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April 23 2013

Developing Latin America: A Summary

Desarrollando América Latina (Developing Latin America) has published a video summary of the regional hackathon DAL 2012, where 400 participants and 70 social experts developed 80 applications. Here [es] you can see Global Voices’ coverage of the event.

March 19 2013

Bolivia Establishes the World's Largest Protected Wetland

Under the Ramsar Convention, the Bolivian government designated three new wetlands to be a protected area in the ‘Llanos of Moxos’, a vast region in the Beni province that is now the largest protected wetland in the world.

Positive News explains that this protected area represents “the combined size of the Netherlands and Belgium.”

The Ramsar Convention is formally known as the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971). It is defined as:

[...] an intergovernmental treaty that embodies the commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of their Wetlands of International Importance and to plan for the “wise use”, or sustainable use, of all of the wetlands in their territories.

Unlike the other global environmental conventions, Ramsar is not affiliated with the United Nations system of Multilateral Environmental Agreements.

US blogger David Mixner celebrates the designation and also illustrates the news for North American audiences:

In great news for the world's environment, the world's largest wetland was created in Bolivia. The protected land will be the size of North Dakota! The area is close to the borders of Peru and Brazil and is essential for the health of the Amazon.

The international NGO World Wildlife Fund describes the area:

San Ignacio de Moxos. Photo shared on Flickr by Viaje al corazón de Bolivia (CC BY 2.0)

San Ignacio de Moxos. Photo shared on Flickr by Viaje al corazón de Bolivia (CC BY 2.0)

The Llanos de Moxos, located near the borders of Bolivia, Peru and Brazil, consists of tropical savannas with cyclical droughts and floods. These wetlands are especially prized for their rich natural diversity: 131 species of mammals have been identified to date, 568 different birds, 102 reptiles, 62 amphibians, 625 fish and at least 1,000 plant species. Several species – including the giant otter and the Bolivian river dolphin – have been identified as vulnerable, endangered or at critical risk of extinction.

Mauricio Pacheco from Diversidad entre Pendientes, a Bolivian blog on environmental issues, celebrates [es] the step given by Bolivian authorities:

Sumados a los otros ocho sitios designados desde 1990, Bolivia se convierte en el país que ha protegido, bajo este esquema, una mayor cantidad de territorios.

Together with other eight designated sites since 1990, Bolivia has became the country that has the largest number of territories protected under this scheme.

In spite of welcoming the news, International NGO World Land Trust quotes Bennett Hennessey, Executive Director of Bolivian NGO Asociación Armonía, who states:

“It is an important step for conservation that the importance of the Llanos de Moxos region has been given international recognition. It is a poorly studied area that holds important and threatened endemic species that need to be protected,” [...]
“But,” he adds, “it is important to note that the Ramsar designation is just a step. We urgently need ongoing conservation efforts on the ground to forever protect the most threatened sites.”

Further down in his blog post, Mauricio Pacheco from Diversidad entre pendientes shares [es] a critical view as well:

Quiero ser optimista y pensar que en un futuro, ya no se permitirán los avasallamientos en el TIPNIS, en el Parque Carrasco, en el Amboró, en el Madidi, en el Cotapata. Quiero creer que se realizará una verdadera planificación de la producción en las laderas y los humedales, y que se integrará realmente a todos en esa planificación. Sobre todo, quiero creer que se entenderá la protección, no desde el cálculo político habitual, sino desde los beneficios enormes que aporta. La importancia que tiene para regular los sistemas hídricos del sudoeste de la amazonia, para mitigar los efectos del cambio climático, y garantizar los recursos productivos de las zonas agrícolas y ganaderas más importantes del país, y por tanto nuestra seguridad alimentaria.

I want to be optimistic and think that in the future they will no longer allow illegal penetration into areas like the TIPNIS, the Carrasco Park, the Amboró, Madidi, or Cotapata National Parks. I want to believe that there will be a plan for the development of slopes and wetlands, and that everyone will actually be included in that planning. Above all, I want to believe that protection will be understood, not under the regular political calculation, but from the enormous benefits it brings. How important it is for the regulation of water systems located in the South-western region of the Amazon, in order to mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure the productive resources of the agricultural and pastoral areas in the country, and consequently our food security.

WWF Bolivia shared the following 8-minute video [es] on the wetlands in Bolivia, emphasizing the ‘Llanos of Moxos’ wetlands and the importance of its conservation:

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March 10 2013

The State of Torture in the World in 2013

On January 23, 2013, an excerpt from the annual report of l'ACAT-France, A World of Torture 2013, makes a fresh assessment of the state of torture in the world [fr]:

“A report called A World of Torture in 2013, assesses torture practices that continue to be alarming, from Pakistan to Italy, by way of South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Bolivia. From authoritarian regimes to democratic countries, none are exempt from criticism on the topic. In 2013, torture remains as endemic, omnipresent and multi-faceted as ever”.

