on U$2 or less per day don't have a snowball's chance in hell of being looked after by Essalud.
- The Mision Milagro is funded by Venezuela and currently covers every single Latin American country as a complementary service to any country's health service. Every single one except for Peru that is, as the Twobreakfasts paranoia about all things Chávez chased them out of the country. Venezuela simply preferred to retire the Mision service from Peru rather than cause a political stink. But let's repeat to make sure it's understood; The Mision Milagro currently helps people in every single Latin American country bar one; Peru.
- We can split hairs about the 1,500 Peruvian people mentioned by Twobreakfasts and the 1,700 Peruvians that Venezuela claims have benefitted from the Mision. However it's ridiculous (quite literally 'worthy of ridicule') that Twobreakfasts forgot to mention the sixteeen thousand Peruvians that have crossed the border into Bolivia in the last two years to get free operations under the Mision in the town of Copacabana.
Evidence indicates that IC 4406 is likely a hollow cylinder, with its square appearance the result of our vantage point in viewing the cylinder from the side.
Credit: C. R. O'Dell (Vanderbilt U.) et al., Hubble Heritage Team, NASA.
Read more at:
Get well soon, Raúl.
UPDATE 8pm Buenos Aires time: Good news. Alfonsín's doctor has just said he's getting better, although still 'delicate'. In the words of the Doc, "When a patient with cancer is complicated with pneumonia and fever, it's complicated for a transitory period."
Seriously, Raúl, get well soon.
It's that man again, as Ross Beaty opens his wallet and plops down $6m or so to buy more VEN.to and up the holding to 12.2% (fully diluted after the warrants kicker at $2) of this regional play. Just recently he bought a large chunk of Amerigo Resoures (ARG.to). This time it's less copper in Chile and more gold in Colombia. Here's the PR:
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(MARKET WIRE)--Mar 30, 2009 -- Ventana Gold Corp. (Toronto:VEN.TO - News) ("Ventana" or "the Company") has arranged for a non-brokered private placement of 4.3 million units at a price of $1.40 per unit for gross proceeds of $6,020,000. The transaction is fully subscribed by Lumina Capital LP, an entity held principally by Vancouver mining entrepreneur Ross Beaty.
Each unit comprises one common share and one non-transferable share purchase warrant entitling the holder to purchase one common share at a price of $2.00 per common share for a period of two years following the close of the transaction.
Ventana President and CEO Richard Warke said: "Lumina has been a strong supporter of Ventana in the past and we are pleased to see their interest increase to 8.5%, or 12.2% on a fully diluted basis. Their additional investment shows their confidence in our company and the exciting potential of the La Bodega property."
Best citizen is Ecuador, with Venezuela coming second. Colombia gets third spot, but the 56% is hardly anything the write home about. However the really bad boys are also the countries with the largest amount of rainforest on their patches; both Brazil and Peru fail the test. Data is from the Red Amazónica de Información Socioambiental Georreferenciada (RAISG), a mouthful of a name for an NGO that translates easily enough. Here's a Spanish language report on the findings.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
So the big question is, "How to blow the cash on the midweek fixtures?" Here we go with the Tuesday / Wednesday matches, with prices again supplied by Ladbrokes.
Bolivia 9/2 ..............Draw 5/2........ Argentina 8/15
Ecuador 11/8 ...........Draw 11/5.......... Paraguay 8/5
Chile 11/10 ...........Draw 11/5 ........Uruguay 2/1
Brazil 1/7.......... Draw 5/1 ..........Peru 11/1
The best spectacle is likely to be Chile vs Uruguay, a real full-on battle in the making. Uruguay played some great football to beat Paraguay 2-0 over the weekend. Chile has just bagged three points away from home at the embarrassing Peru and has a big home advantage in Santiago. It also has Marcelo Bielsa as the brainpower, a man who will have a whole different strategy planned for the match with the Garruas. So even though Uruguay were very impressive I'm going to pick Chile at 11/10 to beat Uruguay.
