South America has been a special part of my life for four decades. I have lived many years in Brasil and Peru. I am married to an incredible lady from Argentina. I want to share South America with you.
LA PAZ, Bolivia — In the haunts of this city where climbers gather over plates of grilled llama and bottles of Paceña beer to swap tales of mountaineering derring-do, they feign boredom when talk turns to the 19,974-foot-high Huayna Potosí, a jagged Andean peak that looms over La Paz.
Mr. Pabón’s mother, center, with Eulalio González, the climber who brought down her son’s body.
The Andes’ spine has been plagued by airplane crashes.
“A training climb,” scoffs Julio Choque Alaña, 32, who guides foreigners up the mountains ofBolivia, which boasts peaks higher than the Alps and the Rockies.
But such bravado fades when talk shifts to what climbers are discovering on Huayna Potosí’s glacier: crumpled fuselage, decades-old pieces of wings and propellers, and, in November, the frozen body of Rafael Benjamín Pabón, a 27-year-old pilot whose Douglas DC-6 crashed into the mountain’s north face in 1990.
“When I found the pilot, he was still strapped into his seat, crunched over like he was sleeping, some black hair falling from his skull,” said Eulalio González, 49, the climber who carried Mr. Pabón’s mummified body down the mountain. “There are more ice mummies in the peaks above us,” he said. “Melting glaciers will bring them to us.”
The discovery of Mr. Pabón’s partially preserved remains was one of a growing number of finds pulled from the world’s glaciers and snow fields in recent years as warmer temperatures cause the ice and snow to melt, exposing their long-held secrets. The bodies that have emerged were mummified naturally, with extreme cold and dry air performing the work that resins and oils did for ancient Egyptians and other cultures.
Up and down the spine of the Andes, long plagued by airplane crashes and climbing mishaps, the discoveries are helping to solve decades-old mysteries.
In one such find, in the late ’90s, climbers onMount Tupungatoin Argentina discovered parts the wreckage of theStar Dust, a fabled British aircraft rumored to have disappeared in 1947 with a cargo of gold.
The climbers found no treasure at the crash site of the Avro Lancastrian plane flown by British South American Airways. But they did discover a preserved torso and a hand with pointed, manicured fingernails, an eerie fashion relic of 1940s London that served as testament to the fate of the plane’s passengers and crew.
Scientists say the retreat of the ice is an unexpected boon for those yearning to peer back in time.
“It looks like the warming trend seen in many regions is continuing,” said Gerald Holdsworth, a glaciologist at the Arctic Institute of North America in Calgary, Alberta. “There are still some large snowbanks left in promising places, and many glaciers of all different shapes, orientations and sizes, so the finds could go on for a long time yet.”
Some discoveries are personal, allowing families closure after years of mourning loved ones who appeared to have vanished. Others have added alluring clues into the history of human migration, diet, health and ethnic origins, said María Victoria Monsalve, a pathologist at the University of British Columbia who studies ice mummies.
She said some of the most valuable discoveries in recent years includethree Inca child mummiesfound on the summit of Mount Llullaillaco in northern Argentina and a 550-year-old iceman discovered by sheep hunters in northern British Columbia.
Younger mummies can also add to the historical record. In 2004, three well-preserved soldiers were found in a scene of high-altitude fighting from World War I in the Italian Alps. And in 2006, a military lab in Hawaiipieced togetherthe story of a World War II airman found on Darwin Glacier in California. Identified as Leo M. Mustonen, he was buried in his hometown, Brainerd, Minn.
Even Mr. Holdsworth, who as a glaciologist is generally more interested in the ice itself, has been closely monitoring the Malaspina Glacier in southeastern Alaska, in part because he says he believes that it holds a plane that crashed near the Yukon border in 1951.
For the family of Rafael Pabón, the pilot found high in the Andes in November, the discovery was a relief of sorts. For two decades, his mother, Yolanda Galindo de Pabón, 69, had been tortured by thoughts of what had happened to him. She said she nurtured a theory that he might be wandering Bolivia’s provinces as a result of an accident. She wondered whether his plane could have been hijacked and flown across the border into Brazil.
