February 21, 2011 § 3 Comments
China is looking to build a railway link from the Atlantic to the Pacific, hugging the Darien Gap and going from Chocó’s Gulf of Cupica to Antioquia’s Gulf of Urabá. The aim is to build a land-based alternative to the Panama Canal, allowing easier import and export to and from China. The main practical challenge, though, is successfully completing the 136-mile railway in an area known for its strong paramilitary presence.
The project, if brought to completion, could be a boon or bust for Colombian businessmen. The reason for a bust being that the Panama Canal is already in the process of doubling its capacity, a multibillion dollar undertaking. Currently, almost 50% of the vessels that traverse the canal already need its full width in order to pass through. At some point this year, it is estimated that one-third of the roughly 15,000 ships that will pass through the canal will be too big to make the crossing. The expansion project, while being approved by Panama’s government back in 2006, is not expected to be completed until 2014.
If the major reason against building the Colombian railway isn’t enough, there’s always the secondary reason to look at. In addition to the canal, the Panama Canal Railway also exists (and has existed since the 1850′s) and happens to do just what the Chinese project hopes to accomplish in Colombia, at three times less the distance.
What seems to be more at play here is not the fact that Colombia needs the railway, but that they want what China wants. Sure, a railway would improve Colombian infrastructure and provide jobs for Colombians but it would also help solidify relations with a major trade partner. Not only that, but China would very likely get first dibs on Colombian coal exports, which currently leave Colombian shores from the Atlantic ocean, as well as other favorable concessions. In light of another joint project that would see a major expansion of the Buenaventura port, it seems like Chinese interests will influence Colombia for the foreseeable future.
In a way, the title of this article serves as two since more powerful countries tend to train developing nations how to behave by favoring policies that aid the larger country. The main caveat against both countries having stronger ties, however, is that Chinese products will both enter and pass through Colombia and thereby compete with Colombian products internally and abroad.
February 8, 2011 § Leave a Comment
“The opportunity for us is to become the platform of choice for entrepreneurs around the world,” said Juan Diego Calle, chief executive of .CO Internet, a company based in Miami that operates the “.co” registry under license from the Colombian government. “To do that, we want to build massive awareness.”
For financially struggling governments, the sale of country code domain names is a boon. Colombia, for example, gets 25 percent of the revenue from sales of the “.co” name under its deal with .CO Internet. Last year, the company generated a total of $20 million from the sale of “.co” domains; this year, that is expected to rise to more than $30 million, Mr. Calle said.
More than 600,000 “.co” addresses have been sold, in more than 200 countries, he said. Only about 20,000 of those are actually from Colombia, with the most interest coming from the United States and Europe.
The company predicts that the total number of “.co” registrations will rise to five million within five years. Mr. Calle was hoping for a surge of interest after a prominent marketing pitch over the weekend. During the Super Bowl, the world’s largest domain name registrar, Go Daddy, highlighted “.co” in an advertisement. The spot, as is typical of the company’s TV ads, featured the “Go Daddy girls” in tight T-shirts and hot pants. But this time, Joan Rivers was one of them. Before the game, Go Daddy said it planned to introduce a new member of the team, a “ ‘.co’ girl.”
While some country codes have had a hard time attracting anything other than niche interest, analysts say the Colombian suffix may have a better chance to rival “.com” because the letters “co” are recognized in many languages as an abbreviation for “company” and are not merely seen as an abbreviation for the country’s name.
“As long as it doesn’t become well known that it’s just a bastardization of the country code for Colombia, it could take off,” said Josh Bourne, managing partner of FairWinds Partners, which advises firms on the use of domain names.” – NYT
February 8, 2011 § Leave a Comment
“Since early December, hundreds of private contractors of a multinational banana corporation have illegally invaded and occupied Afro-Colombian peace communities in the Curvaradó river basin with the intent to clear the land and actualize banana production for Banacol Inc. Their actions have been supported and assisted by local paramilitaries, army soldiers and municipal governments.
The peace communities’ collective territory is protected under the Colombia Constitution and protective measures under the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
According to documents released by the Colombian human rights organization, Intereclesial Comisión de Justicia y Paz (Justicia y Paz), Banacol Inc. is paying vulnerable people to displace equally vulnerable Afro-Colombian peace communities and grow bananas for them. Enabling Banacol Inc. to usurp protected, ancestral, sovereign territory and exploit its rich soil for profit; under the justification of nonlocal vulnerable Colombians needing residence and work.” – Colombia Reports (more here)
February 4, 2011 § Leave a Comment
“For the descendants of African slaves who populate Colombia’s poorest, most corruption-ridden corner, music has long been the most natural of distractions from a very hard life.
And so it is for ChocQuibTown, a soulful, hip-hop trio in the running for the year’s best Latin-Rock/Alternative Album at the Grammys on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles. Their music is a soapbox that you dance to.
“De Donde Vengo Yo” (Where I Come From), which won Best Alternative Song at the Latin Grammys in November, is a spirited lament of the hard-luck life: multinationals and corrupt politicians get rich off gold and platinum; poor blacks get run off their land by illegal militias.
Forty-five percent of the 450,000 inhabitants of the band’s home province of Choco, which is along Colombia’s northwest coast bordering Panama, has been uprooted, while 70 percent live on less than a dollar a day. Paved streets, electricity and running water are rare.” – ABC News (more here)
February 2, 2011 § Leave a Comment
“At 2 p.m. sharp, thousands fill the rickety, wooden stands in Sincelejo, Colombia. When the brass bands begin to warm up, everyone knows the action is about to begin.