For my other pick, a draw is likely in the Venezuela / Colombia matchup and 11/5 looks good to me. Neither team is great and the home advantage should let the slightly weaker Venezuela hold onto a point. That's the plan, anyway. What could possibly go wrong? So my bets are:
$100 on Chile @ 11/10 (theoretical return $210)
$40 on Venezuela Colombia to draw @ 11/5 (theoretical return $128)
Which leaves $141.25 in the cash pot to fight another day. And let's see how we get on.
Piet Mondrian was a Dutch painter, a pioneer of Geometric abstraction.
e was an important contributor to the De Stijl art movement and group, which was founded by Theo van Doesburg.
Click the figure below to see the interactive illustration of Piet Mondrian, Lozenge Composition with Red, Black, Blue, and Yellow 1925.
Continue reading at:
I have asked for and received permission from Kouyoumdjian to reprint this essay which went out today on his mailing list (I'm one of the fortunate names). As LatAm analysts and commentators go, he's as good as they get (yeah, all creepy I know, but it's also true) and his take on what went on in Chile these last few days is both educational and highly entertaining.
For those suitably interested, he's contactable at the e-mail address .
More like a Regressive Hole
By Armen Kouyoumdjian: kouyvina (AT) cmet.net
March 30 , 2009
THE GENESIS The events of March 27 & 28 were divided in two parts. The first day was dedicated to a seminar on “Progressive Governance” (full name: Responses to the Global Crisis: charting a progressive path). It was organized, under the auspices of the Chilean Government, by a UK-based international think tank, Policy Network . This was set up in 2000 during the Blair years, and its chairman is Labour Peer Lord Radice, with the colourful cabinet minister Peter Mandelson as president. Its stated aim is “promoting progressive policies and the renewal of social democracy”. The Chilean partner was the Socialist party’s think tank, Instituto Igualdad, dating from 2005 and chaired by Sen. Ricardo Nuñez, who will be retiring at the next election. Its stated aim is to “develop and project democratic, socialist and progressive values and ideas within Chilean society”.
You may have noticed the “nuance” between the two definitions. Whereas Policy Network does not utter the word “socialism” (at best, its literature refers to Centre-Left), Igualdad makes no qualms about its allegiances (though those of us who follow Chilean politics are aware that even within the Socialist party, there are several often violently opposed trends).
The conference “merged” on the evening of the 27th with the next day’s real summit, as the last plenary session involved president Bachelet and some of the heads of state and government attending. The 28th in the morning was devoted first to ad hoc bilateral meetings between some of the senior guests, followed by two round tables of leaders. Those included US vice-president Biden (who was not initially considered-quite frankly as any psychiatrist will tell you, “America” and “Progressive” do not automatically come up in word association exercises). UK PM Gordon brown, who preceded his arrival in Chile with a gruelling tour of several other countries, Spanish leader Rodriguez Zapatero (who had to be dragged to Chile kicking and screaming and needed two persuasive phone calls from Bachelet to finally turn up), the prime minister of Norway, and the regional backing group made up of the presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay (the latter being the only real “progressive” of the whole lot). Calls as to why the other “real” progressives of the region had not been invited were dismissed with the lame excuse that “they had not attended the previous ones” (such as the April 2008 London meeting at which Ms. Bachelet extended an invitation to hold it on the shores of our little Pacific resort town). She let the act out of the bag in her closing remarks at the press conference where she defined being “progressive” as synonymous to “economic freedom”. Say no more. We know where that freedom got us.
TAKING PART So much for the background, and on to my personal experiences and observations. We do not get important conferences or summits every day in Viña del Mar, and considering that I am the only international analyst, City of London veteran, Latin American expert, etcetera, etcetera, I thought that it may be natural for me to take part in the conference.