March 09 2013

Education vs. Reality in Bolivia

On his self named [es] blog, Eduardo Bowles reports [es] on changes to Bolivia's education system. According to the new school programme: “in elementary school there won't be any failed students. According to the new education trends, children should not be educated in a competitive environment”. As part of his analysis, he argues:

The idea is to set up a collaborative environment, where there is compassion, mutual collaboration and other very important values, no doubt about it, but [these values] are not actually related to our daily reality.

February 26 2013

VIDEO: In Bolivia, Indigenous Women Draw Society's Short Straw

Marisol is an indigenous leader in Cochabamba, Bolivia who, like many indigenous women, had to migrate to the city in search of better opportunities. She is one of the women who speaks out in a series of video interviews by Periodismo Humano [es] about women in Bolivian society. “Being a woman and indigenous here is the worst thing that can happen to you,” she says.

The women interviewed from all walks of life, tell a story that shows having two X chromosomes in Bolivia is a liability. Women receive less education and lower incomes, and although women's participation in politics is growing, Bolivia's female leaders still struggle to make their voices heard.

Mario Munera Rodríguez, the journalist who wrote and produced the series, writes [es]:

El dibujo social en el que se enclava la mujer boliviana viene dado por el contraste de, por un lado lo que allá definen como agringados o personas que desean imitar los estilos de vida (a ojos de) capitalistas y por el otro el de aquellas y aquellos que tienen raíces y se niegan a dejarlas atras.

The social pattern in which Bolivian women are locked is due to the contrast between, on one hand those defined as agringados or those who want to imitate the capitalist (in their eyes) lifestyle and on the other, those who have roots and refuse to leave them behind.

The second video [es] deals with girls and their access to education. In the video, Munera reports:

Según el INE [Instituto Nacional de Estadistica] 2001 en Bolivia, la tasa de analfabetismo de mujeres es de 19,35 por ciento, mientras la tasa de analfabetismo masculinos es del 6,94 por ciento. En el campo el analfabetismo femenino es del 37,91 por ciento, en contraposición al masculino que es de un 14,42 por ciento.

La educación de la mujer es muy importante. La escolaridad alcanzada por las mujeres influye directamente en las condiciones de salud, nutrición y supervivencia de los hijos. Asimismo, incide en la mortalidad materna.

According to the INE (National Institute of Statistics) 2001 in Bolivia, the illiteracy rate for females is 19.35%, while the illiteracy rate for males is 6.94%. In rural areas, female illiteracy rates are 37.91% in contrast to male rates of 14.42%.

Educating women is very important. Schooling for women directly influences health, nutrition and child survival rates. It also affects maternal mortality.

Sonia, a sociologist interviewed in the video, says that “education in Bolivia is very sexist. In reality, girls are ignored.”

In the third video, Munera explores the participation of women in politics [es]. The article that accompanies the video includes the following quotes:

“Muchas han tenido que usar la violencia para hacerse respetar, para ponerles el límite al hombre”

“Many have had to use violence to be respected, to create some boundaries for men.”

“Los hombres piensan que las mujeres son para que se recreen incluso en estas circunstancias, de compañeras en la política”

“Men think that women are for their entertainment, even in these circumstances, as colleagues in politics.”

“Se busca a las mujeres para alistarlas dentro de los partidos políticos postulantes al gobierno y tratan de cumplir con el 30% de participación de las mujeres, pero nominalmente”

“They look for women to enlist in politics as candidates for government posts and they try to make perhaps a 30% participation rate for women, but only nominally.”

“Todavía los hombres toman las decisiones y las mujeres tienen sólo que levantar la mano”

“The men still make the decisions and the women just have to raise their hands.”

“El gobierno han cooptado a muchos de los intelectuales y pensadores de izquierda que nos decían sobre por dónde debíamos ir”

“The government has co-opted many intellectuals and thinkers of the left who were telling us where we needed to go.”

“Quienes hemos estado cuestionando la política del gobierno, no de manera destructiva y quienes no somos de derechas, hemos sido las organizaciones de mujeres”

“Those who have been questioning government policy, not destructively, and not right wing, have been the women's organizations.”

Finally, in the fourth and last video [es], Munera stresses that “sexual and gender violence represents 70% of reported assaults in the country.” In a series of interviews, a coordinator, a sociologist and a psychologist explain the context in which the female victims of male violence live in Bolivia.

