Stories by Jimmy Langman

  • 11_ColumbiaRiverUSA

    Lakes Disappearing After Glacial Outburst Floods

    Two and a half years ago, the Baker River in Chilean Patagonia suddenly tripled in size, causing a virtual river tsunami. In less than 48 hours, roads, bridges, and farms were severely damaged and dozens of livestock drowned. Residents were in disbelief. Jonathan Leidich, an American whose company regularly leads tourists on treks up to nearby glaciers, hiked to the Colonia Glacier at the eastern flank of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field and discovered the source of the mysterious flood: Lake Cachet 2 had vanished. This enormous, two-square-mile glacial lake had emptied its 200 million cubic meters of water in just a matter of hours. What happened? Glaciologists say it was yet another “glacial lake outburst flood,” or GLOF. An increasing rate of melting at the Colonia Glacier swelled the lake so much so that the resulting water pressure gradually forced the creation of a tunnel beneath the surface of the adjacent ice and drained the lake. Since Cachet 2 emptied in 2008, the lake...
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    Which Country Will See The Next Mining Disaster?

    After the last Chilean miner was rescued from the San José mine, rescue worker Manuel Gonzalez ascended from the 700-meter-deep drill hole, and President Sebastián Piñera asked what he was thinking on the way up. Gonzalez replied: “That hopefully things in Chilean mining will now be different.”
  • Sebastian Piñera on Earthquakes and the Economy

    Thirteen days before Sebastián Piñera began his four-year term as Chilean president in March, the country suffered one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history. The first conservative elected president of Chile since 1958, this Harvard economist and self-made billionaire made earthquake recovery his top priority while taking an increasing role in Latin American affairs.
  • Periscope: Japan Seeks to Overturn Whaling Ban

    As delegates from 81 countries converged on Chile for the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting, the host government left little doubt about where it stood on Japan's efforts to overturn the IWC's commercial-whaling moratorium. On June 23, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared whales a national monument and introduced legislation to make Chile's waters a permanent sanctuary where no whale or other marine mammal could ever be hunted or traded. The message to the visiting Japanese delegation was clear: no whaling on our watch.Japan continues to risk international opprobrium over its hunts (which exploit an IWC loophole that allows for up to 1,000 whales a year to be killed for "scientific research," even though whale blubber keeps turning up on sushi menus and in school cafeterias in Japan). Tokyo is threatening to unilaterally resume whaling if the IWC doesn't relax its moratorium, which has been credited with ensuring the comeback of the endangered blue whale off...
  • Models: A Big Step to the Left

    It's hardly surprising that Chilean President Michelle Bachelet didn't take them seriously at first. They were just a bunch of chiquillos --kids--decked out in their black-and-white high-school uniforms complaining about the quality of education. But those "kids" are part of a new generation that has grown up free of the repressive 17-year dictatorship of the late Gen. Augusto Pinochet.Coordinating protests through e-mail, blogs and cell phones, they turned out for three weeks last June--an estimated one million of them--to boycott classes, close schools and clash with police in the largest student movement in Chile's history. Their "Penguin revolution," as it came to be called, rocked a complacent establishment and focused a spotlight not only on education but on the 12th worst income gap between rich and poor among countries worldwide. By the end of the year, the protests had spread to strikes by workers at hospitals and schools, and Bachelet was aggressively pushing an agenda of...
  • Counterinsurgency: The Great Goat War

    On Isabela Island, the feral goat used to be public enemy No. 1. No creature has done more to sully the pristine ecology of the biggest island of the Galápagos. First introduced by whalers back in the 1700s, a handful of goats migrated over a wide expanse of nearly impassable lava terrain to the northern end of Isabela in the mid-1980s, and by 2000 some 120,000 were tearing up the landscape. The goats overgraze on the same native plants that support the giant tortoise and other species, turning forests into virtual deserts. As late as the '80s, the tortoises, which live as long as 200 years, were endangered and well on the path to extinction.The goat is now gone. The private Charles Darwin Foundation, which set out to exterminate the goat in 1998, announced last July that it had succeeded completely. The foundation has been battling invasive species on the islands since 1959, but the removal of the goats from Isabela is its greatest victory. "Almost nobody thought we could do it....
  • Did We Kick Them Out?

