Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Brasil-Great Expectations

Brazil: Great expectations
By John Paul Rathbone and Jonathan Wheatley
Published: September 28 2010 22:29 | Last updated: September 28 2010 22:29

Guests at a São Paulo campaign rally gather before a picture of outgoing president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, who leads opinion polls in the run-up to Sunday’s vote. Like her former boss, Ms Rousseff is a believer in activist state
Brazil is a happy country – or so many believe. Indeed, the flair of the country’s football, the collective ecstasy of its carnivals, its multiracial inheritance and, of course, that skimpy swimwear are all part of Brazil’s immense “soft power”. Add in a fast-growing economy and Brazilians can – according to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the country’s outgoing president – lay claim to being “the happiest and most creative” people in the world.

Gideon Rachman: Realities behind the cult of Lula - Sep-27

Lula proves hard act to follow on political stage - Sep-27

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Brazilians unaware of party differences - Sep-22

There is some truth to this boast. On the eve of presidential elections expected to return Mr Lula da Silva’s preferred candidate, Brazil has seemingly never had it so good. Although still scarred by gaping social inequality and violent crime, it is one of the fabled fast-growing Bric economies – Brazil, Russia, India and China – that are reshaping the international order. Last week’s $67bn share offering by Petrobras, the state-controlled oil company, is the world’s largest ever and just the latest expression of Brazil’s emerging financial clout. The country is already an important regional hub for capital formation; by 2025 it is forecast to be one of the world’s five biggest economies.

In the past, Brazilian elections have often been the catalyst for financial crises – and the blasé attitude of many investors to the October 3 vote is a sign, to Jim O’Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist who coined the Bric acronym, that “people may now be getting carried away”.

Nevertheless, on the foreign policy stage a long-time bit-player is now a serious contender for a permanent seat on the United Nations security council. On issues such as Iran, Brasilia has also sought – not wholly successfully – to play the role of international broker. And as the host of the next football World Cup and, in 2016, the Olympic Games, Brazil has confidently arrived on the global stage.


Over the past decade, Brazil’s economy has grown an average 3.5 per cent a year, almost double the previous decade’s average. The country may be happier, but it is also fatter. About half of all men and 48 per cent of women are overweight, against only 19 per cent of men and 28 per cent of women in the 1970s.

Nonetheless, the “body is beautiful” ethos continues in other ways. Brazilians brush their teeth, on average, more than anyone else, and reputedly consume more underarm deodorant per capita than the US – just two reasons why international consumer goods companies consider the Brazilian market so important

Like many of its Latin American neighbours Brazil has never been short of promise – or disappointment. The question now is whether this time really is different.

Judging by the reaction of investors, pundits and many Brazilians themselves, it is. Others are more cautious. For Luis Alberto Moreno, head of the Inter-American Development Bank, the biggest risks facing Brazil are “complacency and hubris”.

For the moment, optimists appear to have the upper hand. Foreign investors, who have stumped up for last week’s Petrobras offering, will pump a further $50bn or so into the country this year. A flurry of recent books celebrate Brazil’s “arrival” and its increasing self-confidence. Meanwhile, Mr Lula da Silva, whose leftwing roots are in the trade union movement, is poised to leave the presidential palace with an 80 per cent plus approval rating – a notable endorsement from a country that sailed through the global financial crisis largely unscathed and has seen more than 30m join the ranks of the middle classes in five years.

Dilma Rousseff, the president’s former chief-of-staff who now looks set to romp home in the election, has staked her claim on the leadership by promising more of the same. A former Petrobras chairwoman, the stern technocrat – sometimes dubbed, predictably perhaps, the “Iron Lady” – is a firm believer in the power of an activist state. The Petrobras offering, which she took the lead in designing, will increase government power over the company. Ms Rousseff is also responsible for a series of massive road, port and railway investment programmes, part-funded by state-owned banks, that Brazil desperately needs to improve its dilapidated infrastructure. They are under way but, bogged down by bureaucracy, not at the pace many had first imagined or she had hoped.

Her biggest political opponent, José Serra, the centrist governor of São Paolo, has been unable to make headway with a platform that appears to be a slimmed down, more efficient version of Mr Lula da Silva’s socially-orientated policies. Indeed, polls show that across the classes Brazilians are largely happy with their lives and believe they will get even better.

Instead, the biggest challenges facing Ms Rousseff lie deeper in the country’s social and economic plumbing. For all its success, Brazil remains in many ways a grossly unequal country that is living beyond its means. Although poverty has fallen by a third during the past decade, more than one-fifth of the country’s 200m people are still officially considered poor. National debt levels have dropped, but the country still depends on foreign savings to finance itself. Despite a commodity export boom, its current account deficit this year is forecast to be about 3 per cent of gross domestic product. It could increase next year.


A spirit of adventure born of plantations and Portuguese seafarers

Is history destiny? The origins of what many businesspeople recognise as particularly Brazilian talents can be traced back to the late 15th century race between Spain and Portugal to exploit the new world, writes Jonathan Wheatley.

Both countries were looking for a sea route to Asia, says Professor Alfredo Behrens of São Paulo’s FIA business school. The Portuguese found one and became merchants. The Spanish found America and become conquerors.

The Portuguese also found Brazil, but largely ignored it until it became their sole overseas possession after they lost their Asian trade routes to the Dutch.

“They had to concentrate on Brazil,” says Prof Behrens. “By then they were merchants through and through. They knew how to negotiate. They had jogo de cintura [a knack for flexibility and problem solving]. This is what makes Brazilians different from other Latin Americans.”

He traces other Brazilian characteristics back even further, to the expulsion of the Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages and the subsequent fall in population. This created a culture of low-density ranching rather than high-density agriculture, translated to Latin America in the form of enormous plantations controlled by a few wealthy landowners and worked for centuries by millions of African slaves.

Echoes of this hierarchy – and a resulting distance and lack of trust – endure in the workplace, he says. “This leads to a personalism that tries to override those processes, where people try to be friends with the boss [and] to the jeitinho [another hard-to-translate concept of personal flexibility], and a spirit of adventure that means people may only stay put for a while and are dreaming of bigger things.”

And this, he says, creates a business culture that foreigners sometimes find it hard to handle: “One British banker told me it was like trying to lead a herd of cats.”

It is also a culture that fosters creativity and enterprise. Rolf Steiner, regional head at Swiss Re in São Paulo, was previously based in Italy, and says he was delighted to find an atmosphere of openness and creativity in the reinsurer’s Brazilian offices after the much more conservative business environment he had encountered in Italy.

It is the kind of comment heard in many sectors. Tarek Farahat, chief executive of Procter & Gamble in the country, counts Brazilian executives among the most talented in the company’s global operations.

But one of the most famous examples of Brazilian overseas enterprise – Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, created and led by Brazilians – is an exception that proves the rule, says Prof Behrens.

“Brazilians are better negotiators than our Latin neighbours,” he points out. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our conquerors

That complacency is also the achilles heel of the Brazilian economy. The country aspires to be a global power but to reach the next level, analysts argue, it needs to move on to a new stage of economic performance, one focused on the provision of better – not just more – public services, especially in education.

The violence that still plagues its infamous slums makes Brazil a more deadly place than supposedly drug-torn Mexico. Álvaro Uribe, the former president of Colombia, is just one leading regional figure who believes Brazil is paying “insufficient attention” to domestic drug consumption and related crime. From his own country’s experience in the 1990s, and Mexico’s today, he points out that “drug trafficking is a problem you avoid tackling at your peril”.