The video ends with a series of black and white photos, but it states beforehand: “No men wanted to participate in the making of this documentary.”

Azucena Ramos, Jaime Fraire, Libanez, Maggie S, and Molly Allison-Baker contributed with subtitling the videos in the post.
This post was originally published in Spanish in March 2012.

February 25 2013

Football Fireworks Claim Minor and Media Ethics in Bolivia

Fireworks at a football match [es] in Bolivia turned deadly after a flare hit and killed a 14-year-old boy. To cover the tragedy, media outlets used an image from the boy's Facebook page, sparking a debate on whether it is ethical, or even legal, to use photographs of minors from social networks.

The boy was supporting San Jose, a football club from Oruro city in Bolivia on February 20, 2013. San Jose was playing against Corinthians, a popular Brazilian squad and the defending champion of the 2012 Copa Libertadores, the most important football tournament for clubs in Latin America.

Five minutes after the kick-off Corinthians scored a goal. Although banned in football stadiums, some fans responded with celebratory fireworks, and a flare ended up hitting the 14 year-old Bolivian fan. Local media reported [es] that the boy received medical aid, but died of his injuries on the way to the hospital.

National and international media started to follow the events closely after several Corinthian fans were arrested; a few remain in police custody and could be prosecuted.

Tomislav Konestabo /

Tomislav Konestabo /

Netizen Mario Duran (@mrduranch) [es] pointed out that local media used the victim's Facebook profile image to cover the tragedy. Duran inquired on Twitter whether such publication is ethical, moral, or even legal:

@mrduranch: una duda, medios de prensa pueden publicar fotos de menores de edad? #bolivia

@mrduranch: Question, is the press entitled to publish photos of minors? #Bolivia

Netizens, and particularly journalists, reacted with different points of view. Mario Duran published a few responses on his blog Palabras Libres [es].

Fabiola Chambi (@fabiolachambi) [es], a journalist who is very active online, immediately reacted to Mario's question:

@fabiolachambi:@arquitecta @mrduranch No es ético, falta a la moral y habla mal del medio y de su proceder.

@fabiolachambi: @arquitecta @mrduranch It is unethical, it goes against morality and shows how badly the media acted.

Ruben Atahuichi (@RDAtahuichiL) [es], an editor at one of the largest national newspapers said:

@RDAtahuichiL@mrduranch Dependiendo de la connotación: si afectan su integridad o los ponen en riesgo, no

@RDAtahuichiL@mrduranch Depending on the connotations: if [the image] affects the integrity [of the minor] or threatens him, no.

Addressing the question from a legal angle, Mario Duran later commented:

@mrduranch: @gezn no es legal, no porque esta en internet puedes usar imagen de individuo sin consentimiento cc @sniferl4bs

@mrduranch: @gezn It is not legal, the fact that it's on the Internet does not give you the right to use an image without permission cc @sniferl4bs

Mauricio Quiroz (@MichoQuiroz) [es], another journalist, considers the issue from a different point of view:

@MichoQuiroz@RDAtahuichiL @mrduranch Si la imagen no denigra al menor pueder ser empleada. La imagen en cuestión es de contexto.

@MichoQuiroz@RDAtahuichiL @mrduranch If the image does not denigrate the child, it may be used. The image under scrutiny is giving context [to the news].

Cesar Galindo (@CesarGalindQNMP), a well known journalist and TV presenter, also joined the debate saying:

@CesarGalindQNMP: @mrduranch @jesus_alanoca Sin duda todos caemos en tentación sin importar las consecuencias pero la ética es un código q esta en la sangre

@CesarGalindQNMP: @mrduranch @jesus_alanoca Undoubtedly we all fall into temptation regardless of the consequences, but ethics is a code that is in the blood [of journalists]

February 22 2013

Bolivia's President to Seek a Second (or Third?) Term

Bolivia's ruling party MAS has announced that President Evo Morales will seek re-election in the upcoming presidential contest scheduled for December 2014. Morales, a former coca grower turned unionist and leftist leader, enjoys great support in Bolivia, particularly among the indigenous and rural populations.

But the announcement has sparked a debate over whether his current term counts as his first or second, and whether the country's four-year-old constitution would allow him to run again.

Back in 2005, after years of political instability, Evo Morales was elected president with 54 percent of the votes. His first term began in January 2006, but political conflict continued, mainly between eastern regions and Morales’ leftist government, which promoted a new constitution.

