Newley Purnell's home on the web since 2001

Month: November 2003 (Page 1 of 3)

Reader Mail: Melting Glaciers and Global Warming

Well, Thanksgiving was great. My brother arrived from La Paz and a bunch of us cooked all day yesterday and we had one hell of a feast. I believe I’m suffering, at this moment, from a lingering food hangover.

Turning to the world of Ecuador news, I received an interesting email message that touches on the issue of climate change.

In my most recent Southern Exposure Ecuador news roundup, I referenced this Reuters article about melting glaciers. The World Wildlife Fund says global warming needs to be stopped; if it continues, glaciers will melt in the next century and nations such as Ecuador will face water shortages.

A reader from Muncie, Indiana responded:

The melting glaciers has been an “urgent” story for at least one million years and has accelerated over the past 25 years thanks to pseudo-science and a higher level of panic in the “scientific community” who can see all things past and future from their vantage points deep in their duodenums. Perhaps the melting is more mental than actual which could mean that Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador (even Colombia and Panama) will survive another million years which is the approximate number of years it will take to eliminate corruption in government and services. Don’t built an ark yet.

Many people assume that the phenomenon known as global warming exists–and that it’s a grave danger. But not everyone agrees. I confess I’m rather ignorant of the arguments posed by those skepitcal of climate change. A quick Web search reveals a number of organizations that question global warming. Care to comment on the issue? Email me or post a note on the message board.

Let Your Freak Flags Fly

Three oddballs are in the news today:

1) The BBC provides this excellent headline and amazing story: “Fasting fakir flummoxes physicians: Doctors and experts are baffled by an Indian hermit who claims not to have eaten or drunk anything for several decades – but is still in perfect health.”

2) Another BBC report says “Stroke gives woman British accent: An American woman has been left with a British accent after having a stroke. This is despite the fact that Tiffany Roberts, 61, has never been to Britain. Her accent is a mixture of English cockney and West Country. Doctors say Mrs Roberts, who was born and bred in Indiana, has a condition called foreign accent syndrome.”

Foreign accent syndrome?!?! Yes, foreign accent syndrome.

3) Irving Tobin, an obsessive 79-year-old, “reads the (New York) Times every day, struggling to find the two and a half hours necessary to get through it. He keeps stacks of newspapers in the front seat of his car and in spare cupboards, in case he finds himself without a paper in hand.

Tobin is behind in his Times reading. One year, five months, and four days behind, which places him in late June, 2002. In his daily paper, the United States has not yet invaded Iraq, the D.C. sniper hasn�t fired a shot, and Gray Davis is secure in Sacramento.”

Lucio Gutierrez: “Mortally Wounded”

The wire services and the mainstream US media outlets have been slow to pick up the story of Ecuadorian president Lucio Gutierrez’s new scandal (see my previous dispatch for details).

But this afternoon Reuters ran two articles describing the crisis–and people are beginning to say Lucio’s in very serious trouble. (I’m reminded of when Bolivian commentators began mentioning the word “resignation” in reference to then president Goni. But more on that later.)

This article, from Amy Taxin, says:

Ecuadorean President Lucio Gutierrez’s fragile political support has been further weakened by a campaign financing scandal that analysts said on Tuesday could cripple his government.

Taxin further elaborates on Gutierrez’s plight:

Gutierrez, a 46-year-old retired army colonel, is weathering his worst political crisis amid reports his electoral campaign had ties to Cesar Fernandez, a once-prominent politician now charged with drug trafficking.

The scandal has made it even lonelier at the top for Gutierrez, who already had scant support in a Congress run by mainstream political parties and from business leaders disenchanted by his lack of experience, analysts said.

And, finally, speculation on what’ll happen soon:

”If this is proven true, the president is gone,” said Santiago Nieto, director of pollster Informe Confidencial.

But ”even if it isn’t proven, he’s mortally wounded because this will reach public opinion and in February or March when he needs to adjust the economy, he won’t be able to,” Nieto said.

Critics of Gutierrez on radio talk shows have started to discuss the constitutional line of succession in Ecuador, which is one of Latin America’s most unstable nations and has ousted two presidents since 1997 in popular uprisings.

Another Reuters piece details the resignations of Lucio’s cabinet members: “Ecuador’s economy chief and five other Cabinet ministers offered their resignations on Monday to help President Lucio Gutierrez reshape his team amid a political scandal over possible links between his government and a suspected drug trafficker.”

My prediction: as I said yesterday, I think the indigenous movement will capitalize on Lucio’s weakened state. And there’s no reason to think that what happened in Bolivia can’t happen here (although I said a few weeks ago, before this scandal, that an Ecuadorian woman I talked to said the Indian groups in Ecuador aren’t as well-organized as they are in Bolivia).

Nevertheless, Ecuadorian Democracy–although I use that term loosely, as the government is so rife with corruption and bureaucratic ineptitude that it’s essentially broken–is hanging by a thread here at latitude zero. And Lucio’s presidency is certainly in peril.

Ecuadorian Prez: Stepping Down?

A big story’s gaining momentum here at latitude zero: Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutierrez is facing a scandal that could prove to be his undoing.

Gutierrez is denying allegations that he received a $30,000 campaign contribution from Cesar Fernandez, a suspected drug trafficker. And, as VOA News reports:

President Gutierrez’s brother-in-law, Napoleon Villa, has quit as head of the governing Patriotic Society Party. The president has also accepted the resignation of his tourism minister Hernan Plaza, who has admitted that he once rode in the accused drug lord’s airplane.