Meanwhile, Mr Lula da Silva’s extraordinary rise from shoe shine boy to president has projected Brazil’s image as a land of promise and social mobility. But like so many American stories, it is part myth. “Overseas, Lula has become a symbol of a land of opportunity, where the poor can make it,” says Fernando Henrique Cardoso, president for two terms before Mr Lula. “That’s not really true.” Brazil, for all its recent success, remains the 11th most unequal country in the world.

Elsewhere such a gulf could have led to open civil conflict. But Brazilians’ generosity, their predilection for tolerance and conciliation – or complacency, some critics say – has kept greater violence at bay. “How else can you explain the fact there is not constant open war in Rio de Janeiro, when you have the very poor living in favelas cheek by jowl with the super-rich,” says Julia Oliveira, a management consultant.

The state, famous for its inefficiency and bureaucracy, also needs slimming down. A cut to state spending, for example, would lift national savings and so limit the country’s dependence on foreign capital. That would immunise it from financial contagion should the global economy take a turn for the worse. Without it, says Neil Shearing, an analyst at Capital Economics, Brazil risks a return to the boom-bust pattern of the past, with good years “punctuated by recessions caused by sudden stops in capital flows”.

Almost 70 years ago the novelist Stefan Zweig wrote of Brazil as “the country of the future”. That optimism is reflected in the national psyche – although the stressed faces of city workers on the bustling streets of São Paolo may suggest otherwise. Zweig’s catchphrase, at any rate, became a slogan, then a cliché, and finally an impossibility for Brazilians to live up to – as much a “stigma as a prophecy”, in the words of Brazilian writer Alberto Dines.

However, thanks to the economic reforms enacted by Mr Cardoso when he was president from 1994 to 2002, the foundations for the country’s economic stability were laid. For the next eight years, despite recurrent corruption scandals, Mr Lula da Silva’s social policies then helped make the country more at ease with itself. The coming elections are the first since 1982 in which neither man is running for office.

They leave behind a country that is more prosperous and socially cohesive than, arguably, it has ever been – and a probable president, Ms Rousseff, who has pledged to maintain the policies required to keep that economic stability in place. The country has a thriving private sector and three-quarters of Brazilians say they believe in the market economy, according to a Pew Research Centre poll, compared with less than half of Mexicans and Argentines. All this creates a platform that suggests the country’s recent performance will be more than a flash in the pan – even if Brazil has undoubtedly been the lucky beneficiary of the commodity boom and globally abundant liquidity, conditions that will not last forever.

Compared with the other Bric countries, Brazil may never be able to match, say, China’s ability to execute ambitious strategic initiatives in schooling or technology. It also needs to embark on further reforms to lift its trend rate of growth from about 4 per cent now. At the same time, it lacks many of the other Brics’ structural drawbacks, be they India’s religious divisions, Chinese authoritarianism or Russia’s ambivalent relations with the west. Its immigrant history has also left it with an openness to foreign ideas and an ability to adopt them quickly.

Indeed, one of these can be read on the headrests of every seat on the domestic flights of TAM, the country’s biggest airline. “Brazil: the world’s fifth biggest economy by 2025”, it declares. For those Brazilians who pinch themselves at the thought, it is telling that the statement is credited to The Economist, a foreign publication. The rest appear happy with – critics such as Mr Cardoso say “anaesthetised by” – the relative prosperity of the status quo.

“Brazil could become otherwise,” says one Brazilian who works as the lead economist at a major western bank in São Paolo. “But then we wouldn’t be Brazil. We’d be Switzerland . . . and that wouldn’t be any fun.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

President Lula Ends His Reign In October

Lula proves hard act to follow on political stage
By Jonathan Wheatley in São Paulo
Published: September 27 2010 18:57 | Last updated: September 27 2010 18:57

Dilma Rousseff with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at the Porto Alegre rally: critics say the frontrunner for the presidency wants a bigger role for the state
In the crush of people pushing their way to join the 35,000 in the main square of Porto Alegre, southern Brazil, shouts rise above the noise of fireworks, music and glaringly amplified speeches: “I want to see Dilma!” and the rejoinder, “I want to see Lula!”

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his chosen successor, Dilma Rousseff, are the headline acts in a rousing campaign rally – one of the last before Brazil’s elections this Sunday – that at one point has the crowd in Ms Rousseff’s home town, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s southernmost state, giving a stirring, word-perfect rendition of the state’s anthem.

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Yet when Ms Rousseff finally takes the stage before the patriotic multitude, it is to a surprisingly muted reception. She gets most applause for comments on the $67bn share issue by Petrobras, the national oil company, announced officially that morning, which she compares with the $4bn sale of Petrobras shares by the previous, centrist government in 2000. “Did we sell any part of Petrobras to get [the $67bn]? No! Today we bought back what had been sold, for Brazil, for the Brazilian people!”

Only when she passes the microphone to President Lula himself does the crowd go wild. He has to wait for shouts of “Lula! Lula!” to fade before he can speak.

It seems odd that, in front of her home crowd, just nine days before an election pollsters say she will win by a thumping majority, Ms Rousseff should be second on the bill to Mr Lula da Silva and be so thoroughly upstaged by him.

But this, together with her comments on Petrobras, hints at much about her personal style and about what kind of government she will lead – if the pollsters are right – from January 1 next year.

“Under Lula, the main role of the presidency has been communication,” says Alberto Almeida, a political scientist in São Paulo. “My view is that Dilma will run it more as a generator of public policy. But the one thing only a president can do is communication – the rest you have to delegate.”

Mr Lula da Silva, indeed, has proved a consummate communicator and delegator – often to Ms Rousseff. He may seek an international role at the G20 or other international body but is expected to remain active in Brazilian politics.

She may lack her patron’s communication skills but few doubt her dedication to policy. During almost eight years as a senior figure in the Lula administration, her role was that of hands-on manager. She oversaw the government’s flagship infrastructure investment programme and others to provide cheap housing and electricity for the poor. She also masterminded legislation now before Congress that would give the state a much bigger role in Brazil’s fast-growing oil industry.

The daughter of well-to-do Bulgarian immigrants, she joined the armed resistance against Brazil’s military dictatorship and was jailed and tortured. More recently she was diagnosed with lymphoma, from which she was pronounced cured just as she was emerging as Mr Lula da Silva’s preferred successor. Many doubt she has the political skills that have enabled Mr Lula da Silva, for example, to keep a former member of the centrist opposition as governor of the central bank, often in spite of fierce opposition from his own party. Critics also suspect that Ms Rousseff would like to see a bigger role for the state across the economy.

Indeed, her comments on the Petrobras share issue make explicit what had previously only been hinted at: the operation was partly designed to amplify public control over the company. Guido Mantega, finance minister, said the share of Petrobras’ capital held by the government and other public entities rose to 48 per cent after the issue from 40 per cent before. (The government has a majority of its voting stock.)

Yet her advisers insist oil is a special and isolated case. One senior economic adviser assured the Financial Times there would be no change to the central pillars of Brazil’s macro-economic stability: inflation targeting, a floating exchange rate and gradual reductions in public debt.

Whether public debt really is falling is a moot point. By the government’s narrow definition of net debt, it has been on a downward trend throughout the Lula administration. But gross debt has recently been on an upward trend.