The discovery of his body — still clad in the same white shirt and gray pants he wore when he lifted off with a cargo of beef carcasses from Bolivia’s eastern lowlands on Oct. 19, 1990 — at least put an end to the doubts.
“It took me a very long time to acknowledge he might be dead,” Ms. Pabón said. “Now we have a body. I can visit my son at his burial site and grieve like any mother has a right to do.”
The frozen corpse of Mr. Pabón’s co-pilot was discovered on Huayna Potosí in 1997. The cargo plane’s only other crew member, a mechanic named Walter Flores, has not been found.
Climbers here say they expect to find more remains as the country’s glaciers, like Chacaltaya — once said to be the site of theworld’s highest ski resort— retreat. They speak with a certain reverence of glaciers guarding plane wrecks stretching back decades, including a Hercules military cargo plane from the 1970s and smaller planes that crashed into mountains after encountering storms and poor visibility.
In 2006, a climbing team on Mount Illimani, Bolivia’s second-highest peak, rediscovered the wreckage of a Boeing 727 operated by Eastern Air Lines that crashed into the mountain shortly after takeoff on Jan. 1, 1985, killing all 29 people aboard.
No bodies were found at the time of the crash or during the 2006 ascent. But Roberto Gómez, 28, a climber who retrieved part of the Boeing’s fuselage, said it was only a matter of time before they surface as the glacier on Illimani melts. He has already found photographs, children’s clothing and, strangely, what seemed to be crocodile hides from the cargo hold at the crash site.
“The bodies and the black box are still somewhere in the ice,” he said.
On another ascent, he found what he believes are the remains of a dead Austrian climber: a preserved foot still clad in a Salewa hiking boot.
Aware of the fate which has often met those who dare challenge Bolivia’s peaks, some climbing guides here respectfully refer to the mountains as “achachila,” a word from the indigenous Aymara language that roughly translates as “earth spirit” or “uncle.” Before each ascent, they make offerings of coca leaves to the peaks they depend on for their livelihood.
“The uncles guard many secrets,” said Mr. González, who found the body of Mr. Pabón, “just like the graveyards in their shadow.”
A version of this article appeared in print on January 16, 2011, on page
Something El-Eriandoesn’t mention—yet should have—is the contrast between Da Silva’s tenure in Brazil, and that fool Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.
Both were lefties, both faced big problems with the poor, a financial mess, and a socially stratified country—yet Da Silva did the job good, while Chávez is driving Venezuela off the cliff.
Notice, as El-Erian points out, that Da Silva did not need to give up his social goals in order to achieve sustained growth—there’s no contradiction between growing markets and improving social conditions for the poor.
Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez
That’s why Chávez screwed up a country as rich as Venezuela: Like not only old-style Leftists, but old-style Rightists, Hugo Chávez thought that social justice and a booming capitalist economy were mutually incompatible.
Lula Da Silva was smart enough to realize there was no such incompatibility—and acted accordingly.
See what happened to Venezuela, for having this old-style mentality.
See what is going to happen to the United States, with the incoming 112th Congress.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker
POPULAR with foreigners looking for sun, sea and samba, Brazil wants to turn itself into a hot destination for seekers of science. Though its own bright graduates still head to Europe or the United States for PhDs or post-doctoral fellowships, nowadays that is more because science is an international affair than because they cannot study at home. The country wants more of them to return afterwards, and for the traffic to become two-way.
Brazil is no longer a scientific also-ran. It produces half a million graduates and 10,000 PhDs a year, ten times more than two decades ago. Between 2002 and 2008 its share of the world’s scientific papers rose from 1.7% to 2.7%. It is a world leader in research on tropical medicine, bioenergy and plant biology. It spends 1% of its fast-growing GDP on research, half the rich-world share but almost double the average in the rest of Latin America. Its scientists are increasingly collaborating with those abroad: 30% of scientific papers by Brazilians now have a foreign co-author.