According to this Reuters article, Gutierrez has said he’ll resign if the charges of accepting dirty money are proven true.

But this MercoPress article says 1) “the Ecuadorian cabinet” is quitting today; 2) Lucio claims he won’t step down; and, amazingly, 3) “486 kilos of pure high grade cocaine” were found on the plane in question:

This Monday the Ecuadorian cabinet will be resigning in an effort to ease the pressure on beleaguered President Lucio Gutierrez because of the alleged link of some high officials of his administration with narcotics gangsters.

President Gutierrez who took office last January, anticipated that even if this proves to be true, �I will not resign�, as the opposition is demanding. �Someone could, behind my back, receive some small amount of money�, admitted Mr, Gutierrez who nevertheless added that the possibility of that happening �was very small�.

Just in case Mr. Gutierrez sacked his Tourism Minister Hern�n Plaza, who admitted having used an aircraft belonging to a notorious international narcotics gangster from Sinaloa, M�xico C�sar Fernandez. The aircraft was later detained and found to be transporting 486 kilos of pure high grade cocaine.

Stay tuned for more details…

(Oh, and by the way, I’m proud to say I’m spreading news of this story before Al Giordano, the king of Latin American breaking news, could cover it.)

Update (2:30 p.m. Eastern): This article in today’s Washington Post, though it doesn’t address the new scandal, describes Gutierrez’s break with Ecuador’s indigenous movement. The deveoping money flap could be a galvanizing issue for the country’s disenfranchised Indians–who are already planning protests against Gutierrez, who they view as a traitor, as early as next month. Could Ecuador be the next Bolivia? Will the country’s indigenous population force Lucio out of office? I don’t know.

And CNN is now running an AP story that says:

President Lucio Gutierrez’s entire 15-member Cabinet will tender its resignation next month, Interior Minister Felipe Mantilla said Thursday.

“The ministers, acting freely, will present their resignation to the president in December,” Mantilla told reporters. He did not explain the move.

Unlike in some countries in the region, Ecuadorean Cabinet ministers do not customarily tender their resignations at the end of each year.

Government spokesman Marcelo Cevallos rejected speculation that the mass resignation could generate a political crisis, adding that Gutierrez “can ask all of us to resign when he finds it convenient.”

I’m Off into the Great Unknown

Or at least into the wilderness of nearby Cajas National Park (sample photos here and here; description here).

I’m heading up there with some friends to do some hiking and camping. (Given the park’s altitude of over 13,000 feet, I’m hoping we’ll do more camping than hiking.)

I’ll be posting again on Sunday or Monday.

My Weekly Ecuadorian News Round-Up…

…is over at Southern Exposure.

Wanted: A Fleet of Frigates for Future Diplomatic Missions

The BBC says:

A US frigate docked in Vietnam on Wednesday, becoming the first US warship to visit since the Vietnam War. The USS Vandegrift sailed into Ho Chi Minh City with some of its 200 crew recording the moment on video cameras.

“The US and Vietnam are showing the world that former foes can become friends,” said Raymond Burghardt, US ambassador to Vietnam.

Just a thought: at the rate the US is making enemies (see: Syria, North Korea, Iran, Canada, Mexico, and all of Continental Europe), we’ll need an entire fleet of frigates to send out on kiss-and-make-up missions in the next few years.

Blogs Worth Mentioning

I’ve come across some excellent new (to me) Weblogs in the last few weeks (and I’ve listed them on the left-hand side of this page).

These must-reads include:

Maud Newton: “Occasional literary links, amusements, politics, and rants.” (Thanks to Nick M. for the heads-up)

Number One Hit Song (AKA twinkle twinkle blah blah blah etc.): “Voltage trumps broadband every time.” (Again, muchas gracias to Nick M. for the tip.)

The Agitator: thoughtful political commentary for a Washington, DC-area writer.

Ask Brendan: Witty musings from another DC denizen.

Daniel Drezner: “Politics, economics, globalization, academia, pop culture… all from an untenured perspective.”

Al Giordano: Thoughts on Latin American affairs. Often bombastic but never boring.

The Lincoln Plawg: “Politics and law from a British perspective.” Well-researched and quite funny.

AlphaPatriot: “Musings of a reformed liberal.”

Beautiful Horizons: “An atypical gringo’s perspective on Latin America, human rights and other issues.” Insightful and prolific writing from Randy Paul.

Read and enjoy.

Burness Communications: Officially A Great Place to Work

I’m glad that Washingtonian Magazine has included Burness Communications, my former employer and one hell of a PR firm, on their annual list of 50 “Great Places to Work” in the DC area. The company, headed by my visionary ex-boss Andy Burness, truly is exceptional.

“The Dancer Upstairs”

The other night, I saw “The Dancer Upstairs,” a movie about The Shining Path (El Sendero Luminoso), the Maoist revolutionary movement that plagued–and, to a certain extent, continues to plague–Peru.

The film was directed by John Malkovich; it’s an interesting look at the events surrounding the capture of The Shining Path’s leader, the enigmatic Abimael Guzman. Here’s a good review, and here’s a bad one–I tend to agree with the second: for one thing, the movie’s “in the wrong damn language” (that being English).

Nevertheless, it’s a visually compelling portrayal of Andean life: the indigenous population’s stunning poverty, the urbane sophistication of the European-decended privileged class, and the remarkable physical terrain, replete with snowcapped peaks and barren plains. Indeed, much of the movie was filmed in Quito, Ecuador; the big city scenes were made in Lima, Peru.

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