It is this kind of ambiguity that has raised doubts over what direction a Rousseff administration would take. She insists there would be no change to policies that appear set to deliver economic growth of over 7 per cent this year and are likely to keep the economy expanding at what many economists see as its potential, non-inflationary rate of about 4.5 per cent. Many of these policies were inherited from the opposition by Mr Lula da Silva in 2002. Though he kept them in place, he ended the previous government’s liberal reform programme.

Ms Rousseff appears less likely than Mr Lula da Silva to resume those reforms. At most, advisers say, there will be some fine tuning of macro policies. Otherwise, continuity is the word.

That is certainly what the crowds in Porto Alegre appear to want most.

The realities behind the cult of Lula
By Gideon Rachman
Published: September 27 2010 20:56 | Last updated: September 27 2010 20:56

Next week sees the retirement of the man described by Barack Obama as “the most popular politician on earth”. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, known simply as Lula, steps down after eight years in office, with a stratospheric approval rating of about 80 per cent. As a result, the Brazilian presidential election on October 3 will be a celebration of the past, as much as a signpost to the future. The almost certain winner will be Lula’s hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff.

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Lula has not quite achieved the global renown and secular sainthood of Nelson Mandela. But the Lula and Mandela myths have something in common. In both cases, a moving personal struggle has merged with a compelling national story, turning a single man into a potent symbol of a whole country’s transformation.

The Lula story has already been turned into a film, even before the man has left office – and it is easy to see why. Lula was one of eight children in a poor family from one of the remotest regions of Brazil. He left school early, worked as a shoeshine boy and then as a lathe operator before becoming a militant trade-union leader. He was briefly imprisoned under Brazil’s military dictatorship. His first wife died young, while pregnant. But Lula triumphed over the odds to become “the poor boy who came from a shack to be president of Brazil”.

Brazil grew richer and more powerful during his presidency. But, like Mr Mandela, Lula resisted the temptation to cling to power. He has not tried to rewrite the rules to get a third term in office. In any case, with a protégé to succeed him, he will remain a very powerful figure.

Gideon Rachman blog

Across the globe: Read the FT’s international affairs columnist’s authoritative and lively commentary

Lula’s personal story has merged with the national narrative. For many years, Brazil has had something of a national inferiority complex. But like the poor boy made good, the country is now increasingly confident and assertive. The country has foreign reserves of more than $250bn and has recently discovered massive oil deposits offshore. Brazil provides the first letter of the Bric acronym that now defines the emergence of new, global powers. But it is less scary than China, less authoritarian than Russia and less chaotic than India.

The smiling, bearded avuncular Lula was the perfect, charismatic frontman for Brazil, reflected in successful campaigns to win the right to host both the Olympics and the football World Cup. Lula’s formal retirement will allow Brazil to reflect on how far the country has come.

Of course, there are elements of myth in the Lula story. His personal and political life contain episodes of ruthlessness that are glossed over in the biopic version. Brazil’s transition to democracy took place well before he took office. The foundations of the country’s economic success were laid by the reforms of his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. One of Lula’s biggest economic contributions was simply not to mess things up – and this was achieved by the abandonment of the far-left policies that he had once advocated. It is true that Lula inherited a fiscal crisis and handled it with determination and aplomb. But much of the subsequent economic boom was down to the lucky fact of a global commodities boom, powered by Chinese demand. Lula has gained deserved credit for his anti-poverty policies. He has done less well in fighting corruption.

The notion of Lula the freedom-fighter also needs qualification. At home, the outgoing president has defended democracy. But he has pursued a foreign policy that is either cynical or naive – praising authoritarians such as Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Fidel Castro in Cuba and pursuing an unlikely and irresponsible courtship of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad.

Yet, for all the inevitable qualifications, Lula will deserve much of the hoopla and praise that surrounds his retirement. He will go down as the president who oversaw two historic transitions.

The first was the completion of Brazil’s embrace of capitalism and globalisation. In his early campaigns for the presidency, Lula had denounced “neoliberalism”. In office, he tackled inflation, paid back debt and fostered the conditions for Brazilian business to thrive internationally. As he noted wryly in a recent FT article: “There is no little irony in the fact that the union leader who once shouted ‘IMF out’ in the streets has become the president who paid off Brazil’s debts to the same institution – and ended up lending it $14bn.”

Brazil’s embrace of international capitalism under Lula has laid the foundation for the second transition, which has global significance. That is the emergence of a new “new world order” over the past decade. Unlike the previous “new world order” the latest iteration is not based on a “unipolar world” centred around the US and dominated by the west. The defining characteristic of this new “new world order” is the emergence of major economic and political powers in Asia and Latin America – with Brazil right at the forefront.

Just a few months ago, at a summit of the Brics, Lula proclaimed that – “Brazil, Russia, India and China have a fundamental role in creating a new international order”. Eight years ago, when Lula first took office, that statement would have sounded like hyperbole. Today, it simply sounds like a statement of fact. That is why the story of Brazil under Lula is much more than a movie-friendly myth. / Columnists / Lunch with the FT - Lunch with the FT: Fernando Henrique Cardoso / Columnists / Lunch with the FT - Lunch with the FT: Fernando Henrique Cardoso

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bariloche My Most Beloved Place On Earth

Foothill foothold
By Laura Henderson
Published: September 24 2010 23:29 | Last updated: September 24 2010 23:29

The Arelauquen Country Club is at the heart of a region luring skiers and second-home buyers
Fresh mountain air with a five-star edge has been San Carlos de Bariloche’s guiding motto since the 1930s, when the international jet set first descended on the Argentinian ski resort. Now, six decades on, with an $8m (£5m) improvement plan nearing completion, this elite mountain getaway is attracting a fresh influx of seasoned skiers and second-home owners. The prospect of pristine slopes from July to October is an undeniable attraction, particularly for foreigners but, as Peter Haller of estate agency Maison Buenos Aires points out, it’s not just about the snow.

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“Bariloche and surrounding lake-and-mountain resorts are open for business all year round,” he says. “Pursuits like hiking, riding and white water rafting are leisure staples, along with more sedate pastimes such as boating and fly fishing. Wealthy Argentines already enjoy Patagonia’s wild open spaces. Now Americans, Brazilians and Europeans are gaining a foothold, lured by favourable prices – upscale homes on a par with those found in Aspen or Whistler for 50-60 per cent less – a tax-light regime and a buoyant rentals market.”

The country’s economic history has also helped shield it from the worst of the recession, according to local property agent Keen Van Ditmar. “Argentines got badly burnt during the country’s financial collapse in 2001. Ironically, this has made it one of the safest places to invest,” he says. “Historically near non-existent, mortgages are still rare – so the risk of a local real estate bubble is low. Property is also valued in US dollars, which insulates it from the inflation in the peso. Long term, a culture of mortgage-backed buying is on the cards with inevitable upward price pressure. Until then, however, it’s a good time to exploit under-value opportunities.”

Hanging off the southern lip of Nahuel Huapi Lake, Bariloche’s chalets bear a resemblance to the getaways of the Alps, and with good reason: Germans, Swiss and Austrians were among the first to settle in the area during the 19th century. Tree-lined runs and off-piste trails cater to all levels and the Arelauquen Country Club, just 20 minutes from Bariloche centre, has an 18-hole golf course, polo field and tennis centre.

