Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bolivia- Indigenous Challenges to Evo Morales

Miguel Centellas at Pronto has a post Bolivia: the indigenous/environmentalist challenge to Evo’s government

 Centellas is referring to the new controversies in Bolivia that have arosen from both indigenous and environmental groups using the language in the new constitution to challenge certain development projects (mostly hydrocarbons) that the Morales government wants.    


The bottom line is that the government is losing its grip on the indigenous movement. Attacking its leaders as agents of USAID (or US imperialism more broadly) and/or acting in line w/ the “extreme right” seems odd. During the 2005 campaign—and for several months later—Evo & MAS clearly raised the banner of indigenous political autonomy. By doing so, it raised expectations that indigenous groups have patiently waited for & now expect fulfilled. Similarly, the People’s Conference on Climate Change raised the banner of a pro-environmental policy agenda. Indigenous peoples & environmental activists took this as a green light to begin pressing their demands to protect Bolivia’s fragile ecosystems (which happen to be in oil-rich areas).
These last weeks may have irrevocably changed perceptions of Evo’s government. The country has a long experience w/ populist figures who use symbolic rhetoric, but never really “mean it” beyond as a way to strengthen their grip on power.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Of Tickets And US Soccer Fans At The World Cup

People have commented that the US is the single largest source of ticket buyers for the World Cup.

You don’t see many foreign fans here in Johannesburg, but the largest single group of them are Americans. People in the US bought more tickets for this World Cup than any other visiting country. “In the public sale, it’s more than the next two countries combined,” notes a proud Sunil Gulati, president of the US Soccer Federation.

The figure is more or less 164,000 tickets.

This article, and other commentary on the web sees this as evidence that U.S. soccer is gaining popularity. The New Republic blog even  proclaims that the Soccer Wars are over  And I do not dispute that as the numbers from the U.S. England match on ABC/Univision show - a total viewing audience of 17 million, several times bigger than the Indy 500 to use an example..

Now what I am curious about is finding out how many of those 164,000 tickets were from from U.S residents of .Mexican,  Argentinian, Chilean, Brazilian,  Honduran, South Korean, Nigerian, et. al. birth or origin, who travelled to South Africa to cheer on a specific national team.   Or for that matter European expats.  Univision seems to have no problem finding them in the crowds at many matches. 

The FT blogger himself talks about the constituency that soccer has in the United States

Since then, the US has globalised fast. Significantly, it’s the two most globalised groups of Americans who follow soccer most keenly. The first group consists of immigrants: about 45m Hispanics now live in the US, mostly from soccer-mad Mexico. The second group is the educated elite. David Downs, executive director of the US bid committee to host the World Cup in 2018 or (more likely) 2022, says of America’s soccer hotbeds: “It’s not necessarily the dusty farms of the heartland, as it is the suburbs of Washington DC or San Francisco.”
And no doubt many of those ticket-buyers from the U.S. fall into either categories (or even both).  But it is many immigrants in the U.S. who have the means to spend the high dollar amounts needed to get to South Africa and watch Argentina, Mexico,. or Nigeria play.    They might go root for the U.S. with their children - again something you see in Univision.

In the end the U.S. ticket buyers and U.S. viewing public on TV is important to the World Cup whoever they are rooting for. It is the sheer numbers of people watching, in what the New Republic correctly notes is a fragmented media market of different "niches".  And that weight already shows worldwide.
All these folks will be watching the World Cup. American TV companies shelled out $425m for the rights to the 2010 and 2014 tournaments, then the biggest such deal done in any country. The US was only the 13th biggest TV market for the tournament in 2002, in absolute numbers of viewers. By 2006, it had jumped to eighth, notes Kevin Alavy of futures sport + entertainment, the agency that monitors these things. This year the US should rank higher still.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Afghanistan Might Have Massive Lithium Reserves - Potential Mineral Riches

While Bolivia is known to have a significant part of the lithium reserves in the world, this might change drastically.  The Afghan government recently announced that American geologists found "huge lithium deposits amounts" in Afghanistan's Ghazni province.  These new discoveries are part of a survey that has found large deposits of key exportable minerals including zinc, gold, and copper in the country.  Large parts of it are in conflicted areas.     Apparently decades of conflict prevented this kind of wide-ranging survey, though many Afghan geologists have known of mineral riches and kept it quiet due to the political situation.

The New York Times reported the $1 trillion figure in Monday's edition and quoted senior American officials as saying untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan are far beyond any previously known reserves and were enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself.
Americans discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, including iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium, according to the report. The Times quoted a Pentagon memo as saying Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium," a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and cell phones.

 Then there is this quote from the New York Times article specifically talking about the Lithium
Just this month, American geologists working with the Pentagon team have been conducting ground surveys on dry salt lakes in western Afghanistan where they believe there are large deposits of lithium. Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia, which now has the world’s largest known lithium reserves.

The Lithium part should wake up not only Bolivia, but also Chile and Argentina, because a sizeable deposit of Lithium in Afghanistan, could mean rapid exploitation and export of an alternative to South American lithium.   The weight of the U.S. and the Afghan desire for revenue and development, can mean that even in a conflicted area, resources could be brought to bear in developing the industry.  


Bolivia's government has said its plans for lithium development are "not affected" by news of the Afghan lithium.   The Presidency's official spokesman said, "Afghanistan is a country practically at war" - actually an understatement.   With atypical restraint the official continued that he was not sure how easy it would be to "resolve" the conflict issue in Afghanistan, implying it is not a problem for Bolivia.  