Evo Morales image during presidential campaign. Photo by vocesbolivianas on Flickr, under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Evo Morales image during presidential campaign. Photo by vocesbolivianas on Flickr, under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

After the ruling party and the opposition reached political agreements in 2008, a referendum was called for January 2009 to approve a new constitution. The president’s term was shortened and new elections took place in December 2009. Evo Morales won for a second consecutive election with 64 percent of the votes.

The 2009 Bolivian Constitution [es] states:

Artículo 168. El periodo de mandato de la Presidenta o del Presidente y de la Vicepresidenta o del Vicepresidente del Estado es de cinco años, y pueden ser reelectas o reelectos de manera continua por una sola vez.

Article 168. The term of office of the President or the Vice President is five years and may be reelected continuously only once.

Further down, in a transitory article, the same constitution also mandates:

Los mandatos anteriores a la vigencia de esta Constitución serán tomados en cuenta a los efectos del cómputo de los nuevos periodos de funciones.

Previous mandates to the effective date of this Constitution shall be taken into account for purposes of calculating new terms.

Supporters of Morales’ third candidacy, such as Senator Rene Martinez, consider [es] that the eventual re-election of Morales is constitutional and legitimate.

Martinez argued on his Twitter account (@ReneMartinez_) [es]:

@ReneMartinez_: Disposición Transitoria Primera de la CPE, solo reguló la elecciones del 2009. no tiene mas aplicación en el tiempo.

@ReneMartinez_: [This] transitory article on the Constitution only regulated the 2009 elections, it is not applicable afterwards.

On the other hand, others claim that this is clearly Morales’ second term and a third candidacy is constitutionally not allowed.

Following that argument, political activist Julio Aliaga (@JulioAliagaL) [es] tweeted a photo of an official post stamp released by Bolivia’s government in 2012 celebrating the second term of president Evo Morales:

Image shared on Twitter by user

“Second term. Constitutional President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.” Image shared on Twitter by user @JulioAliagaL

The case is now under consideration by the Plurinational Constitutional Court of Bolivia.

However, as Mario Duran, a blogger based in El Alto, explained [es], Morales’ supporters still have an alternative if the court rules against allowing him to run again:

para habilitar al presidente Morales a una nueva re-eleccion se requiere un referéndum que apruebe cualquier modificación a la Constitución Política del Estado, ahora considerando el apoyo superior al 50% en votación que posee el Presidente Evo Morales, sus partidarios deberían optar por el referendum.

In order to make President Morales eligible for a new re-election, a referendum is required to approve any amendment to the constitution, considering that President Evo Morales enjoys support from more than 50 percent of the electorate, his supporters should opt for the referendum.

Electoral calculations are under way as the Bolivian electoral machinery could be tested once again in the coming months.

February 20 2013

Bolivia: Indigenous Communities Battle for Territory

All links lead to Spanish-language pages unless otherwise stated.

Plans for a road linking the Cochabamba and Beni regions of Bolivia continues to provoke debate and cause conflict in the country.

Although most agree on the need to link the two regions in to the centre and northeast of the country, the fact that plans state the road would cut through the heart of the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory [Parque Nacional y Territorio Indígena Isiboro-Secure or Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Secure, TIPNIS] has been the cause of much conflict. The project, moreover, has been devised and is being pushed by Evo Morales’ government.

In 2011 and 2012, several indigenous organisations openly opposed the idea that the road project should cross through the TIPNIS. The eighth and ninth Indigenous Marches for Dignity and Territory were the most visible demonstrations of indigenous protest against the road, which would put one of the Amazon's most biodiverse and highly protected areas at risk.

Tensions worsened when on 25th September 2011 police used violence to intervene with the eighth Indigenous March [en].

For their part, organisations connected both to the government and to the rural parts of Chapare in Cochabamba, an alternative coca production zone, marched in favour of the road and a “prior consultation” with the communities which inhabit the TIPNIS.

The consultation carried out by the government, which ended in October 2012, focused on the “intangibility” of the National Park. According to the final report, more than 80% of the TIPNIS communities do not agree that the park is “intangible”, which the government has interpreted as authorisation to build the road through the park. Meanwhile, the Confederation of Indigenous Communities of Eastern Bolivia [Confederación de Pueblos Indígenas del Oriente de Bolivia, CIDOB] asserts that 30 of the 36 TIPNIS communities are opposed to plans for the road to pass through their territory.

The conflict continues in two respects. On the one hand, the violent action taken by the police in the indigenous march has yet to be elucidated. President Morales and his then collaborative directors have refuted claims of their involvement in the police's actions, whilst the inquiry has still yielded no results regarding the matter.