“Property prices have risen by 40 per cent in the past three years,” says Haller. “Chalets of 1,600sq ft sell for around £200,000. Lock-up-and-leave apartments with direct access to the slopes can be picked up for as little as £80,000.” Most in demand are ski-in, ski-out chalets with Shaker-style decor and log fires.

The resort has a selection of two-bedroom apartments from $170,000 with vaulted ceiling open-plan interiors and wraparound balconies. Larger two-storey villas for $450,000 have exposed beams, under-floor heating and picture windows. All have spectacular views of the golf course, Lake Gutiérrez and mountains.

Josh Herlihy, a company director from London, bought his five-bedroom stone-and-wood retreat overlooking the golf course in 2007. “It’s a sports paradise here,” he says. “I spend at least four weeks of the year here with friends and family and we’re never short of things to do.” Herlihy rents his property for several months of the year – netting about $2,300 a week from July to September, which comfortably covers running costs. Flight options are also improving. BA operates a red-eye service from the UK to Buenos Aires, which takes 13 hours (flights from New York take 11 hours). From there, it’s just a 50-minute hopper flight to Bariloche airport. Time it right and you can be on the slopes by noon.

A property overlooking Nahuel Huapi Lake
Buyers drawn to a secluded waterfront bolt-hole will find plenty of choice along Avenida Bustillo. This scenic corridor of seven lakes, which connects Bariloche with the resort of San Martín de los Andes 150kms north, has seen a proliferation of million-dollar lakeside homes, rebuilt historic lodges (estancias) and chalets entering the mix, many around the hamlet of Villa La Angostura.

“Construction in Angostura is controlled by a strict architectural code which keeps it niche and exclusive,” explains María Reynolds of Reynolds Properties. Christie’s Great Estates are marketing a four-bedroom home in Villa La Angostura for $2.3m comprising a main house, three guesthouses and separate staff quarters.

Financed by a consortium led by Buenos Aires-based developer Proideas, a revamp will double the 200-hectare piste and off-trail skiing area and see construction of two five-star hotels as well as 1,300 acres of real estate. Phase one, completing by July 2011, will include 48 residences with slope-side access. Prices for a studio start from £120,000, rising to £450,000 for a chalet.

“Change is a necessary lifeline,” says Haller. “Tradition still holds the upper hand – but the resort will soon sport a new look and a cosmopolitan investor base, which will give it a welcome edge.”


ARGENTINA: Buying property


● There are no restrictions on foreign property ownership.

● Property is valued in dollars, which insulates it from peso inflation.

● Most regions including Patagonia are four-season destinations, with plenty to do year round.


● There are no international flights into Bariloche. Access is via Buenos Aires, with a flight time from London of 13 hours (11 hours from New York). Hopper flights from the capital to Bariloche airport take 50 minutes.

● A fledgling mortgage sector means either a cash purchase or a loan in your home country.

● Purchase laws are not the same in each province – buyers need to check if special permits are required.



Arelauquen Golf and Country Club, tel: +54 11 4311 1919,

Maison Buenos Aires Real Estate Advisory, tel: +54 11 4816 1108,

Cerrobayo Ski Resort, tel: +54 11 5258 4505,

Van Ditmar Patagonia, tel: +54 2944 42 4477,

Reynolds Properties, tel: +54 2944 461 441,

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ingrid Betancourt Details Kidnapping In New Book

Ingrid Betancourt Details Kidnapping In New Book

This book is attracting a lot of negative attention in Colombia. There is an amazing man named Colin Gardner who lives in Bogota. He was once kidnapped by one of these groups. He was treated horribly and one of his eyes was put out by a female guerilla with a knife. Despite this awful injury he escaped after ninety days and made his way back to his family. Another dear friend in Bogota suffered when her father was kidnapped. In that case a substantial and undisclosed ransom was paid and he was released.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Colombia Opens Santa Marta To Tourtists

Colombia opens Santa Marta to tourists

By Michael Jacobs
Published: September 17 2010 22:20 | Last updated: September 17 2010 22:20
A soldier aims a machine gun while patrolling the Sierra Nevada on a helicopter
A soldier in a helicopter patrols the slopes of the Sierra Nevada
The military helicopter takes off at dawn. A soldier in camouflage gear sits at its open door, directing a machine gun at the tropical scene below. We are travelling from the Colombian Caribbean resort of Santa Marta to an indigenous village in the jungle-covered mountains behind. For a while we hover over a stretch of hazy, palm-lined coast before turning towards a landscape of dark-green folds. Then suddenly we glimpse a line of snowy crags that floats like an apparition above a bank of clouds.
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the world’s highest coastal range, with peaks rising to 5,775 metres and an exceptionally varied climate, flora and fauna. It also has the appeal of a self-contained land, cut off by a broad valley from the Andes and protected over the centuries by a reputation for inaccessibility, danger and mystery. To its 56,000 indigenous inhabitants, successors to the ancient Tayronas, the sierra is known as “the heart of the world”.
Although the Spanish conquistadors defeated the Tayronas by the end of the 16th century, the latter’s jungle kingdom was left virtually undisturbed until modern times – their largest known settlement remained a “Lost City” until as late as 1975. In the course of the 20th century, however, the indigenous communities who had hidden here from the Spaniards came increasingly under threat. Sugar cane and coffee growers began moving in along the river valleys, followed by refugees from the escalating violence that afflicted Colombia from 1949 onwards. Tomb robbers desecrated sacred sites, while huge swathes of jungle were felled to make way for pine, poppy and coca plantations. Guerrillas and paramilitaries fought for control of the area, reducing tourism almost exclusively to organised six-day treks to the Lost City, one of which was intercepted by rebels in 2003 (and the trekkers held hostage for three months).
Now, though, things are changing, and the government has a new tourism slogan, “The only risk is wanting to stay.” Colombia is certainly far safer, but its image as a land of kidnappers, terrorists and drug dealers persists. In an attempt to counter this, the new campaign focuses on what is perhaps Colombia’s greatest attraction: its near-unrivalled biodiversity. And nowhere is this so apparent as in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, where the government is trying to encourage tourism that respects both the environment and the indigenous peoples.
Two indigenous Kogui tribesmen on the Sierra Nevada mountains
The indigenous Kogui tribesmen
It’s July 22 this year, and together with a group of invited foreign journalists, I’m being taken into the mountains to cover a visit by outgoing president Álvaro Uribe to the isolated village of Seywiuku, populated by Kogui tribesmen. Two weeks before handing over power toJuan Manuel Santos, he’s keen to show how Colombia has radically changed in his eight years of presidency. This area’s transformation from drugs and paramilitaries to nascent eco-tourism makes the perfect case study.
The presence of the helicopter’s machine-gun-wielding soldier is at first alarming. But the man soon adapts a more relaxed stance, getting up to pose for photographs before returning to his seat as we descend into what could have been a museum of anthropology. The jungle clearing where we land is filled with round huts in stone, adobe and thatch. Standing out front is a line of intensely staring men and women with long, jet-black hair, and white tunics patterned with black and brown stripes. I feel like a western explorer making his first contact with an undiscovered tribe.
The village’s prehistoric feel is deceptive, though. Seywiuku is one of several communities built in recent years as part of a scheme to assist the sierra’s indigenous peoples, to buy back for them large tracts of jungle, and to create (with the aid of materials flown in by helicopter) villages combining traditional appearance with up-to-date facilities, such as health centres.
The tribesmen, too, are not all they seem. A powerfully built man wearing a conical white cap hands me a card identifying himself as the district governor. A wizened village elder with a bulbous nose turns out to have been on a recent lobbying trip to New York, where he had been driven around in a stretch limousine.
My most revealing encounter is with indigenous leader Danilo Villafañe. Villafañe is dressed in immaculate tribal wear and, like the other men, spends much of his time poking a stick inside a narrow-necked gourd called a totuma. “It aids concentration,” he says with a cheeky smile, before explaining that the vessel contains a powder ground from sea shells that, when combined with coca leaves, produces a meditative high. I am also curious about two woven pouches attached to his waist. One of them, I discover, hides a mobile phone, the other a BlackBerry.
As we wait for the presidential helicopter to arrive, Villafañe talks to me about his life. His family is from a village about an hour’s walk away. He had his first contact with the outside world at the age of eight after being sent to school at Santa Marta. The noises of modern life had made him ill for months. Later, after his father had been assassinated by paramilitaries, he began travelling the world as a spokesman for the four main tribes of the sierra (he recently met Bill Clinton). I am impressed by his ability to switch between radically different lifestyles. He tells me he is aware of the potential dangers of implementing some of the government’s plans for “improving” the lives of his people. There are many tribal elders who believe that the introduction of electricity, good roads and widespread tourism could lead to the death of the sierra.
As Villafañe is joined by a US documentary crew making a film about him, I find myself becoming increasingly distracted by the Eden-like beauty of the landscape, with the seductive emerald greens of the jungle highlighted against a distant backcloth of pinkish snows.
The rumble of an approaching helicopter interrupts my reverie. Soldiers and security guards run around barking orders, tribesmen take up their appointed positions, and all eyes turn to the sky. Uribe, draped in the Colombian colours, emerges from his helicopter with all the confident poise of a film star, a speech already on his lips.
Afterwards, there is time for journalists to ask a few questions, though Uribe, a consummate politician, is well known for not answering anything too controversial. I wonder (but don’t ask) how his government, with its policy of zero tolerance towards coca, intends to deal with the coca-loving tastes of the sierra’s tribesmen. I cannot help watching the men as they chew the leaves, fiddling all the time with their totumas, and stopping every now and then to spit out great pools of murky green liquid.
Once the official ceremonies are over, the Colombian authorities are keen to give some of the journalists a taste of the area’s enormous tourism potential, to which Uribe had repeatedly referred. In the early afternoon we embark on what I imagine will be an effortless two-hour descent on foot from the village to the coast. It ends up, instead, as a military-style ordeal in debilitating sauna-like conditions. The hardships of the trek only enhance the pleasure of reaching, towards sunset, the near-deserted palm beach of Palomino. I could have happily rested for hours in one of the beach-side hammocks there, taking in the idyllic scene, but we have to move on to the nearby village of San Rafael before nightfall to sleep at one of the area’s several farms. Previously heavily dependent on coca, they have been turned into “eco-lodges” offering nature walks and visits to indigenous villages.
The next morning we are climbing again, this time by Land Rover, up a road so rutted, pitted and steep that it takes three hours to cover a distance of about 14km. Our destination is the bird reserve of El Dorado, situated at a height of 3,500 metres. This is where I am going to spend my last two nights in the sierra, staying in an “ecologically sustainable” complex.

