Good Bye, Magellan


Tunneling through Andes to speed global trade.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — South American engineers are trying to tackle one of the continent’s greatest natural challenges: the towering Andes mountain chain that creates a costly physical barrier for nations ever-more-dependent on trade with Asia.

The proposed tunnel through the Andes will allow ships to by pass the dangerous Straits of Magellan around the tip of South America, saving time and money.

The trip over the mountains is slowed by snow, and impassable for days at a time.  A tunnel would change all that.  A consortium of companies with experience in building tunnels have proposed the 32 mile long tunnels and electric trains to cut shipping costs.

Currently, much of the processed soy oils, wine and meat Argentina sends to China, as well as Asian electronics destined for Brazil, must first sail around the tip of South America, adding nearly 3,000 nautical miles and another week to the trip. Shipping by rail between Atlantic and Pacific ports would unite the most productive regions of Chile and its South American neighbors, making trade more competitive for all involved.

Both Chile and Argentina, as well as Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay, will benefit from the lower shipping coasts.

Chile’s mining wealth and Argentina’s agricultural bounty have sustained their economies, delivering positive trade balances year after year, but both countries need to produce and move those exports more efficiently to maintain growth. Chile imported $75 billion worth of goods and exported $81 billion last year, while Argentine imported $74 billion and exported $84 billion, the U.N.’s regional economics commission reported Tuesday.

How likely is it the tunnel will be built?  How will new routes affect global trade?

Indigenous People Fight Amazon Dam

Activists say mega-projects in the Amazon often confront indigenous communities with disease, loss of food and clean water sources, cultural disintegration and human rights abuses [GALLO/GETTY]


via Tensions escalate over Amazon mega dam – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

In early March, while boisterous Carnival celebrations filled the streets of Rio de Janiero, bulldozers began clearing away Amazonian jungle for roads leading to the construction site of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River in northeast Brazil.

The dam, roads, and lakes will destroy over 100,000 acres of land, and bring more people into the forest.  Indigenous people are fighting to prevent the destruction of their way of life.

Plans for the Belo Monte dam began in the 1980s under a military government, but its construction was delayed largely due to environmental concerns and resistance from activists.

Now, three months after new president Dilma Rousseff has taken office, the stand-off has escalated.  People familiar with President Rousseff say they are not surprised by her move to put the economy before the environment.

Gustavo Faleiros, a Brazilian environmental journalist and editor, said that even going back to the days when Rousseff held the position of minister of mining and energy under the Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva administration, she was seen “as a leader with an old-fashioned view of development”. This view prioritised economic growth over environmental concerns.

Economic development will not help the situation of the farmers and fishermen who depend on the Amazon and its tributaries for their sustenance.

“By pushing forward with this dam, the Dilma government is trampling on our rights. This is not just about defending the Xingu River, it’s about the health of the Amazon rainforest and our planet.”

Sheyla Juruna,  indigenous leader 



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