Becoming part of the global scientific endeavour is about more than national pride. By doing their own science, developing tropical countries can make sure that it is not only the problems of people in rich, temperate places that get solved.
São Paulo, Brazil’s richest state, is leading the effort. It has the country’s best universities, including the only two that make it into the top 300 in both of the best-known global rankings. Its constitution guarantees the state research foundation, known as FAPESP, 1% of the state government’s tax take. That amounted to $450m in 2010, and comes on top of money from the federal government.
This allows São Paulo to offer the money and facilities to attract foreign researchers. That will remain essential for a while. Brazil is short of established scientists, a legacy of the dire condition of its schools, even if these are now improving. “We have money, and plenty of ideas,” says Glaucia Mendes Souza, an expert on sugar-cane genomics at the University of São Paulo who co-ordinates FAPESP’s bioenergy research. “We need more research groups, and more people to lead them.”
Fortunately, this is a good moment to lure foreign scientists. Research funding is being squeezed in Europe and North America. Although Brazil’s super-strong currency may bring fears of deindustrialisation, it also makes all kinds of imports cheaper. But snaring academic superstars will be hard. Though Brazil pays junior researchers well by international standards, the same is not true at the top of the scale. Publicly funded universities have no flexibility to offer more money to seal a deal. Nor can they offer research-only contracts: all tenured academics must teach undergraduates. Permanent positions can be filled only by open competition: heads of department cannot simply identify the best candidate and start negotiating. And those competitions include a public examination—in Portuguese.
Still, FAPESP is trying. It has advertised two-year fellowships at some São Paulo universities inNature, a scientific journal read globally, and though most responses came from scientists early in their careers, it is mostly the more senior ones who are being invited for discussions. FAPESP hopes that during those two years they will learn Portuguese (lessons are included) and that some will want to stay.
Perhaps the main thing Brazil can offer scientists is plenty of room to grow. “You can have your own laboratory here,” says Anete Pereira de Souza, a plant geneticist at the University of Campinas, another big São Paulo state university. “You can start an entire new area of research. Here, you’re a pioneer.”
WILL Rio de Janeiro be ready to hostthe Olympics in 2016? Thescale of the challengeis phenomenal. On top of the usual demands on transport and accommodation posed by big sporting events, this one is being held in a city where much housing is perched precariously, without foundations, on the sides of steep hills, and where crime rates are astronomical. The example of the Pan American Games, which Rio hosted in 2007, hardly reassures: the preparations went wildly over budget even though planned miles of new roads, as well as metro and train lines never materialised. Nor was the stinking Guanabara Bay cleaned up as promised.
Air transport, in particular, is a serious worry. Both of Rio’s airports, the domestic Santos Dumont and the international Galeão, are already operating above capacity. The Brazilian market for flying is expected to grow by around 10% a year annually for at least the next three or four years. And then there are the droves of visitors who will flock to the Games themselves. At a conference in November Giovanni Bisignani, the chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, described Brazil’s air transport infrastructure as a “growing disaster” and said that if the country was to avoid a “national embarrassment” it needed to move immediately. “But I don’t see progress and the clock is ticking,” he added.
And yet some things are going right. The first is the success of the city’s“Pacification Police” Units, or UPPs—new round-the-clock community-style policing units that are being placed infavelas, or shantytowns. The policy was already proceeding, though slowly, when a sudden acceleration caused by a spate of carjackings in November forced the pace. The Complexo do Alemão, a big conglomeration offavelas,was pacified much earlier than expected—and is being held, rather, it must be said, against expectations. Since then both violent crime and property crime have fallen in Rio, as criminals have been deprived of some of their most convenient boltholes.
And the city is finally putting together an effective procedure for dealing with emergencies. In April more than 100 people were killed by mudslides after 28 cm (11 inches) of rain fell in just 24 hours. The response was uncoordinated and chaotic. “The mayor, Eduardo Paes, has identified emergency response as the most urgent problem facing the city in the run-up to the Olympics,” explains Guruduth Banaver of IBM. The company has just signed a big deal with Rio to supply this lack.