    When Bolivian President Evo Morales nationalized the gas industry last May 1, it was seen as the latest move toward greater state intervention in the energy sector by countries stretching from Venezuela to Russia. The critics have dubbed it "energy populism." But Morales says his move was misinterpreted: that he is pursuing a "new nationalization of the new millennium." He spoke to NEWSWEEK's Jimmy Langman. Excerpts: ...
  • Just Say Coca

    Bolivian president Evo Morales recently implored the United Nations to give the coca leaf a new life. A former coca farmer himself, Morales asked the General Assembly to focus on coca's possible future as the raw material for a lucrative consumer-goods industry--not its nefarious present, as the source of the international cocaine trade. "This is the coca leaf, it is green, and not white like cocaine," Morales lectured, waving one limp little leaf at the hall of surprised dignitaries. Why, he demanded, is it "legal for Coca-Cola" but not other consumer or medicinal uses?Morales is campaigning to roll back a 45-year-old U.N. ban on trade in coca. He wants to expand trade in legal, nonnarcotic coca products, from tea to shampoo and soda pop. Under pressure from the United States, which has spent billions to eradicate coca as part of its war on drugs, Morales has reluctantly destroyed more acres of coca than his predecessors. While the Bush administration says he's still not doing...
  • The Real Thing: Coca

    Bolivian president Evo Morales implored the United Nations last week to give the coca leaf a new life. A former coca farmer himself, Morales asked the General Assembly to focus on coca's possible future as the raw material for a lucrative consumer-goods industry--not its nefarious present, as the source of the international cocaine trade. "This is the coca leaf, it is green, and not white like cocaine," Morales lectured, waving one limp little leaf at the hall of surprised dignitaries. Why, he demanded, is it "legal for Coca-Cola" but not other consumer or medicinal uses?Morales is campaigning to roll back a 45-year-old U.N. ban on trade in coca products. Under pressure from the United States, which has spent billions to eradicate coca as part of its war on drugs, Morales has reluctantly destroyed more acres of coca than his predecessors. While the Bush administration says he's still not doing enough, Morales wants to double to 24,000 hectares the amount of land that Bolivia set...
  • The Post-Neoliberal Age

    Alvaro Garcia Linera's official title is bolivian vicepresident, though that doesn't quite capture his position in the Latin American left. The 43-year-old mathematician and soci-ologist--and prolific author--is, most importantly, considered the key architect behind socialist President Evo Morales's controversial policies in Bolivia, and a growing influence throughout the region. As Morales's government passed the six-month mark, NEWSWEEK's Jimmy Langman sat down with García Linera in La Paz. Excerpts: ...
  • Pollution: Losing Some Luster

    At first Mario Mautz didn't think much about the Pascua Lama gold mine, 60 kilometers from his fields in Huasco, an agricultural valley in northern Chile. But then Mautz, who grows avocados and fruits, learned that the mine would displace tons of glacier ice, which waters the valley, and contaminate rivers with cyanide and other toxins. In November he and hundreds of other residents dumped chunks of ice, a symbol of glaciers at risk, at the presidential palace in Santiago. "Unless they can guarantee that their cyanide and toxic-metal pollution will not harm us, our water and the glaciers, the project should be canceled," says Mautz.Angry locals aren't the only obstacles gold-mining firms face these days. As the price of gold skyrockets--it has more than doubled since 1999 and hovers at about $595 an ounce, a 25-year high--companies have redoubled their efforts to open new mines. But environmental groups are now targeting the industry in the hopes of stalling further expansion.Each...
  • An Unlikely Pioneer

    The events of Sept. 11, 1973, turned Michelle Bachelet's world upside down. On that morning the 21-year-old medical student watched Chilean Air Force fighter jets fire rockets into the presidential palace known as La Moneda, a chilling salvo in the bloody coup that took the life of President Salvador Allende and installed a military junta led by Army commander Augusto Pinochet. Her father, Alberto, an Air Force general who worked in the Allende administration, was immediately arrested and tortured and later died of a heart attack at the age of 50. In 1975, Michelle and her mother were themselves rounded up and beaten during a monthlong detention. The two women later went into exile, and when Michelle returned to Chile in 1979 she vowed to help restore the democracy that Pinochet had destroyed. "I saw friends disappear, who were jailed or tortured," says Bachelet. "But I decided to turn my pain into a constructive force--guaranteeing that future generations never --have to go through...
  • A Native Speaker

    On the ballot, he is listed as Sixto Jumpiri, one more candidate in the Bolivian national elections later this month. But to the Aymara and Quechua Indians of the Bolivian highlands, he is better known as Apu Mallku, or Supreme Leader. Not long ago, that millennial honorific might have sounded quaint. Today, traditional leaders like Jumpiri command a new brand of respect--and clout. The Apu Mallku's mandate is to oversee the vast network of ayllus, an ancient Andean system of governing councils that predates even the Inca empire. In the impoverished and neglected Bolivian countryside, the ayllus have made a comeback, their principles of communal cooperation and self-governance filling a void left by a fumbling state.But Jumpiri, who dons a white-feathered cowboy hat and a traditional rainbow-colored poncho when he visits his constituents, wants more than respect in the highlands. He is demanding a stake in national power. That's why he is running for Congress on the Movement Toward...
  • Interview: 'Our Own Hands'

    On Dec. 18, six months after Bolivian President Carlos Mesa was forced to resign by a wave of street protests spearheaded by indigenous peoples, South America's poorest country will again go to the polls. If Congressman Evo Morales, a full-blooded Aymara Indian, wins, Latin America will see its first indigenous president in more than a century. NEWSWEEK's Jimmy Langman spoke to Morales in La Paz. Excerpts: ...
  • 'The Glass Has Broken'