EH VUVUZELA! Vuvuzela Might Get Banned!!!

The loud,  sometimes obnoxious sometimes awesome Vuvuzela's might get banned from matches.. 

Could vuvuzelas fall silent? Ban possible

By Liz Clarke
Acknowledging a rising tide of complaints about the deafening din of vuvuzelas during World Cup matches, Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the tournament's local organizing committee, warned Sunday that the plastic horns could be banned if fans don't show more respect in their bugling.
In an interview with the BBC, Jordaan reiterated calls for fans not to blow vuvuzelas during the playing of a country's national anthem or during announcements over the soccer venues' public-address system. Asked if the horns could be banned, Jordaan said: "If there are grounds to do so, yes."
A ban on vuvuzelas was considered in the months leading up to the 2010 World Cup, but officials chose to allow them, with FIFA President Sepp Blatter arguing against efforts "to Europeanize" the first World Cup contested on African soil.

Get Your Own Vuvuzela on Ebay...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Flashback 1988.....Gipsy Kings - Djobi Djoba

talk about a blast from the past....hard not to like the French-based group of Gitanos

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mexican Fans In South Africa

LOL count the national and cultural iconic symbols these five fans have crammed in.

its all there - Virgen De Guadalupe, Wrestler Mask, Charro Sombrero, Aztec Costume, Serape,Chapulin Colorado.   Outside of a Straw Sombrero a la Zapata or a Cantinflas costume, they seem to have done a comprehensive job.

from Univision -
El sueño mexicano se vivió así - Univision Futbol

Peru Inagurates Huge Natural Gas Export Plant, Bolivia Has Its Dignity

Peru's massive Liquid Natural Gas plant I talked aboout in an earlier post,  was just inagurated.  The project cost close to 4 billion dollars;  it is South America's first Natural Gas Liquification facility.  As Peruvian President Alan Garcia noted it is the "largest" "single project" ever made in Peru, as well as the largest foreign investment ever in the country.    The facility will receive gas from the Camisea gas fields, process and store it as LNG and ship in special tankers to customers overseas.    Though, there are doubts there is enough gas in Peru to sustain exports and meet national gas demands in the country, there is an increase in production and planned investments in the hydrocarbons sector to increase gas production.

video of Alan Garcia talking about how important this is.

Bolivia next door, actually has no issues with the size of its gas reserves.  But, it does not have investments necessary to raise production, much less the capacity in anyway shape or form to export LNG.  Its best chance to do that was through the Pacific LNG project that led to the infamous "gas wars".   But, the problem is that while Bolivia became the "Bermuda Triangle" of hydrocarbons in South America, both its neighbors and the industry as a whole have evolved.   Peru, Venezuela, and Brazil are seriously investing in producing LNG for export.  At the same time  Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay are investing in regasification facilities to receive LNG shipments.   In other words countries with large markets for gas are looking at buying it off ships, instead of through pipelines - which was Bolivia's theoretical strength. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Bolivia and Argentinas Gas Crisis Shakes South American Region"

Bolivia and Argentina's Gas Crisis Shakes Region,  according to Ana Zarzuela energy analyst at Spain-based  Intelligence and Capital News Report.

Basically, the idea of Bolivia as the "Gas Hub" first under the neoliberal governments, then with a more "statist" focus, called for Bolivian gas to be piped out to neighboring countries through pipelines.

But under Evo Morales, Bolivia has become an unreliable supplier.  The state-owned oil and gas company, can barely supply existing obligations, and production levels are stuck.  Most experts agree that the industry needs investments and know-how  from private and foreign companies.    Owing mostly to the governments attacks on private industry and judicial insecurity, this looks unlikely to happen.
While Bolivia has become an unreliable supplier of energy needs, neighboring countries have found other alternatives, including buying Liquid Natural Gas abroad and importing it via sea.   

The latest blow to Bolivian aspirations has to be Venezuela's PDVSA setting up regasification facilities in Argentina, that in coming years will process natural gas coming from....Chavez' Venezuela.    By, by, Bolivian gas.

Esta situación pone a Bolivia, que exporta sólo a través de ductos, en una posición muy distinta de hace cinco años, cuando se proyectaba como el centro de distribución regional. Se lo acaba de describir a Morales su propia Cámara de Hidrocarburos (CBH): detectan “un fuerte contraste entre el crecimiento del GNL en barcos metaneros a los centros de demanda de Sudamérica y el estancamiento de exportación de gas natural boliviano en gasoductos”. De la gran red que Hugo Chávez y Morales prometían tejer en toda Sudamérica con Argentina como punta de lanza, hoy no queda ni la intención diplomática. Las zozobras de La Paz y Buenos Aires, el pragmatismo de Caracas y los recelos de Brasilia, Santiago y Montevideo han podido más. “La apuesta por un proceso de integración por gasoductos, que tuvo un crecimiento explosivo en la capacidad de transporte internacional incorporada entre 1998 y 2002, de los 19,1 MMmcd a 105,8 MMmcd -advierte la CBH- ha llegado al estancamiento”. “El incumplimiento de contratos por parte de Argentina y Bolivia, el estancamiento de la inversión y la poca confiabilidad mostrada parecen haber postergado el apetito de los importadores regionales, para nuevos proyectos de integración intrarregional” por gasoductos, apunta la CBH.