By the time we get there, the temperature has plummeted and we are shrouded in dense clouds. A torrential storm lasting several hours keeps us indoors, listening to the reserve’s enthusiastic young director talk about the Santa Marta parakeets, the newly discovered Megascops owl, and other endangered and endemic species that enhance Colombia’s reputation as a paradise for naturalists. When the clouds eventually disperse, the only wildlife I manage to see are the hummingbirds drawn to the reserve’s plastic feeders. Yet, as the sky clears and the colours take on an unreal luminosity, a sensational panorama is revealed of a vast stretch of coastline extending all the way to the distant glow of Barranquilla.
The views of the interior prove even more spectacular. Shortly before dawn I wander along a jungle trail that leads to a lookout tower perched at the edge of a deep valley. The other journalists have already returned to Santa Marta, leaving me to enjoy on my own the sun rising over a succession of forested ridges, culminating in the pale, snowy profile of Colombia’s highest peaks. After all the recent talk about politics and Colombia’s violent past, I succumb more readily still to an overwhelming sense of peace.
Michael Jacobs is the author of ‘Andes’ (Granta)
Hammocks and hippyish charm
A collection of 19 thatched bungalows on a deserted beach, Koralia is hippyish but charming. There’s a small spa, an open-air beach bar, and trips into the Tayrona National Park and Sierra Nevada can be arranged. Colombia’s favourite pop star, Shakira, is said to be a regular visitor. Doubles from 380,000 pesos ($211), full board;
Thatched 'ecohab' cabins within Tayrona National Park
The Tayrona ‘Ecohabs’
The smartest accommodation option within Tayrona National Park, the 14 Ecohabs are thatched two-storey cabins scattered over a jungle-covered mountain slope. Upstairs in each cabin is a bedroom, minibar and television, downstairs is a living area with hammocks to swing in. Stunning beaches are a short walk away. Ecohabs sleeping two people cost from 510,000 pesos ($282), full board;
Posada Turisticas
As part of a government-backed project, farms across the Sierra Nevada are offering simple tourist accommodation, including at San Rafael, where Michael Jacobs stayed. Prices vary;
ProAves El Dorado
For birdwatchers, the El Dorado reserve is a must, but non-twitchers will also relish the comfortable accommodation. Doubles from $190, full board; For more information see; 
Colombia abre Santa Marta a los turistas
Por Michael JacobsPublicado: 17 de septiembre 2010 22:20 | Última actualización: 17 de septiembre 2010 22:20Un soldado de una patrulla en helicóptero las laderas de la Sierra NevadaEl helicóptero militar se apaga al amanecer. Un soldado en traje de camuflaje se sienta en su puerta abierta, la dirección de una ametralladora en la escena tropical de abajo. Estamos viajando desde la localidad colombiana del Caribe de Santa Marta a una aldea indígena en las montañas cubiertas de selva atrás. Por una costa mientras se ciernen sobre un tramo de la nebulosa, con palmeras antes de girar hacia un paisaje de los pliegues de color verde oscuro. De pronto, vislumbramos una línea de riscos nevados que flota como una aparición por encima de un banco de nubes.La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta es el más alto del mundo Cordillera de la Costa, con cumbres que a 5.775 metros y un clima excepcionalmente variada flora y fauna.También tiene el atractivo de una tierra en sí misma, aislados por un amplio valle de los Andes y protegidos durante siglos por una reputación de inaccesibilidad, el peligro y misterio. A sus 56.000 habitantes indígenas, sucesores de los antiguos Tayronas, la sierra se conoce como "el corazón del mundo".Selección del Editorpalacio sin par de Estambul - Sep-17Los mejores pubs con habitaciones - Sep-17Atajos - Sep-17Aunque los conquistadores españoles derrotaron a los Tayronas a finales del siglo 16, el reino de este último la selva quedó prácticamente intacto hasta los tiempos modernos - el más grande asentamiento conocido sigue siendo una "Ciudad Perdida" hasta fecha tan tardía como 1975. En el curso del siglo 20, sin embargo, las comunidades indígenas que se habían escondido aquí desde la llegada de los españoles cada vez más bajo amenaza. La caña de azúcar y los productores de café comenzó a moverse en a lo largo de los valles fluviales, seguidos por los refugiados de la escalada de violencia que afectó a Colombia desde 1949 en adelante. ladrones de tumbas profanadas en lugares sagrados, mientras que enormes extensiones de selva fueron talados para dar paso a pino, la amapola y las plantaciones de coca. La guerrilla y los paramilitares luchaban por el control de la zona, reduciendo el turismo casi exclusivamente a organizar excursiones de seis días a la Ciudad Perdida, uno de los cuales fue interceptado por los rebeldes en 2003 (y los excursionistas tuvieron como rehenes durante tres meses).Ahora, sin embargo, las cosas están cambiando, y el gobierno tiene un lema nuevo turismo, "El único riesgo es que te quieras quedar." Colombia es sin duda mucho más seguro, pero su imagen como una tierra de terroristas secuestradores y traficantes de drogas persiste. En un intento de contrarrestar esta situación, la nueva campaña se centra en lo que es tal vez la mayor atracción de Colombia: su biodiversidad casi sin igual. Y en ninguna parte es esto tan evidente como en la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, donde el gobierno está tratando de fomentar el turismo que respete el medio ambiente y los pueblos indígenas.Las tribus indígenas KoguiEs 22 de julio de este año, y junto con un grupo de periodistas extranjeros invitados, estoy siendo tenido en las montañas para cubrir la visita del presidente saliente, Álvaro Uribe a la aislada aldea de Seywiuku, poblada por tribus Kogui. Dos semanas antes de entregar el poder a Juan Manuel Santos, está interesado en mostrar cómo Colombia ha cambiado radicalmente en sus ocho años de presidencia. la transformación de esta zona de las drogas y los paramilitares para las incipientes eco-turismo hace que el estudio de caso perfecto.La presencia de soldados con ametralladoras-manejo del helicóptero está en primera alarmante. Pero el hombre se adapta pronto una postura más relajada, levantarse a posar para fotografías antes de regresar a su asiento a medida que descendemos en lo que podría haber sido un museo de antropología. El claro de la jungla donde la tierra está llena de chozas redondas de piedra, adobe y paja. De pie al frente es una línea de intensa mirada fija hombres y mujeres con el pelo largo, negro azabache y túnicas blancas con dibujos a rayas negro y marrón. Me siento como un explorador del oeste de hacer su primer contacto con una tribu sin descubrir.siento prehistóricos del pueblo es engañosa, sin embargo. Seywiuku es una de varias comunidades construidas en los últimos años como parte de un plan para ayudar a los pueblos indígenas de la sierra, de volver a comprar para ellos grandes extensiones de selva, y crear (con la ayuda de los materiales transportados en helicóptero) pueblos que combina el estilo tradicional con las instalaciones hasta la fecha, tales como centros de salud.Los miembros de la tribu, también, no todos los que parecen. Un hombre corpulento que llevaba