    Augusto Pinochet's twilight years have not been kind to him. The former Chilean dictator has long been scorned for alleged human-rights violations--political violence claimed the lives of some 3,200 people during his 17-year rule (from 1973 to 1990). But his many right-wing supporters always considered him an enlightened despot. One reason was that he implemented free-market economic policies that were a catalyst for steady economic growth. Another was that he didn't seem corrupt. As Ricardo Israel, a political scientist at Santiago's Autonomous University, puts it: "Pinochet supporters looked the other way at the human-rights violations because he was unlike other Latin American dictators [and] didn't enrich himself." But recent investigations and revelations are shredding Pinochet's already damaged reputation--and after a new Supreme Court ruling last week, the 89-year-old former dictator may yet find himself in the dock for his alleged role in the in the murder of one Chilean and...
  • A Man For The People

    Evo Morales is not a conventional politician. He's an Aymara Indian who grew up in the harsh southern highlands of Bolivia. The son of a llama shepherd, he didn't graduate from high school but instead worked as a trumpet player in a bar band when he was a teenager. Later, his family became coca farmers in Bolivia's Chapare region, and Morales used his natural charisma to become the leader of six coca-growing unions. That's an influential job in a nation where nearly 70 percent of the people are indigenous and mostly poor. The United States treated Morales as persona non grata in the 1990s, when he led coca farmers in sometimes violent challenges against U.S.-imposed coca-eradication programs. But today the 44-year-old indigenous leader is a congressman and president of the leftist Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party. More important, he's positioned himself as a serious contender for president when voting is held again in two years.Morales's political rise represents yet another...
  • BEYOND 'DRUGS AND THUGS'

    A newly appointed U.S. diplomat to an Andean country was asked recently how he viewed his assignment. His response: "Ah, you know, it's all about drugs and thugs." That, says a new report issued by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), America's leading foreign-policy think tank, is precisely the problem with U.S. policy in the Andean region. Over the past two decades, the United States has contributed roughly $25 billion in aid to the area. But most of the money has been used to fight coca growers and cocaine traffickers--not the pressing social and economic ills plaguing the 120 million residents of Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia. "Sustainable, peaceful democracies in the Andean region depend as much on political, legal and socioeconomic reform... as on 'hard' counter-narcotics and counter-terror initiatives," warns the report, which is titled "Andes 2020: A New Strategy for the Challenges of Colombia and the Region."As recently as three years ago,...
  • Latin America, The Search For Good Jobs

    For years Venancio Andrade eked out a meager living selling pots and pans on the dusty streets of Lima and neighboring towns. He eventually taught himself how to make aluminum kitchen supplies, and in 1985 he scraped together enough money to buy a parcel of land in a barren industrial park on the outskirts of the Peruvian capital. His ownership of property qualified Andrade for bank loans that helped his cooking-utensils company grow, and he now heads the business association of Villa El Salvador, a sprawling shantytown of 400,000 that sprang up on the edges of the industrial park. The 62-year-old Andrade has five full-time employees on his payroll, and during peak production periods employs as many as 30 people. By his own reckoning, it was the acquisition of formal property titles that made him and other small businessmen in Villa El Salvador viable clients in the eyes of prospective lenders. "Credit has allowed me to meet rising demand for my products when I need to produce more,...
  • A President Gets The Boot

    Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada was an inviting target. The wealthy owner of Bolivia's largest private mining company grew up in the United States and embraced globalization with unmitigated gusto. When the 73-year-old tycoon was first elected president of Bolivia in 1993, he sold off state-owned companies, slashed the government payroll and cut import tariffs. One of the public enterprises he sold to foreign investors was the government's gas and oil company, YPFB--and upon his return to power in last year's presidential election, "Goni," as he is known, antagonized political opponents with plans to build a $6 billion pipeline to export natural gas through a port in neighboring Chile. "Bolivians saw Goni as defending foreign interests more than their own," former senator Andres Soliz Rada says. That perception proved his undoing. Last week, after days of mounting protests that left more than 70 people dead, the embattled president was forced to resign from office.How did things fall...
  • 'I Am Not A Criminal'

    Augusto Pinochet appeared a harmless senior citizen when aides wheeled him out of Santiago's military hospital a few weeks ago. The white-haired former dictator grinned broadly before disappearing into an armored Mercedes. He had reason to be cheery: Pinochet, 85, had just finished four days of medical tests that supporters believed would show him to be mentally unfit to stand trial for egregious human-rights violations committed during his 17-year reign. That would put an end to the legal woes and controversy that have dogged him for almost three years. Under Chilean law, it is illegal to prosecute a defendant doctors determine to be insane or demented.But any thought that the old man could retire in peace proved premature. Last week eight doctors enlisted by Chilean courts to examine Pinochet produced a report declaring that he had "moderate dementia"--an evaluation that would likely mean he would avoid trial. But one of the medical experts, Canadian neurologist Luis Fornazzari,...