Mr Banaver is the chief technology officer forIBM’s “Smarter Cities” initiative, a package of consultancy, software and monitoring technology that createsan evolving “system of systems”that allows a quicker and more effective response to unpredictable events. “I’ve interviewed people who were there at the time, and watched the videos, and it’s clear that no one knew what was going on. Mobile phone networks were still working, and the TV stations broadcast emergency numbers, but the phone lines were overwhelmed.”
Mr Paes realised the one place he could get information on what was happening was from the city’s traffic surveillance cameras, and took himself in person to the centre where they were monitored. From a youth spent in Connecticut he remembered “snow days”, and declared a “rain day” with everyone who could stay indoors asked to do so. “That simple decision on its own is credited with saving lives,” says Mr Banaver.
If the rainy season is equally hard on Rio in 2011, the city will be better prepared. It now has a fine-grained weather forecasting system that will allow it to send people, supplies and vehicles to danger areas and put hospitals and officials on alert before anything happens. Staff are being trained to provide information on needs and resources via a dedicated phone number once the worst actually does come to pass. But it isn’t all about floods, or even crisis management, emphasises Mr Banavar: the point is to integrate processes and data right across the city’s transportation, public works and utilities. Maybe the Olympics will leave Rio a legacy worth having, after all.
Bruno Domingos/ReutersAn apartment building in front of the Rocinha shantytown in Rio de Janeiro.
The city of Rio de Janeiro is infamous for the fact that one can look out from a precarious shack on a hill in a miserable favela and see practically into the window of a luxury high-rise condominium. Parts of Brazil look like southern California. Parts of it look like Haiti. Many countries display great wealth side by side with great poverty. But until recently, Brazil was the most unequal country in the world.
Today, however, Brazil’s level of economic inequality is dropping at a faster rate than that of almost any other country. Between 2003 and 2009, the income of poor Brazilians has grownseven times as muchas the income of rich Brazilians. Poverty has fallen during that time from 22 percent of the population to 7 percent.
Contrast this with the United States, where from 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the increase in Americans’ income went to the top 1 percent of earners. (seethis great series in Slateby Timothy Noah on American inequality) Productivity among low and middle-income American workers increased, but their incomes did not. If current trends continue, the United States may soon be more unequal than Brazil.
A single social program is transforming how countries all over the world help their poor.
Several factors contribute to Brazil’s astounding feat. But a major part of Brazil’s achievement is due to a single social program that is now transforming how countries all over the world help their poor.
The program, called Bolsa Familia (Family Grant) in Brazil, goes by different names in different places. In Mexico, where it first began on a national scale and has been equally successful at reducing poverty, it is Oportunidades. The generic term for the program is conditional cash transfers. The idea is to give regular payments to poor families, in the form of cash or electronic transfers into their bank accounts, if they meet certain requirements. The requirements vary, but many countries employ those used by Mexico: families must keep their children in school and go for regular medical checkups, and mom must attend workshops on subjects like nutrition or disease prevention. The payments almost always go to women, as they are the most likely to spend the money on their families. The elegant idea behind conditional cash transfers is to combat poverty today while breaking the cycle of poverty for tomorrow.
Most ofour Fixes columnsso far have been about successful-but-small ideas. They face a common challenge: how to make them work on a bigger scale. This one is different. Brazil is employing a version of an idea now in use in some 40 countries around the globe, one already successful on a staggeringly enormous scale. This is likely the most important government antipoverty program the world has ever seen. It is worth looking at how it works, and why it has been able to help so many people.
In Mexico, Oportunidades today covers 5.8 million families, about 30 percent of the population. An Oportunidades family with a child in primary school and a child in middle school that meets all its responsibilities can get a total of about $123 a month in grants. Students can also get money for school supplies, and children who finish high school in a timely fashion get a one-time payment of $330.
A family living in extreme poverty in Brazil doubles its income when it gets the basic benefit.