un gorro blanco cónico manos me una tarjeta de identificación de sí mismo como el gobernador de distrito. Un pueblo enjuto anciano con una nariz bulbosa resulta haber estado en un viaje de cabildeo reciente a Nueva York, donde había sido conducido alrededor en una limusina.Mi encuentro con más revelador es el líder indígena Danilo Villafañe. Villafañe está vestido con impecable desgaste tribales y, al igual que los otros hombres, pasa la mayor parte de su tiempo metiendo un palo dentro de una calabaza de cuello estrecho llamado totuma. "Ayuda a la concentración", dice con una sonrisa fresca, antes de explicar que el recipiente contiene un campo de polvo de conchas de mar que, cuando se combinan con hojas de coca, produce un gran meditación. También estoy curioso acerca de dos bolsas tejidas apegado a su cintura. Uno de ellos, descubro, se esconde un teléfono móvil, el otro un BlackBerry.Mientras esperamos que el helicóptero presidencial para llegar, Villafañe conversaciones conmigo acerca de su vida. Su familia es de un pueblo a una hora de camino de distancia. Tuvo su primer contacto con el mundo exterior a la edad de ocho después de ser enviado a la escuela en Santa Marta. Los ruidos de la vida moderna le había hecho mal durante meses. Más tarde, después de que su padre había sido asesinado por los paramilitares, comenzó a viajar por el mundo como un portavoz de las cuatro tribus principales de la sierra (que hace poco conocí a Bill Clinton). Estoy impresionado por su habilidad para cambiar entre los modos de vida radicalmente diferentes. Me dice que es consciente de los peligros potenciales de la aplicación de algunos de los planes del gobierno para "mejorar" la vida de su pueblo. Hay muchos ancianos de las tribus que creen que la introducción de la electricidad, buenas carreteras y el turismo generalizada podría llevar a la muerte de la sierra.Como Villafañe es acompañado por un equipo de documentalistas EE.UU. hacer una película sobre él, me encuentro cada vez más distraído por la belleza paradisíaca del paisaje, con los verdes esmeralda seductora de la selva contra un telón de fondo de relieve distantes de las nieves rosadas.El ruido de un helicóptero acercándose interrumpe mi sueño. Soldados y guardias de seguridad en torno a las órdenes de ejecución de ladrar, tribus ocupen sus puestos designados, y todas las miradas se vuelven hacia el cielo. Uribe, envuelto en los colores de Colombia, emerge de su helicóptero con todo el porte seguro de una estrella de cine, un discurso que ya están en los labios.Después, hay tiempo para que los periodistas algunas preguntas, aunque Uribe, un político consumado, es bien conocida por no responder a nada demasiado controvertido. Me pregunto (pero no preguntes) cómo su gobierno, con su política de tolerancia cero frente a la coca, tiene la intención de hacer frente a los gustos amantes de coca de las tribus de la sierra. No puedo dejar de mirar a los hombres como mastican las hojas, jugueteando todo el tiempo con sus Totumas, y parar de vez en cuando a escupir grandes charcos de líquido verde oscuro.Una vez que los actos oficiales han terminado, las autoridades colombianas están dispuestas a dar algunos de los periodistas una muestra de potencial de la zona turística de enorme, a la que Uribe se ha referido en varias ocasiones. En la tarde nos embarcamos en lo que me imagino será un descenso sin esfuerzo de dos horas a pie desde el pueblo hasta la costa. Termina, en cambio, como una prueba de tipo militar en condiciones debilitantes como sauna. Las penalidades de la travesía sólo aumentar el placer de alcanzar, al ponerse el sol, la playa de palma casi desiertas de Palomino. Podría haber un descanso de hora feliz en una de las hamacas junto a la playa-que, teniendo en la escena idílica, pero tenemos que pasar a la cercana aldea de San Rafael antes de la noche a dormir en una de varias fincas de la zona.Anteriormente depende en gran medida de coca, que se han convertido en "eco-lodges" la naturaleza que ofrece paseos y visitas a los pueblos indígenas.A la mañana siguiente, estamos subiendo de nuevo, esta vez por Land Rover, por un camino lleno de baches así, sin semillas y empinadas que se necesitan tres horas para recorrer una distancia de unos 14 kilómetros. Nuestro destino es la reserva de aves de El Dorado, situado a una altura de 3.500 metros. Aquí es donde voy a pasar mis últimos dos noches en la sierra, manteniéndose en una "ecológicamente sostenible" compleja.En el momento en que lleguemos allí, la temperatura se ha desplomado y estamos envueltos en densas nubes. Una tormenta torrencial de varias horas nos mantiene en el interior, escuchando hablar de la reserva joven director entusiasmado con los periquitos Santa Marta, el recién descubierto Megascops búho, y otras especies en peligro de extinción y endémicas que mejorar la reputación de Colombia como un paraíso para los naturalistas. Cuando las nubes terminan por desaparecer, la vida silvestre sólo alcanzo a ver son los colibríes señaló a los alimentadores de plástico de la reserva. Sin embargo, como el cielo se despeja y los colores adquieren una luminosidad irreal, un panorama sensacional se revela de una vasta extensión de costa se extiende todo el camino hasta el lejano resplandor de Barranquilla.Los puntos de vista del interior resultar aún más espectacular. Poco antes del amanecer me pregunto a lo largo de un sendero de la selva que conduce a un mirador encaramado en el borde de un profundo valle. Los demás periodistas ya han regresado a Santa Marta, dejándome a disfrutar por mi cuenta que el sol se levanta sobre una sucesión de crestas boscosas, que culmina en el perfil pálido, cubierto de nieve de los picos más altos de Colombia. Después de todo la reciente charla sobre la política y el pasado violento de Colombia, que sucumben más fácilmente aún por una abrumadora sensación de paz.Michael Jacobs es el autor de "Los Andes" (Granta)Hamacas y encanto hippieKoraliaUna colección de 19 bungalows con techo de paja en una playa desierta, Koralia es hippie pero encantador. Hay un pequeño spa, un bar en la playa al aire libre y excursiones por el Parque Nacional Tayrona y Sierra Nevada se pueden arreglar.estrellas favoritas del pop de Colombia, Shakira, se dice que es un visitante regular.Dobles desde 380.000 pesos (211 dólares), pensión completa; www.koralia.comEl Tayrona 'ecohabs'EcohabsEl alojamiento más inteligente opción dentro de Parque Nacional Tayrona, la ecohabs 14 cabañas con techo de paja son de dos pisos distribuidos en una ladera de una montaña cubierta de selva. Arriba, en cada camarote de un dormitorio, minibar y televisión, la planta baja hay una sala de estar con hamacas para swing pulg Hermosas playas están a pocos pasos de distancia. Ecohabs dormir dos personas costo de 510.000 pesos (282 dólares), pensión completa; www.concesionesparquesnaturales.comPosada TurísticasComo parte de un proyecto respaldado por el gobierno, las explotaciones en la Sierra Nevada están ofreciendo alojamiento turístico simples, incluso en San Rafael, donde Michael Jacobs dormido. Los precios varían; www.posadasturisticasdecolombia.comPara los observadores de aves, la reserva de El Dorado es una necesidad, pero no twitchers también disfrutarán de la comodidad. Dobles desde 190 dólares, pensión completa; Para obtener más información, consulte; 

