Tag Archives: Ecuador

Worth Reading: An In-Depth NYT Travel Story on Cuenca, Ecuador and the Country’s Southern Coast

Long-time Newley.com readers will recall that about a decade ago I spent a year living and working in the fascinating, staggeringly picturesque city Cuenca, Ecuador, which is situated some 8,000 feet high in the Andean foothills.

I loved my time there, met some great people who remain my close friends, and think of the country often.

Indeed, I still keep an eye on international news about Ecuador, and came across this recent New York Times travel story by Michelle Higgins, headlined “Three Sides of Ecuador“:

On our nine-day trip in July we focused on three of these offerings — beaches, mountains and colonial charm. The plan was to head north along the Pacific coast, then head east into the Andean highlands for high-altitude trails before spending time with family in the beautiful colonial city of Cuenca, where my mother was born. (We ended up doing it all, but not in that order, given our detour.)

Many travel pieces about the country focus, understandably, on other places: destinations in the north (the capital, Quito), the east (the Amazon jungle), and/or the far west (the Galapagos).

But this story, I was delighted to find, is not just about Cuenca, but about other areas I know well, like Cajas National Park and towns along the country’s southern coast coast, such as Puerto Lopez.

The food, the people, the insane driving conditions, and even the whale watching: there’s lots of good stuff here. And there’s a slideshow of photos by Meridith Kohut.

So much to link to, so little time

Lots of good Economist and WSJ stuff to link to, and so little time. But here goes:

  • A fantastic Thailand story from the WSJ: “How to Make a Croc Look Cuddly: Paint It Like a Panda; Bears From China Are a Hit in Thailand, Prompting Makeovers of Local Animals.” Contains a wonderful image of a baby croc painted like a panda.
  • The Economist has a good story about Iran’s growing influence in Latin America: “Iran and Latin America: Ayatollahs in the backyard.” Ecuador watchers won’t want to miss this snippet:

    To see how Iran’s foreign policy works in smaller, ideologically sympathetic Latin American countries, take Ecuador—a country that has such dire problems raising money after defaulting on its debt that it can easily be swayed by cash from foreign governments. Ecuador is thinking of joining Nicaragua and Venezuela in recognising the independence of the breakaway Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the hope of getting Russian government loans.

    This month an Iranian delegation was in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, to discuss loans for hydroelectric power plants, one of the 25 bilateral agreements signed when Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s president, visited Iran last year. Ecuador badly needs the plants: it was forced to start rationing power this month.

  • And speaking of the Andes, here’s the WSJ on what appears to be Bolivian President Evo Morales’s re-election: “Evo Morales Appears to Win Bolivia Vote; Second Term Expected to Bring More Ambitious Economic Changes; Ruling Party Poised to Take Over Senate
  • And finally, the Economist has an obit for Thai PM Samak Sundaravej, whose passing I mentioned earlier.

More soon. Don’t think the draw for World Cup 2010 has escaped my attention…

StateStats: Analyzing Google search patterns

Now that the airports have re-opened here in Thailand ((The latest news from Bangkok: The revered Thai King — the world’s longest reigning monarch — failed to deliver his annual birthday eve speech on Thursday. There was a huge amount of anticipation regarding his remarks, as he was expected to weigh in on the ongoing Bangkok protests. The King, who turned 81 yesterday, was apparently too ill to speak. And yesterday, exiled prime minster Thaksin Shinawatra’s ex-wife returned to the country. For an overview of the situation in Thailand, I suggest this recent AP story: “Travelers leave behind a Thailand still in crisis“)), I wanted to point out an intriguing tool: StateStats.

The site allows you to compare Google search patters for various US states; the terms are also linked with other demographic data ((But take the demographic info with a grain of salt. From the site: “Be careful drawing conclusions from this data. For example, the fact that walmart shows a moderate correlation with “Obesity” does not imply that people who search for ‘walmart’ are obese! It only means that states with a high obesity rate tend to have a high rate of users searching for walmart, and vice versa…”))

Some search terms that caught my eye include:

Thailand
Thailand (popular in Hawaii)
Thai cuisine (big on the west coast)

Food
In searching for Southern food, I noticed that fried chicken is a popular search term in the south, as is pecan pie. And it’s no surprise to note that South Carolina is the clear winner in searches for grits, shrimp and grits, and Frogmore stew ((Here’s more info on Frogmore Stew.)). On the other hand, vegan is a popular query in Oregon and Vermont.

