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...

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...

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,...

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...

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: MORALES: After gas-reform laws in 2005, our gas-export revenue rose from...

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...

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...

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....

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...

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...

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: MORALES: Totally. In Bolivia there is xenophobia, discrimination, exclusion. They...

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...

'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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

'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...