Suddenly, a 900-pound bull charges into a ring filled with men, and participants are gored and sometimes even killed. These bull festivals, known as Corralejas, take place in the first three months of the year. Although they are dangerous, Corralejas are embedded in Colombian culture and continue to live on. The men taunt the bull with capes, some wield sticks and others try to rope it. Twenty horsemen chase after the bull, stabbing it with long, wooden pikes. The bull fights back, sometimes killing horses.
The bull is quickly spent — bleeding and exhausted. It’s lassoed and led out. Some bulls die; others live to fight another day. Some of the men also leave the arena quite battered.” – NPR (more here, audio, too)
January 28, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Via Marcela’s Colombia Travel Blog, I heard about an article positively speaking of Cartagena and upon a search, I couldn’t locate a direct link, but I did find a PDF, which I’ll both upload (in case it disappears) and link to. What follows are the first three paragraphs…
“When I was 10, I worshipped Sir Francis Drake: buccaneer, explorer, scourge of the Spanish Armada — a man who could dance the pavane in a ruff and a codpiece without blushing. He seemed to have it all.
In the taxi in Cartagena, on the way to The Greatest Spanish Fortress in the New World, I made the mistake of mentioning Sir Francis to the driver. We almost drove into a ditch. According to Pedro, El Draque was a man of dubious parentage whose true calling was something in the septic-tank line.
“I will show you a hero,” Pedro said. “I will show you Blas de Lezo. Drake wasn’t worthy to be his cabin boy.” The fortress, the 17th-century Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, was the pride of the Spanish Main. It was said to be impregnable. It sits above the old walled city of Cartagena like a turtle shell, its slopes offering little to the cannon sights of approaching ships. Pedro was breathless about the cost — 254 tons of gold he kept repeating, swivelling in his seat to check that I was taking this in, as two children skipped out of danger a few yards ahead of us.” – Sunday Times (by Stanley Stewart)
January 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
“Jorge Elias Benjumea proudly inspects his plantain field. The 46-year-old father of three says he’s not only happy his crops are doing well, but also, for the first time in years, he can tell the world that what he’s growing is legal.
Benjumea, a resident of the Colombian province of Meta; used to grow coca, the plant from which cocaine is produced. “Everything is different now, more peaceful. I go to bed at night with no worries,” Benjumea says.
He used to make $2,800 a month growing coca. Now he makes about $840 with plantains. On the flip side, he doesn’t have to deal with guerrillas or drug traffickers anymore. The Colombian government has greatly increased its military presence in the area, improving security and giving farmers an alternative to growing coca.” – CNN (more here)
November 13, 2010 § Leave a Comment
“A Colombian healer is being held in US custody after authorities discovered a psychedelic concoction when he flew into Houston International Airport in Texas. On Tuesday, October 19, medicine man Taita Juan Agreda Chindoy was detained and then arrested by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement for possession of his traditional medicine Ayahuasca.
The shaman, who was on his way to Oregon to give a presentation, is now being charged as a federal criminal and is facing up to 20 years in federal prison after he flew in from Colombia. Taita Juan, a traditional healer of the Cametsa people who live in the Sibundoy Valley in Colombia’s Alto Putomayo region, is certified by his community and by the Colombian Ministry of Health as a traditional healer.
But despite his revered position, he faces drug trafficking charges because ayahuasca is banned under the US Controlled Substances Act as it contains DMT, a fast-acting hallucinogenic chemical. Taita Juan’s supporters have set up a website, www.freetaitajuan.org, to campaign against his arrest.” – Daily Mail
November 13, 2010 § Leave a Comment
“Colombia and the United States reached an “open skies” agreement that will enter into force on Jan. 1, 2013, and allow total liberalization of air traffic between the two countries.
“It means there will be total freedom,” Colombian civil aviation chief Santiago Castro told reporters Thursday in announcing the accord, which was reached after three days of negotiations in Bogota with a U.S. delegation. That team was headed by the acting director of the U.S. Office of Aviation Negotiations, Wendell Albright. The new agreement updates the bilateral treaty that has governed aviation operations between the two countries since 1954, Colombian civil aviation authorities said in a statement.
A transition period will be in effect before the “open skies” system goes into force in 2013, during which time each country will be allowed to add another 21 weekly frequencies on currently operated routes and create new itineraries without restriction. Between 2012 and 2013, both countries will be able to add another 21 frequencies on operated routes. A total of 200 weekly flights are currently operated between Colombia and the United States.” – LAHT
November 13, 2010 § Leave a Comment
I was on El Tiempo after not checking it for a few months and I saw a Brazilian flag in an advert. It was from Avianca (which now has hubs in Brazil after buying Brazilian airline Ocean Air earlier this year) and their ad was to inform people that it operates two daily flights to São Paulo from Bogotá.
Late last year in Medellín, I decided to give Avianca a call, pretending I was a Brazilian living in Colombia so I spoke with a Brazilian Portuguese speaking agent and received a price of around $1,000 for a round-trip flight to São Paulo. Considering my round-trip flight from the US to Colombia was $600, I said thanks but no thanks. Fast-foward a year and Avianca, as mentioned previously, is operating from within Brazil. One would think their operating costs would go down somehow and any savings might be able to go to the customer. Wrong.
From the image above, it can be noted that a round-trip flight (which, by the way, is BOG-SAO) would cost me US$800. Perhaps the time of the year has a little to do with it but I kind of doubt it.
As a carrier, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but praise for Avianca. In fact, I’ve never flown better. Assuming third time is a charm and I move back to Brazil in 2011, it would be really nice to have a cheap(er) way to go between countries and the difference for me is in the price. At $500-$600 rt, which I’ve always been able to find from the US to Colombia, I have been able to get to know various Colombian cities in the last two years but at $800 rt, such a pleasure must be relegated to once every 3-4 years. That’s the psychological difference that $200-$300 in savings makes.