Media and the Internet
The Wire is a popular search term in Maryland (the show is based in Baltimore), while Sopranos is big in New Jersey, New York, and surrounding states. Various Web/tech-related search terms, meanwhile, are especially popular in the West and in New York. Twitter is big in the Pacific region, in New England, and in Texas (though the more generic microblogging is huge in California, as is WordPress); Flickr is big on the West coast and in New York; and Tumblr is especially popular in New York.

Misc.
Other terms worth a look: Soccer is a popular term in the Northeast, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington, while Real Madrid and Barcelona are both popular terms in California and Virginia. And in other long-running football (soccer) derbies, Virginia is also prominent: check out River Plate and Boca Juniors.

Dogs are big in the south and mid-west, while cats are extremely popular in New Hampshire. Saab is also a popular term in New England, while Volvo is a popular query on both coasts.

Searches for some of the Andean nations reflect an interesting pattern: Bolivia is a popular term in Virginia and Florida, while Ecuador is big in New York and the mid-Atlantic. (New York is home to many Ecuadorian immigrants.)

And, last but not least, Newley (pictured above) is a popular search term in New York, Texas, and California. ((I suspect that these are not searches for newley.com, but for Anthony Newley. Or perhaps they’re misspellings of the adverb newly.))

(StateStats link via Kottke, where you can find a list of other revealing queries.)

Ecuador: Voters Approve a New Constitution

Ecuador has a new constitution: Front page rom La Hora in Quito

CSM: “Ecuador votes to lock in its shift to the left”

The overwhelming approval by Ecuadoreans of a new Constitution that gives leftist President Rafael Correa a tighter grip on the economy puts the country firmly on a socialist track similar to Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela.

“Today Ecuador decided to found a new country,” Mr. Correa said Sunday after nearly 70 percent of Ecuadoreans voted for the new charter. “The old power structures have been defeated.”

With the passage of the new Constitution, Ecuador became the first country after Venezuela in the region to institutionalize its leftward shift, says Larry Birns, director of the Council of Hemispheric Affairs in Washington.

“This is a lurch to the left on the part of Correa,” he says.

AP: “Ecuador has new constitution; opposition worried”

Ecuador’s leftist President Rafael Correa urged his opponents Monday to join his efforts to build a more just society, saying the overwhelming victory of his constitutional referendum gives him a broad mandate.

“Thank God my triumph was so convincing and so crushing, beyond all our expectations,” he told international reporters at a breakfast. “Let’s hope they reflect and let the country advance peacefully.”

With 90 percent of ballots counted, 64 percent of Ecuadorean voters approved the measure, according to official results. Correa got the majority he needed in all but two of Ecuador’s 24 provinces.

The 20th constitution in the history of this chronically unstable nation considerably broadens Correa’s powers and will let him run for two more consecutive terms, consolidating what he calls a citizen’s revolution.

NY Times: “President Wins Support for Charter in Ecuador”

Ecuador’s president, the leftist Rafael Correa, won easy approval of a new Constitution on Sunday that enhances his power in the chronically unstable Andean country while introducing a range of other measures, including raising pension payments for the poor and prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Following a huge spending campaign by Mr. Correa’s government, voters approved the Constitution by 63 percent to 29 percent, according to early unofficial returns.

The victory reflects festering resentment against Ecuador’s traditional political class and hopes that Mr. Correa, an American-educated economist, can broaden the reach of antipoverty programs. Repeated economic crises in Ecuador have prompted more than 10 percent of the population to emigrate.

And finally, Andes scholar Miguel Centellas has some interesting observations here and here.

Image credit: yesterday’s front page from La Hora newpaper in Quito. Via the Newseum’s Today’s Front Pages feature.

Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and…Thailand?

ecuador_map

It’s been a tense week in the Andes. On Saturday, Colombian forces launched a surprise raid on a camp inside the Ecuador border and killed a senior FARC member. The result has been an ongoing diplomatic kerfuffle between Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela.

