Saturday, June 25, 2011

Weekend Wrapup: Puyehue, Evita & Evo

Today’s entry offers practical information on Chile’s ongoing volcanic eruption, which is disrupting travel in Argentina and even around the globe, plus coverage of Eva Perón’s jewelry and Bolivian president Evo Morales’s self-appointed status as a TV critic.

Lava Plugging Puyehue?

To this point, the Volcán Puyehue-Cordón Caulle eruption has been mostly ash and pumice, blanketing parts of nearby Argentina - most notably the scenic lakeside resort of Villa La Angostura - in a dry rain that’s collapsed houses, paralyzed transportation, and killed livestock that can’t find forage. Argentina’s federal government has declared Neuquén province a disaster area and now, according to Montevideo-based Mercopress, Chile’s Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (Sernageomin, National Geology and Mining Service) reports that a “cork” of lava in the caldera could trigger an explosive event. It is currently under red alert; the lava flow in the photograph above dates from the 1960 eruption.

According to LAN Airlines, its Chilean domestic flights to southern destinations (including nearby Puerto Montt) as far as Punta Arenas are operating normally. The luxury Termas de Puyehue hot springs resort (depicted above) - virtually in the shadow of the volcano - claims to be “operating totally normally,” even though Sernageomin has indicated the possibility of lahars in the nearby Río Golgol drainage. The Argentine side, though, is a different story - Bariloche’s airport, in particular, is off limits, though the Buenos Aires Herald reports that service to the southern Patagonia cities of Río Gallegos, El Calafate and Ushuaia has recommenced.

Found in Italy: Evita’s Family Jewels
Eva Perón always claimed that she and her husband, President Juan Domingo Perón, had the best interests of the Argentine people at heart - at least, those who were not part of the “oligarchy.” A couple days ago, police recovered US$9 million worth of the late first lady’s jewelry, including a tiara that was a gift from Dutch royalty before her death in 1952, that would seem more appropriate to an oligarch (For what it’s worth, Holland’s current Princess Máxima Zorreguieta is an Argentine who would definitely satisfy Evita’s standards for an oligarch).

Stolen from a Spanish jeweler in 2009, Evita’s baubles were recovered in a joint Spanish-Italian operation in the city of Milan - appropriately enough, the city where Argentine military dictatorships and their successors hid her corpse, in an unmarked grave, from 1955 to 1971.

The War on Soaps: Evo’s Media Blitzkrieg
Everywhere, except in true dictatorships, it’s common for the government and the press to have an adversarial relationship - following the lead of her late husband/predecessor Néstor Kirchner, Argentine President Cristina Fernández has an ongoing feud with the country’s two main dailies, the conservative La Nación and the centrist Clarín, for presumably unfair coverage. Bolivian president Evo Morales, though, may have set a new standard for media criticism, having blamed telenovelas (soap operas) for at least 60 percent of the country’s divorces.

Morales (photograph above courtesy of Agencia Brasil), an ideological ally of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, has deepened his criticism to castigate action movies as a major cause of violent crime: “My point, although others might jeer at me or bait me, is that those films about violence and terrorism, that cause family problems, should be banned.” Then, of course, all will be well in this almost stereotypically unstable country (which, in fairness, seems a better place today than it was under an endless succession of military regimes that, when I met my Argentine wife there in 1981, enforced a 10 p.m. curfew throughout its territory).

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