Rightly guessing that the real movers and shakers in the organization were Policy Network, I contacted them by phone and email, explaining who I was, even offering my friendly practical services on the spot (which it seems were sorely needed as it was reported to me that their staff manning the information desk in the hotel “knew nothing”), and obviously sent in samples of my writings (which are as “progressive” as you can get. The single response I had was a semi-polite dismissal. I then turned to the Chilean side, hoping for more luck, because I happened to know some people linked to Igualdad. It took no less than three attempts to exact a reaction, even then, which was that they were “full up” (closed circuit TV images of the meeting rooms subsequently indicated that there were always plenty of spare seats). In fact, the real reason was that the invitations depended not on your intrinsic qualities or professional activities, but the fact that you were, or had been, a “figure”. Chileans oh so love to fill-in rooms with “faces” that can be recognized.
Thanks to a mole at the conference, I was able to obtain a copy of the list of attendees (which Policy Network specifically refused to let me have when asked). Predictably, it included sitting ministers, ex ministers and undersecretaries, high profile researchers and the economist. You were supposed to be “recognisable”. The Chilean audience laughed dismissively when one of the (non-Chilean) panel chairs asked OAS secretary-general Insulza to “identify himself”, obviously for the benefit of all those who were not Chileans. Obviously, attendees such as the spokesperson for the Bucharest social Democratic Party was expected to know who the man was without him having to humiliate himself by a self-presentation.
Not being one to give up easily, I decided to use my plan “C” and register as a journalist. Though I do contribute to several publications round the world, I am not a journalist per se on a full time basis, but there was no other option. I shall spare you the tribulations of the accreditation process, whose ministry-in-charge changed 3 times over a two-month period, but on the eve of the first day of festivities, I had my credentials.
SECURITY SYSTEMS AND FAILURES To this day I do not know which is the institution or person (s) directly responsible for organizing press and security arrangements for this summit, but may all the plagues of Egypt fall upon them for eternity.
At some stage, it was decided that the only potential danger that the delegates were exposed to was the press corps, so all the security concentrated on keeping journalists as far away from the proceedings as possible. This belies a total lack of understanding of what these gatherings were all about, and why many members of the international press travelled for 24 hours to be here. A badly written 5-page set of instructions, if you read it carefully several times, brought you to the conclusion that unless you were a still or TV cameraman, you had no business being anywhere near the event. The fact that whatever is said in public could be watched online from a bed in Oslo or Timbuktu and would be common knowledge the next day, and that the real journalistic work at these events was to be able to informally address delegates, private or officials, in the corridors and at coffee breaks, soak-in some atmosphere, etc. was totally alien to the organisers.
The Carabineros in charge of security, when they saw your badge a mile away, would direct you straight to the fenced-in corral. Mind you, if you had a good story, and in typical local fashion, you could talk your way past them. A shabbily dressed young couple said they were going to use the hotel’s gym and were let through without even beingasked for ID. Conference and summit delegates had a badge which said “Policy Network” (easily forgeable, I thought) and at no time was any attempt made to check that they were the rightful owners of that badge. Some journalists, obviously more “progressive” than others, had managed to be invited to the proceedings.
Some journalists who had made the trip with government leaders could not get anywhere near them inside the hotel. From time to time, some second division personality or official spokesman would deign to come over to the fence and say a few words to those hacks lucky enough to be waiting patiently under a freezing foggy Viña del Mar autumn day. Because it was in the open air, and windy, not to mention six feet away from a busy road nobody had though of closing off, the only way you could hear the speaker was to be so close to him as to run the risk of being arrested for sexual assault. Some of those spokespeople for some reason refused to be photographed.