Bolsa Familia, which has similar requirements, is even bigger. Brazil’s conditional cash transfer programs were begun before the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, but he consolidated various programs and expanded it. It now covers about 50 million Brazilians, about a quarter of the country. It pays a monthly stipend of about $13 to poor families for each child 15 or younger who is attending school, up to three children. Families can get additional payments of $19 a month for each child of 16 or 17 still in school, up to two children. Families that live in extreme poverty get a basic benefit of about $40, with no conditions.
Do these sums seem heartbreakingly small? They are. But a family living in extreme poverty in Brazil doubles its income when it gets the basic benefit. It has long been clear that Bolsa Familia has reduced poverty in Brazil. But research has only recently revealed its role in enabling Brazil to reduce economic inequality.
The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank are working with individual governments to spread these programs around the globe, providing technical help and loans. Conditional cash transfer programs are now found in 14 countries in Latin America and some 26 other countries, according to the World Bank. (One of the programs was in New York City — a small, privately-financed pilot program called Opportunity NYC. A preliminary evaluationshowed mixed success, but it is too soon to draw conclusions.) Each program is tailored to local conditions. Some in Latin America, for example, emphasize nutrition. One in Tanzania is experimenting with conditioning payments on an entire community’s behavior.
The program fights poverty in two ways. One is straightforward: it gives money to the poor. This works. And no, the money tends not to be stolen or diverted to the better-off. Brazil and Mexico have been very successful at including only the poor. In both countries it has reduced poverty, especially extreme poverty, and has begun to close the inequality gap.
The idea’s other purpose — to give children more education and better health — is longer term and harder to measure. But measured it is — Oportunidades is probably the most-studied social program on the planet. The program has an evaluation unit and publishes all data. There have also been hundreds of studies by independent academics. The research indicates that conditional cash transfer programs in Mexico and Brazil do keep people healthier, and keep kids in school.
In Mexico today, malnutrition, anemia and stunting have dropped, as have incidences of childhood and adult illnesses. Maternal and infant deaths have been reduced. Contraceptive use in rural areas has risen and teen pregnancy has declined. But the most dramatic effects are visible in education. Children in Oportunidades repeat fewer grades and stay in school longer. Child labor has dropped. In rural areas, the percentage of children entering middle school has risen 42 percent. High school inscription in rural areas has risen by a whopping 85 percent. The strongest effects on education are found in families where the mothers have the lowest schooling levels. Indigenous Mexicans have particularly benefited, staying in school longer.
Bolsa Familia is having a similar impact in Brazil. One recent studyfound that it increases school attendance and advancement — particularly in the northeast, the region of Brazil where school attendance is lowest, and particularly for older girls, who are at greatest risk of dropping out. The study also found that Bolsa has improved child weight, vaccination rates and use of pre-natal care.
When I traveled in Mexico in 2008 toreport on Oportunidades, I met family after family with a distinct before and after story. Parents whose work consisted of using a machete to cut grass had children who, thanks to Oportunidades, had finished high school and were now studying accounting or nursing. Some families had older children who were malnourished as youngsters, but younger children who had always been healthy because Oportunidades had arrived in time to help them eat better. In the city of Venustiano Carranza, in Mexico’s Puebla state, I met Hortensia Alvarez Montes, a 54-year-old widow whose only income came from taking in laundry. Her education stopped in sixth grade, as did that of her first three children. But then came Oportunidades, which kept her two youngest children in school. They were both finishing high school when I visited her. One of them told me she planned to attend college.
Outside of Brazil and Mexico, conditional cash transfer programs are newer and smaller. Nevertheless, there isample researchshowing that they, too, increase consumption, lower poverty, and increase school enrollment and use of health services.
If conditional cash transfer programs are to work properly, many more schools and health clinics are needed. But governments can’t always keep up with the demand — and sometimes they can only keep up by drastically reducing quality. If this is a problem for medium-income countries like Brazil and Mexico, imagine the challenge in Honduras or Tanzania.