Colômbia abre Santa Marta de turistas 
Por Michael JacobsPublicado em: 17 de setembro de 2010 22:20 | Última actualização: 17 de setembro de 2010 22:20Um soldado em uma patrulha de helicóptero as encostas da Sierra NevadaO helicóptero militar tira ao amanhecer. Um soldado de roupas camufladas senta na sua porta, dirigindo uma metralhadora na cena tropical abaixo. Estamos viajando do resort do Caribe colombiano de Santa Marta a uma aldeia indígena na selva das montanhas cobertas de trás. Para uma costa, enquanto que pairam sobre um trecho de vaga, com palmeiras alinhadas antes de virar para um cenário de pregas verde-escuro. Então, de repente vislumbramos uma linha de rochedos de neve que flutua como uma aparição acima de um banco de nuvens.A Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta é a maior gama do mundo costeira, com picos que se elevam a 5.775 metros e um clima excepcionalmente variadas, flora e fauna. Ela também tem o recurso de uma terra independente, cortado por um vale amplo dos Andes e protegido ao longo dos séculos por uma reputação de inacessibilidade, perigo e mistério. Para os seus 56.000 habitantes indígenas, sucessores dos Tayronas antiga, a serra é conhecida como "o coração do mundo".Editor's Choicepalácio incomparável de Istambul - Sep-17Os melhores bares com quartos - Sep-17Short Cuts - Sep-17Embora os conquistadores espanhóis derrotaram os Tayronas até o final do século 16, o último reino da selva ficou praticamente intacta até os tempos modernos - o seu maior assentamento conhecido permaneceu Lost City "até tão tarde quanto 1975. No decorrer do século 20, entretanto, as comunidades indígenas que aqui tinha escondido dos espanhóis veio cada vez mais sob ameaça. Açúcar de cana e produtores de café começaram a se mover ao longo dos vales do rio, seguido de refugiados da escalada de violência que aflige a Colômbia a partir de 1949 em diante. ladrões de túmulo profanado locais sagrados, ao passo que enormes faixas de mata foram derrubadas para dar lugar ao pinheiro, papoula e as plantações de coca. Guerrilheiros e paramilitares lutaram pelo controle da área, reduzindo quase que exclusivamente para o turismo organizado caminhadas de seis dias para o Lost City, um dos quais foi interceptado por rebeldes em 2003 (e os trekkers refém por três meses).Agora, porém, as coisas estão mudando, eo governo tem um slogan novo turismo, "O único risco é querer ficar." A Colômbia é, certamente, muito mais seguro, mas sua imagem como uma terra de seqüestradores, terroristas e traficantes de drogas persistir. Numa tentativa de contrariar esta situação, a nova campanha centra-se sobre o que é talvez a maior atração da Colômbia: a sua biodiversidade quase inigualável. E em nenhum lugar isso é tão evidente como na Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, onde o governo está tentando encorajar o turismo que respeite o ambiente e os povos indígenas.As tribos indígenas KoguiÉ 22 de julho deste ano e, juntamente com um grupo de jornalistas estrangeiros convidados, estou sendo levado para as montanhas a cobrir a visita do presidente cessante Álvaro Uribe para a aldeia isolada do Seywiuku, povoada por tribos Kogui.Duas semanas antes de entregar o poder a Juan Manuel Santos, ele está interessado em mostrar como a Colômbia, mudou radicalmente em seus oito anos de presidência. Esta área de transformação de drogas e grupos paramilitares de nascente eco-turismo faz com que o estudo de caso perfeito.A presença do soldado máquina arma-wielding do helicóptero é alarmante em primeiro lugar. Mas o homem logo se adapta uma postura mais relaxada, levantando-se para posar para fotos antes de retornar ao seu lugar à medida que descemos em que poderia ter sido um museu de antropologia. A selva de compensação onde a terra que está cheia de cabanas redondas em pedra, adobe e palha. Destacando-se frente é uma linha de olhar intensamente homens e mulheres com cabelos longos e negros, brancos e túnicas estampados com listras pretas e marrons. Eu me sinto como um explorador ocidental fazendo seu primeiro contato com uma tribo desconhecida.sinto pré-histórico da vila é enganoso, entretanto. Seywiuku é uma das várias comunidades construídas nos últimos anos como parte de um esquema para ajudar os povos indígenas da serra, para comprar de volta para os grandes extensões de floresta e criar (com o auxílio de materiais voado de helicóptero) vilas combinando a aparência tradicional com instalações atualizadas, tais como centros de saúde.Os homens da tribo, também, não são todos que parecem. Um homem poderosamente construído usando um boné branco cônica mãos me um cartão identificando-se como o governador de distrito. A aldeia mais velho enrugado com um nariz bulboso despeja ter sido uma viagem de lobbying recente a Nova York, onde haviam sido expulsos em torno de uma limusine.Meu encontro com mais revelador é o líder indígena Danilo Villafañe. Villafañe está vestida de Imaculada desgaste e tribal, como os outros homens, gasta muito de seu tempo picando uma vara dentro de uma cabaça de gargalo estreito chamado totuma. "Ela ajuda a concentração", diz ele com um sorriso insolente, antes de explicar que a embarcação contém um solo de pó de conchas do mar que, quando combinada com folhas de coca, produz uma alta de meditação. Também estou curioso sobre duas bolsas tecido ligado à sua cintura. Um deles, eu descobrir, esconde um telefone móvel, o BlackBerry um outro.Enquanto esperamos para o helicóptero presidencial chegar palestras, Villafañe-me sobre sua vida. Sua família é de uma aldeia a cerca de uma hora de caminhada de distância. Ele teve seu primeiro contato com o mundo exterior em oito anos de idade depois de ter sido enviado a uma escola em Santa Marta. Os ruídos da vida moderna lhe tinha feito mal durante meses. Mais tarde, depois que seu pai havia sido assassinado