Occasionally, some journalists managed to arrange an interview inside the hotel by telephone, but when they tried to actually go in to record it, they were not let through. I witnessed the episode when the press secretary of British minister and Policy Network president Peter Mandelson went to fetch from the press corral a team from Sky News. The carabineros said that only some “liaison” ladies from the organisers (they were only two of them) had the right to escort them in, and none of them could be found. Strangely, as the (authorised) Economist correspondent was walking by, the cops told her to take them in (obviously a senior ministerial servant has less clout than a weekly magazine, as long as they are both British, of course). I saw many other cases of totally arbitrary decisions as to who gets in, but then as readers know, I am fully conversant with the partiality of police and legal institutions here, even towards psychopaths.
After several hours of playing the paparazzo, I suddenly realised that notwithstanding the harassment of the press, the navy commandos patrolling the sea opposite the Sheraton Miramar, and the helicopter patrol which made listening to the impromptu press conferences-in-the-street even more difficult, there was a major open flank in the security of the summit and all those inside. It is very difficult to describe precisely where the weakness lay, unless you know that particular spot of Viña. Basically, if you drove up Avda Marina from the centre towards the hotel, in a solid vehicle laden with explosives, you could easily rev up the engine and through the driveway between the plastic cones and without bollards or metal barriers to stop you, smash the glass entrance doors bang into the lobby. There were not even foot carabineros on that side of the hotel’s flank (they were too busy keeping those murderous journalists away). I am surprised that the two plane loads of Biden’s entourage did not realise that (next week the same location hosts the regional meeting of Interpol- say no more). As I mused my surprise aloud, two Chilean TV crews nearby asked who I was and I put my security and defence analyst hat on, giving a scathingly critical interview of the vulnerability of the venue (well folks, yours truly is a guy you should have inside pissing out, because if you keep him outside, he shall piss-in, and it was your decision this time).
Another ridiculous security lapse was the delegate accreditation office which was under a tent within the press concentration camp. As even ministers had to go through there before being allowed-in, it exposed them to all sort of risks. The last ignominy was the closing press conference of the leaders at lunchtime on Saturday March 28. By now, I was quite prepared to hear that the press conference would take place without the press being present. No, we were assured that we could finally go in. Hallelujah! Nearly an hour after the scheduled time, and after both Ms. Kirchner and Lula had departed, we were escorted to the hotel, in a manner of speaking. The fact that we were third-class citizens was not forgotten, and we were directed to a staircase from the street to the underground car park. We started being submitted to a search vaguely based on that of us airports but without having to take our shoes off and no body searches by big black mamas. This was soon interrupted because Lula had decided to drive off at that same moment, and the two flows were in opposite directions. We also walked past Biden’s armoured SUV (so much for security), up the stairs again and straight into the conference room (which had three doors, and though it was an event FOR THE PRESS, we were clearly told that “journalists through the third door”.
Six questions were to be drawn by lot, and as I was not present at the draw, would not wish to speculate on whether this was carried out fairly or not (some local hacks expressed surprise that El Mercurio always seems to draw a question). In fact, in the event, only four were asked, if I counted well (by that time I was so hungry that, sitting in the front row, I made eye contact with Zapatero, who appeared as fed-up with the whole show as I was ). On the way out, a local friend kindly gave me a lift home up my hill.
FACILITIES A word about how the press corps were treated in terms of physical facilities. A prefab dome had been set up on the hotel car park, at least one hundred yards away and could not even be seen from the hotel due to a tree line. Inside, there were a lot of computers, though the signal often broke off, many screens froze and the keyboards were in bad conditions.
There was supposed to be an image and sound feed from the conference, but that was not on until lunch time (and of course no facilities available to distribute copies of the speeches). If there were toilet facilities, I did not see them.
From time to time, in good concentration camp fashion, a food and drink trolley arrived from the hotel, with a couple of coffee mugs (tea was not an available option to non-coffee drinkers, though some overthick orange juice appeared on the last day). The first of these deliveries was not until 2 PM on the first day, by which time the press corps was getting frantic and those who had Chilean currency were relying on a private kiosk in the corner which did a roaring business. Sometimes it was accompanied by something to eat (small sandwiches, and at lunchtime the second day, Madeleine cookies, arguably a strange choice for lunchtime fare), but far less than our accumulated hunger needed. Journalists assaulted the few trays like refugees at a Dharfur camp and they were quickly cleared. The area where the venue is situated has no other cafés or restaurants nearby, another detail which was overlooked by the organisers. Those with delegate batches were meanwhile eating for free in the Sheraton.