AFP has a run-down of the events: “Regional tensions rise after Colombia raid into Ecuador.”

And the NY Times‘s Simon Romero narrates a video report about the incident.

Meanwhile, Bolivia expert Miguel Centellas discusses a Bolivian dimension to the story.

Reuters has some analysis on the political implications for the region: “Andean crisis shakes hopes for regional unity.”

And as for Thailand…

Today we learned that a Russian man alleged to be a notorious arms dealer was arrested here in Thailand yesterday. He is accused of selling arms to al Qaeda and the Taliban, and he was lured to Bangkok by American DEA agents…posing as FARC members looking to buy weapons.

CNN: “‘Most-wanted’ arms dealer arrested in Thailand.”

Ecuador’s President Wants Military Base in Miami

Rafael Correa, Ecuador's New President

Reuters:

Ecuador’s leftist President Rafael Correa said Washington must let him open a military base in Miami if the United States wants to keep using an air base on Ecuador’s Pacific coast.

Correa has refused to renew Washington’s lease on the Manta air base, set to expire in 2009. U.S. officials say it is vital for counter-narcotics surveillance operations on Pacific drug-running routes.

“We’ll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami — an Ecuadorean base,” Correa said in an interview during a trip to Italy.

“If there’s no problem having foreign soldiers on a country’s soil, surely they’ll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States.”

The U.S. embassy to Ecuador says on its Web site that anti-narcotics flights from Manta gathered information behind more than 60 percent of illegal drug seizures on the high seas of the Eastern Pacific last year…

(Emphasis mine.)

Ecuador: “Pay us not to drill for oil”

Rafael Correa, Ecuador's New President

From Foreign Policy’s blog, Passport:

In a unique environmental scheme, Ecuador’s government is asking developed nations to pay $350 million for them NOT to drill for oil in a major field in the heart of the Amazon. The sum represents about half of the estimated revenue that Ecuador would receive from drilling in the Yasuni National Park, a UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve that may contain up to a billion barrels of crude. Since Ecuador proposed the scheme last spring, politicians from Germany, Norway, Italy, Spain, and the EU have expressed interest, according to Ecuador’s minister of energy. President Rafael Correa…had this to say:

“Ecuador doesn’t ask for charity […] but does ask that the international community share in the sacrifice and compensates us with at least half of what our country would receive, in recognition of the environmental benefits that would be generated by keeping this oil underground.”

Read the whole post for more information.

Bolivia, FIFA, and Globalization

Simon Romero had an excellent story in the New York Times yesterday about Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, fighting to defeat the high-altitude soccer ban I mentioned recently. I particularly like the lede (as well as the delightful image, above):

Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, donned a green jersey the other day, watched a llama sacrifice for good luck and flew to a snowy spot nearly four miles above sea level, where he scored the winning goal in a brief match pitting him and his aides against a group of mountain climbers.

It was a textbook lesson in Andean political theater, and the perils a globalized sport can meet when it comes up against a small country’s nationalist passions.

On the surface, Bolivia’s president was simply staging an amusing stunt to fight a ban on international soccer games at altitudes above 2,500 meters, or 8,200 feet.

It’s well known that Mr. Morales will play soccer against virtually anyone, from the foreign press corps to local squads in the hinterlands, to let off steam, and recently broke his nose doing so. But in fact, the ban, enacted last month by soccer bureaucrats in Switzerland, played right to Mr. Morales’ trademark populism, and gave him an opportunity to act as a unifier of his otherwise fractious country.

“Bolivia’s dedication to soccer cuts across the deep dividing lines in the country, which are economic, racial, regional and ideological,” said Jim Shultz, a political analyst in Cochabamba, in central Bolivia. “Fighting the ban is great domestic politics.”

(Emphasis mine.)

A friend of mine who’s studied politics in neighboring Ecuador once told me that he felt the Ecuadorian national football team was the single greatest cohesive force that the nation has working in its favor. The game trumps race, class, politics — everything.

Two related books that I recommend highly: “How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization,” and, in the case of Bolivia and its “market dominant minority,” “World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability.”