por grupos paramilitares, ele começou a viajar o mundo como um porta-voz para os quatro principais tribos da serra (que recentemente se encontrou com Bill Clinton). Estou impressionado com sua capacidade de alternar entre os modos de vida radicalmente diferente. Ele me diz que está ciente dos perigos potenciais da implementação de alguns planos do governo para "melhorar" a vida de seu povo. Há muitos líderes tribais que acreditam que a introdução da eletricidade, estradas boas e turismo generalizada pode levar à morte da serra.Como Villafañe é acompanhado por uma equipe de documentário E.U. fazer um filme sobre ele, eu me encontro cada vez mais distraídos pela beleza paradisíaco da paisagem, com os verdes sedutores esmeralda da selva destaque contra um pano de fundo distante das neves rosa.O barulho de um helicóptero se aproximando interrompe meu devaneio. Soldados e guardas de segurança correr latindo ordens, tribos assumirão os seus cargos nomeados, e todos os olhos se voltam para o céu. Uribe, coberto com as cores colombianas, emerge de seu helicóptero com todo o porte confiante de uma estrela de cinema, um discurso já em seus lábios.Depois, há tempo para os jornalistas fazer algumas perguntas, apesar de Uribe, um político consumado, é conhecido por não responder nada muito controverso.Pergunto-me (mas não pergunte) como seu governo, com sua política de tolerância zero em relação coca, pretende lidar com o gosto de coca-loving de tribos da Sierra.Não posso deixar de ver os homens como eles mastigar as folhas, brincando o tempo todo com seus totumas, e parando a cada momento e em seguida cuspir piscinas grandes de líquido verde escuro.Uma vez que as cerimónias oficiais são mais, as autoridades colombianas estão ansiosos para dar alguns dos jornalistas gosto do potencial da área do turismo enorme, para que Uribe havia se referiu várias vezes. No início da tarde de entrarmos em que eu imagino, será uma descida de esforço de duas horas a pé da vila até a costa. Ela acaba, ao contrário, como uma provação de estilo militar em condições debilitantes como sauna. As dificuldades da caminhada só aumentar o prazer de chegar, em direção do sol, a praia quase deserta palma da Palomino. Eu poderia ter descansado alegremente durante horas em uma das espreguiçadeiras à beira-mar que, tendo no cenário idílico, mas temos de ir para a vizinha aldeia de San Rafael antes do anoitecer para dormir em uma das várias fazendas da região.Anteriormente, fortemente dependente de coca, que foram transformadas em "eco-natureza oferece lodges" caminhadas e visitas às aldeias indígenas.Na manhã seguinte, estão a subir novamente, desta vez pela Land Rover, até uma estrada tão esburacada, sem caroço e íngreme que leva três horas para percorrer uma distância de cerca de 14 km. Nosso destino é a reserva de pássaros de El Dorado, situado a uma altura de 3.500 metros. Aqui é onde eu vou gastar minhas últimas duas noites na serra, ficando em um "complexo ecologicamente sustentável".No momento em que chegar lá, a temperatura caiu e estamos envoltos em nuvens densas. Uma tempestade torrencial que durou várias horas nos mantém dentro de casa, ouvindo falar da reserva do jovem diretor entusiasmados com os periquitos Santa Marta, o recém-descoberto Megascops coruja, e outras espécies ameaçadas e endêmicas que melhorar a reputação da Colômbia como um paraíso para os naturalistas. Quando as nuvens finalmente se dispersam, os animais selvagens só consigo ver os beija-flores são atraídos para alimentadores de plástico da reserva.No entanto, como o céu clareia, e as cores assumem uma luminosidade irreal, um panorama sensacional é revelada de uma vasta extensão de costa que se estendia até o brilho distante de Barranquilla.As vistas do interior ser ainda mais espetacular. Pouco antes do amanhecer, ando por uma trilha na selva que leva a uma torre de vigia situada na borda de um vale profundo. Os outros jornalistas já voltaram para Santa Marta, deixando-me a gostar do meu jeito do sol nascente em uma sucessão de cumes florestal, culminando com o perfil, pálido de neve dos picos mais altos da Colômbia. Após toda a conversa recente sobre política e passado violento da Colômbia, eu sucumbir mais facilmente ainda a uma sensação de paz.Michael Jacobs é o autor de "Andes" (Granta)Hammocks charme e hippyishKoraliaUma coleção de 19 bangalôs de palha em uma praia deserta, Koralia é hippyish mas encantador. Há um pequeno spa, um bar de praia, ar livre, e viagens para o Parque Nacional Tayrona e Sierra Nevada pode ser arranjado. estrela pop favorita da Colômbia, Shakira, é dito ser um visitante regular. Duplas de 380.000 pesos (211 dólares), pensão completa; www.koralia.comO Ecohabs Tayrona 'EcohabsA opção mais inteligente de alojamento no Parque Nacional de Tayrona, o Ecohabs 14 são de palha camarotes de dois andares espalhados por uma encosta de montanha cobertas de mato. Lá em cima, cada cabine é um quarto, frigobar e televisão, em baixo é uma sala de estar com rede para balançar dentro impressionantes praias estão a uma curta distância. Ecohabs dormir duas pessoas custo de 510 mil pesos (282 dólares), pensão completa; www.concesionesparquesnaturales.comPosada TuristicasComo parte de um projeto do governo apoiado, fazendas em toda a Sierra Nevada estão oferecendo acomodação simples turista, incluindo a San Rafael, onde Michael Jacobs ficou. Os preços variam; www.posadasturisticasdecolombia.comProAves El DoradoPara observadores de pássaros, o El Dorado reserva é uma necessidade, mas não twitchers irão apreciar as acomodações confortáveis. Duplas de R $ 190 de pensão completa; Para obter mais informações, consulte; www.lata.orgCopyright The Financial Times Limited 2010. Você pode compartilhar usando ferramentas de nosso artigo. Por favor, não corte artigos de e redistribuir por e-mail ou correio para a web.