The local press, generally docile and resigned, know that it cannot complain because they will not be accredited next time, and might even lose their jobs. The foreign press were livid. I hope they write about it, as I am tired to be the only one denouncing such abuse. As one international news chain’s correspondent remarked when we were being herded back through the car park under orders of “periodistas abajo” by the kapos, “what they really mean to say is ‘abajo los periodistas’). Shame on you Chileans, and shame on you foreigners who were accomplices to such behaviour.
As for me, I still managed to pick up quite a lot of information despite all the restrictions, because I have nearly 39 years’ experienced of conferences in positions ranging from chairing them to being a lowly journalist, and I know all the tricks and some. I pity the jet-lagged foreign journalists who made the long journey, after much pondering from their bosses in these times of budgetary austerity, only to be treated like this.
This paper addresses a fundamental question regarding the current crisis
and its effects on Latin America, namely, will the effects of the crisis be
different or of the same type that the region has witnessed in past?
The answer provided in the paper, on the basis of past crises episodes and
currently available information, is that this crisis is a ‘repeat.’ That is, it is
“Old wine in New Goatskins.” This conclusion is underpinned by two
fundamental ideas. First, the evidence shows that the impact of financial
crises on the region is closely related to the degree to which external
finance becomes scarce and costly, and to the magnitude of the disruption
in international trade channels. Second, financial crises have had deep and
protracted effects on the economies of the region, independently of
idiosyncratic features and initial conditions. The available evidence and
the unprecedented magnitude of the current shock do not warrant the
belief that the effects of this crisis will be any different from those that
have whiplashed the region in the past.
It's a really good job of work done and a boon for a dude like me. From now on I can just reference this work for its great comparative charts and data instead of crunching it myself. A readable, factual and well researched paper. Highly recommended and a great source material, too.
See complete Problem 275 at:
Level: High School, SAT Prep, College geometry
"Ecuador will announce a restructuring of its defaulted debt this week, UBS AG said."
...... and compare it to this report dated March 28th that starts....
"Ecuador will unveil detailed plans on April 20 for restructuring its $3.2 billion in defaulted international debt, President Rafael Correa said."
Moral of the story: Just because you wear a suit and get a monthly paycheck for following LatAm affairs it doesn't mean you're not a dumbass. But fear not, because in the end Jesus loves us all.
Two blogs to read at the same time. First read Lillie who quotes UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown telling Michelle Bachelet this week that 'Britain abhors torture'. Then cut straight to Ten Percent where the title line of "UK Admits To Using 'Intelligence' From Torture" just shows how full of smellystuff that dude is.
Farid Matuk explains how Peru has artificially inflated its growth figures via crooked stats work at its INEI office.
Abiding in Bolivia helps nip fascist revisionist history in the bud. The blog's title is "UN: Pando was a massacre. Period". I think that just about sums things up.
Talking of which, Plan Colombia and Beyond quotes Uribe making his own stab at revisionism. Despite a mountain of evidence that says otherwise, Colombia's Prez is trying to tell the world that there are only 22 cases of 'False Positives'. Jaw-droppingly brazen.
The Mex Files brings us stories of cloak'n'daggerism from deepest Mexico City. As is often his wont, RG adds a large lumps of fascinating Mexican history to make the reading even more enjoyable.
If you're interested and want to know a bit more about why I chose this stock to cover, here's the link to read which also explains how to pay...it's really easy...all you need is a PayPal account or to be a credit card holder.
Send me money; you know it makes sense :-)