For skeptics who believe that social programs never work in poor countries and that most of what’s spent on them gets stolen, conditional cash transfer programs offer a convincing rebuttal. Here are programs that help the people who most need help, and do so with very little waste, corruption or political interference. Even tiny, one-village programs that succeed this well are cause for celebration. To do this on the scale that Mexico and Brazil have achieved is astounding.
On Saturday, I’ll respond to reader comments. I’ll also explain why this idea is so remarkably successful — and what we can learn from it.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — A magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck a rural area of northern Argentina Saturday morning, but its epicenter was so deep that it gave only a light shake to towns nearby.
The U.S. Geological Survey said Saturday that the quake, initially registered at 6.9, hit at 6:56 a.m. about 150 kilometers (115 miles) northeast of Santiago del Estero at a depth of 563 kilometers (350 miles).
It was not immediately clear if there were any injuries or damage, but the earthquake was hardly felt in Santiago del Estero, the provincial capital, where Emilio Abdala, a receptionist at the 14-story Hotel Casino Carlos V, told The Associated Press that nobody felt a thing.
BRASILIA, Brazil — Dilma Rousseff was sworn in as Brazil's first female president Saturday, capping a rapid political trajectory for the career technocrat and former Marxist rebel who was imprisoned and tortured during the nation's long military dictatorship.
Rousseff, 63, takes the helm of Latin America's largest nation, which has risen both financially and politically on the world stage under outgoing leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Silva leaves office as the nation's most popular president with an approval rating that hit 87 percent in his last week in office. Rousseff was his hand-chosen successor.
Rousseff, wearing a white skirt and matching jacket, took the oath of office alongside Vice President Michel Temer in the national Congress. A heavy rain swept over Brazil's capital, Brasilia, as Rousseff arrived at the Congress in a 1953 Rolls Royce, her hand waving out the window to the thousands of cheering onlookers. Her security detail comprised six young women, clad in black and running alongside the car through the downpour.
Rousseff takes on the formidable task of maintaining Brazil's momentum.
In the eight years under Silva, Brazil sharply cut poverty while its economy boomed, and it has increased its political clout on the global stage. Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup and is expected to be the world's fifth-largest economy by the time the 2016 Olympics come to the nation.
Huge challenges also await Rousseff, who served as Silva's energy minister before becoming his chief of staff, where her tough managerial manner earned her the moniker "Iron Lady."
In addition to sweeping improvements Brazil needs in its infrastructure, security and education, she confronts the danger of following the charismatic Silva, who leaves office with an 87 percent approval rating.
"Dilma will have to meet high expectations that the country is on an upward trajectory and life will continue to get better for the average Brazilian," said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue. "That will not be an easy challenge."
Shifter said it could prove difficult for Brazil to maintain the pace of success it saw under Silva.
The external economic scenario could worsen, cutting into strong demand for Brazil's agricultural and industrial exports, particularly if anything should dampen China's growing appetite for Brazil's goods. The Asian nation this year passed the U.S. as Brazil's biggest trading partner.
And Rousseff will need a strong economy to improve the nation's woeful airports, ports, and roads – all vital in transporting Brazil's raw goods to market and in hosting the World Cup and the Olympics – events Brazilians hope will bolster their newfound image as a nation that gets things done.
Rousseff also will have to handle the unwieldy political coalitions required to govern Brazil. Silva, with his vast experience, his unique popularity and by sheer force of will was able to satisfy the leftist elements in his Workers Party, while at the same time employing orthodox economic policies to calm the business community that fretted early on about his socialist roots.
Rousseff lacks Silva's political acumen and charisma and it is not yet known if she will be able to command the far-flung components of the Workers Party while also keeping other factions happy in a coalition government.
But as Silva's hand-chosen successor, and a Cabinet member of his government from its start in 2003, Rousseff has the power of continuity going for her.
"Dilma represents a great novelty in Brazil," said Alexandre Barros, a political analyst with the Early Warning political risk group in Brasilia. "Before, every new government brought with it huge uncertainty. Everybody would shout about how Brazil was going to ruins. But now, with Rousseff, no. She represents what we've already seen."