On the other hand, the indigenous organisations opposed to the road passing through the park have gathered in the interior of the TIPNIS and raised a permanent blockade to any attempt to open the way through the wood. Their position has been reenforced politically by the recent election of a candidate opposed to the party in power, Movement for Socialism [en] [Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS], in the municipal government of Beni, one of the regions directly involved in the road project.

It is obvious that opinion is divided on the matter, and both parties continue to fight their corner with much aplomb. It is hard to deny, however, that the voices of the opposition seem to be louder, as demonstrated on Defendamos el TIPNIS [Let's defend the TIPNIS], a blog which cites the findings of a study related to the TIPNIS, and warns of the environmental impact the road would have:

“Concluimos que la carretera que pasa por el centro del TIPNIS NO ES ECOLÓGICA NI MEDIO AMBIENTALMENTE VIABLE, presentándose efectos de la carretera con potencialidad para alterar el clima y la provisión de agua de al menos dos departamentos de Bolivia y de los bosques de tierras bajas. Creemos en la interconexión del país y por tanto estamos de acuerdo con desarrollar vías camineras que unifique Oeste-Este del país, pero NO por el centro del TIPNIS”.

“We conclude that the road passing through the centre of the TIPNIS IS NEITHER ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY NOR -VIABLE; the road itself could alter the climate and water provisions to at least two Bolivian regions and to the forests in the lowlands. We believe that our country should be linked, and therefore agree with the development of roads that would connect the West and the East, but NOT through the centre of the TIPNIS”.

Similarly, Tipnis en resistencia [TIPNIS in resistance] published a plethora of demands and petitions made to President Evo Morales. It would seem difficult to come to any sort of agreement given that on the one hand the government has announced that the communities have already accepted the road's construction and on the other activists have proposed public action to prevent it. In this panorama rife with conflict there are those who have heralded a third battle for the TIPNIS on the horizon.

The video which accompanies this article was directed by Víctor Rivera as part of VideoActivo, the video project of Global Voices in Spanish.

The video in this post was subtitled by Catalina Restrepo.

February 15 2013

TERRA 804: Alpinas Maneras

A short non-fiction film exploring the human experience of international mountaineering. Shadowing a 2009 expedition to the Bolivian Andes with community based non-profit, the Montana Mountaineering Association, this film takes flight with a small team of students and instructors to better understand this cross-cultural experience.

February 08 2013

Alarming Rates of Violence Against Bolivian Women

Activists in Cochabamba protest against the alarming rates of violence against women. Photo by Stephanie Weiss.

Activists in Cochabamba protest against the alarming rates of violence against women. Photo by Stephanie Weiss.


February 04 2013

Stormy Waters? The Maritime Border Disputes between Bolivia, Chile and Peru

This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.

Map of the maritime claims of Ecuador, Peru, and surrounding countries

Map of the maritime claims of Ecuador, Peru, and surrounding countries. By Political Geography Now via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

International boundaries are often blurred by the processes of globalization, but in South America some maritime borders remain contested. For instance, Chile and Peru, neighbors that have enjoyed sustained economic development over the past few years, remain at odds over approximately 38,000 square kilometers of sea located along their maritime border.

Bilateral negotiations between the two countries were first held in 1980 but no agreement was reached. In 2008, Peru took the case to the International Court of Justice(ICJ) which, in turn, considered the issue at a public hearing in December 2012. The ICJ is expected to make a ruling on the dispute in mid-2013.

In the meantime, Peru continues to argue that the maritime border has not yet been defined by any agreement, with documents signed in the 1950s only relating to access to fishing grounds.  Lima also claims that maritime limits should run diagonally south-west from the land border.

Meanwhile, Chile argues that the maritime limits were agreed upon after the signing of treaties in 1952 and 1954. These infer that the maritime border should run parallel to the Equator line, an arrangement that Santiago claims Peru has respected for the past 60 years.

Supporting the Chilean position, netizen Juan Vargas commented on Peru this Week:

The 1952 and 1954 agreements clearly indicate and establish a Maritime Boundary [between Chile and Peru]. They can be found translated into English at:

Oscar Maúrtua de Romaña, a former Peruvian Minister of Foreign Affairs describes the arguments of both sides in a blog post on El Mirador, and concludes:

El Perú y Chile, pese a las diferencias históricas, comparten un destino común. Un fallo equitativo por parte del tribunal permitirá poner fin al “único asunto” fronterizo que genera una sombra en nuestras relaciones bilaterales. Resulta tranquilizador el hecho de que el presidente Humala y el presidente Piñera, 72 horas antes de iniciarse la fase oral hayan hecho una declaración conjunta, en la cual se comprometieron ambos a acatar y ejecutar la sentencia de la Corte Internacional de La Haya.

Despite historical differences, Peru and Chile share a common destiny. A fair outcome by the court will end the “sole remaining border issue” which compromises our bilateral relations. It is reassuring that 72 hours before the start of the hearing (Peruvian) President Humala and (Chilean) President Piñera have made a joint statement in which both pledged to accept and follow the determination of the International Court of The Hague.

Landlocked Bolivia Awaits Decision

The dispute between Chile and Peru also has direct implications for others states around the region. In particular, Bolivia is closely watching legal proceedings, and has previously stated[en] that it plans to make a case at the ICJ for Chile to provide coastal access to the Pacific that was lost during the 1879-1881 between the two countries. The final outcome at the ICJ case may add further impetus to Bolivia’s attempts to seek a diplomatic solution to this longstanding issue.

Regardless of the ICJ resolution, the democratic and diplomatic statements made by all parties have significantly reduced the risk of armed conflictbetween the parties.

This has, in turn provided the foundations for the development of more creative solutions aimed at ending the crises. These include “A Maritime Zone of Bilateral Participation” proposed by Jilmar Moisés Córdova: “A Maritime Zone of Bilateral Participation”. This argues:

La controversia marítima de Perú y Chile, puede llegar a una posible solución instaurándose [...] la Zona Marítima de Participación Bilateral la cual dividiría los mares de ambos Estados y que sería destinada a la pesca, [...] es decir, la explotación de los recursos vivos por embarcaciones de hasta cierto tonelaje de los pueblos del Perú y Chile. Por ejemplo Argentina y Uruguay mantienen un tratado parecido a esta forma que delimita sus mares soberanos.

The maritime dispute between Peru and Chile, can reach a possible solution by a so-called Maritime Zone Bilateral Involvement or Participation, which divide the seas of the two states and would be intended for fishing, [...] the exploitation of resources by boats of a certain tonnage from both Peru and Chile. For instance, Argentina and Uruguay hold a treaty like this so that delimits their sovereign seas.

Córdova also considers that such an alternative could give both countries the chance of exploring and benefiting from mineral, oil and other resources. He is also confident that the Maritime Zone Bilateral Involvement could provide alternative options for Bolivia’s coastal aspirations.

ISN logoThis post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.

January 28 2013

Regional Winners of Developing Latin America 2012

With some delay, here comes an update about the regional hackathon, Desarrollando América Latina 2012 [es] (DAL- Developing Latin America), following the winners at the local level, which completed the final round where awarded on a regional level were chosen among the 22 applications that resulted from the winners of the hackathon in each country.

The organization reported [es]:

Tu Huerta

Tu Huerta

Third place: Your vegetable garden (by RGN) | Uruguay. This application seeks to give an inexperienced person or community the necessary knowledge to create their own orchard and start to plant their own vegetables. The judges considered that the application used open data very well, resolving a specific problem with good development. The project demonstrated a profound and innovative work.

Ideal Factory

Ideal Factory

Second Place: Ideal Factory (by Blackout) | Bolivia. […] Using records of entities in the chosen area, this application offers imformation similar to that of a FODA [es] analysis (strength, opportunities, weaknesses, threats) from the type of organization that is requested (education, health, police and commerce). […] it is a tool through which an average citizen can support himself and learn about how to make future decisions not only to start a business or oganization, but also to be better informed about his zone.

For the judges, this application has great value for its scalability in other countries (like Chile and Mexico, among others). It also resolves the problem of duplication of work and promotes synergy and colaborations between different actors, fostering the entrepreneurial climate.

Lima I/O

Lima I/O

First Place: Lima I/O. The city speaks (by #Rememos (#werow) | Peru . The application consists of a system of devices with environmental sensors that are placed in various parts of the city, that send information through the Internet to a cloud platform, categorizing and geo-referencing what is received.

The judges awarded first place to this aplication for being a great and original idea, using innovative tools in order to achieve a real social impact. They hope to see “Lima I/O. The city speaks” completely implemented in the near future, with the support of an environmental organization to help spread the app and monitor the system annexed mechanisms.

There was also an honorable mention: Elbowing Latin America [es], “a platform where organizations and civil society publish projects and needs, exhibiting open data through CKAN and calling those interested in the areas of technology and design to resolve these projects and needs.

The RSS Technology blog summarizes here [es] the winners:

El galardón lo obtuvo la aplicación peruana “Lima i/o”, una solución basada en Internet de las Cosas para monitorear el estado del medio ambiente en tiempo real. El segundo lugar se lo llevó “Ideal Factory” de Bolivia, que entrega información para nuevas empresas u organizaciones, y el tercer puesto lo obtuvo la aplicación “Tu Huerta”, de Uruguay, que ayuda a comenzar a sembrar vegetales en tu hogar, sin necesidad de tener conocimientos previos.

The first place award was attained by the Peruvian application “Lima I/O,” a solution based on the Internet of Things to monitor the state of the environment in real time. Second place was won by “Ideal Factory” from Bolivia, which delivers information for new businesses and organizations, and third place was obtained by the application “Your Orchard,” from Uruguay, which helps start and plant vegetables in one's home, without needing to have previous knowledge.

About the Hackathon itself, Bárbara Blay, from Global Social Stream comments [es] that “the environment of creation and innovation is widespread, not only promoting the creation of applications for the search of a social solution, but also making a regional and connected atmosphere, accessible by the rest of the citizens, and promoting as such the use of technology for development“. She also adds:

Existen muchos puntos comunes en las problématicas que se han identificado para la búsqueda de soluciones como lo son la falta de información sobre los servicios públicos, y las alternativas a esta deficiencia sería la combinación entre facilitar la información a través de las herramientas numéricas y facilitar la participación y elcrowdsourcing para completar esta información.

There are many common points in the issues that have been identified in the search for solutions, like the lack of information about public services, and the alternatives to this deficiency are the combination of facilitating the information through numeric tools and facilitating participation and crowdsourcing to achieve this information.

David Sasaki, one of the judges at the regional level, reflects on the past use of the winning application: “But, will gathering data serve in a Court case when the environmental activists demand of the industrial contaminators? And if not, then why are we gathering the data?” He adds then about the purpose of hackathons like this one:

Bringing together diverse actors — including private sector, public sector, activists and technologists — to make sure that there is a purpose behind the data is the model of the “datapalooza,” which White House CTO Todd Park has been evangelizing for the past couple years. The starting assumption isn’t that there is an app or gadget that can fix complex social problems, but rather that there is value in bringing together diverse actors to contemplate the stories and social issues that lie out of plain sight in large datasets.

However he also has certain objections to the model of hackathons:

The optimist in me hopes that at least two or three of them will have a lifespan of more than a year, but the realist in me knows that this is not likely. I have judged over a dozen app contests and I can’t recall a single winning app that I use today.

Boris Krygel, of InSTEDD iLab, one of the participants (and winner) in Argentina, goes a little further and poses a question [es]:

Qué interesante sería organizar una hackathon en la que se destinara un cierto tiempo a testear los prototipos en el mundo real, ¿verdad? Nuestra experiencia nos demuestra que la mayoría de las aplicaciones que se postulan –al menos a nivel latinoamericano– están planteadas desde el punto de vista del que se propuso resolver una cierta problemática, pero carecen de su correlato empírico desde la óptica de quien será el beneficiario final de dicha app. Recordemos que el objetivo de un hacker es resolver un problema de la mejor manera posible con los recursos con los que cuenta y en el exiguo plazo temporal prefijado, asegurándose de que su prototipo verdaderamente funcione.

How interesting would it be to organize a hackathon in which a certain time was determined to test the prototypes in the real world, right? Our experiences show us that the majority of the applications that are nominated - at least at the Latin American level - come from the point of view of resolving a certain issue, but lack an empirical correlation from the view of who would be the final beneficiary of that said app. We remember that the objective of a hacker is to resolve a problem in the best way possible with the resources available and in a temporary, predetermined term, assuring that the prototype truly works.

In line with this tendency to not remain solely in the hackathon and forget the produced applications, the winners of each country will additionally receive cash as seed capital and a month tutorial to imporove their application. The three regional winners of DAL will also receive as an award the support of Movistar Innova, which consists of a tutorial program that gives feedback about the business possibilities of the aplication and evaluates possible links with this.

Finally, I leave you with the presentation of the winning application on the regional level, Lima I/O [es], in Escuelab [es], moments before winning the local level:

Other related posts:

Developing Latin America 2012
What Exactly is a Hackathon? And What is Open Data?
Hackathons in Droves: How is a Hackathon Organised?
¡Desarrollando América Latina se acerca! 
Brazil: Rio de Janeiro Demands Better Sanitation
Crowdmapping Water Contamination in Peruvian Indigenous Communities
What is Web Mapping?
Desarrollando América Latina #DAL2012 – Día 1 [es]
Desarrollando América Latina #DAL2012 – Día 2 [es]
Day 1 of Developing Latin America 2012
Day 2 of Developing Latin America 2012

January 23 2013

Bolivia: 2012 Census Initial Data

Bolivian President Evo Morales announced the initial official data from the Census of Population and Housing 2012, carried out last November. According to the results, Bolivia has a population of 10.3, with the two most populated departaments being Santa and y La Paz, each with 2.7 million people. Netizens are commenting on Twitter using hastags #CensoBo [es] and #Censo2012 [es].

January 18 2013

Bolivia: An Unexpected Brush with the Past

Luis Enrique Ramos, who blogs at Citizen of La Paz [es], remembers his old classmate “el Hernán” [the Hernán], who “was one of those who doesn't attract attention, in fact, most of times, it was as he was invisible”. Ramos tells us how good was “el Hernán” at playing football and how good they both got along playing together.

December 31 2012

Bolivia: Nationalization and football

From Bolivia, blogger Eduardo Bowles refers to the nationalization of Spanish company Iberdrola [es]:

[…] amidst a severe credibility crisis and when the bumpings with Chile weren't enough for “beating around the bush”, MAS regime has ordered the nationalization of four branches of Spanish multinational Iberdrola, thus putting an end to its presence en Bolivia. […]
More than once, [Bolivian] President Morales has joked about the idea of solving problems between countries on a football field.

December 12 2012

Bolivian Cyber Activists Uncover Potential QR Code Patent

Bolivian cyber activists worked collectively to unfold a potential unlawful patent over the use of Quick Response Codes, known as QR codes, in the country.

Earlier this month, Bolivian netizen @hermanY [es] sparked curiosity when he enquired on Twitter about the alleged patented use of QR codes in Bolivia:

@hermanY: ¿Alguien la Paz me puede decir si Advice Marketing Ltda. patentó los QR y hay que pagarles a ellos por el uso? #Boliva #Tech #fraude?

@hermanY: Can anyone in La Paz tell me if Advice Marketing Ltda. patented QR codes and one must pay this company for using them? #Boliva #Tech #fraude?

Photo by Lydia Shiningbrightly (CC BY 2.0)

The company’s website has withdrawn the patent announcement from its website, but activist Daniel Cotillas (@danicotillas) [es] captured and shared a screenshot [es].

Following up with the collective enquiring under the hashtag #QRBolivia, blogger Mario Durán from El Alto got in touch with the Intellectual Property National Service [es] (SENAPI in Spanish) and representatives of the company.

Mario has been posting regular updates on the case in his blog [es] under the question, “Can the use of QR codes in Bolivia be patented?”

According to the information gathered by Mario, Advice Marketing officially states [es, pdf] that QR codes can be publicly used just by notifying them in advance. Meanwhile, officials from SENAPI confirmed [es] that the company applied for the patent back in September 2012; however, SENAPI has not issued a resolution on the matter (the legal term to reach a decision is 18 months). Therefore, such patent or restriction may not be applicable.

Bolivian cyber activists will surely keep a close watch on the issue as the case develops in the coming months. You can follow their discussion under the hashtag #QRBolivia.

December 07 2012

Striker's ‘Scorpion Kick' Goal Makes Bolivian Football History

Nacional Potosí, a modest first-division football club from Bolivia, kicked off the 2012 football season playing against The Strongest at home. During the second half of the match, Gastón Mealla, a 24-year-old Nacional Potosí striker, made an improbable heel volley, a 'scorpion kick', scoring from outside the box.

Mealla’s goal was nominated by FIFA as one of the 10 best goals for the 2012 Puskás Award; however, it was not selected among the final 3.

Skrileks, an anonymous YouTube user based in France, commented on FIFA’s YouTube Channel:

I can't understand how so much people can vote for the two bicycles in the penalty box, when you have a never seen scorpion kick from outside the box like that.
It's worthy of the taekwondo kicks of Zlatan [Ibrahimovic]. It's wonderful, powerful, and nobody ever done a scorpion kick from a so long distance.

PickleKunAMV, another YouTube user, also wrote:

I'm Colombian and love [Radamel] Falcao [whose goal was nominated among the top 3] but this should win the Puskas award.

Roberto Acosta (@btoae) [es], an active sport journalist and Twitter user based in La Paz, argues that such a spectacular goal was not among the most voted because,

@btoae: Hay una sola toma del gol, quizá le quita algo de espectacularidad, la LFPB no se caracteriza por la calidad en transmisiones ni pensar en HD.

@btoae: There is only one shot of the goal, maybe it takes some spectacularly away, HD or good quality broadcast is not a feature in the LFPB [Bolivian Professional Football League].

Moreover, Roberto Acosta also states that these awards are oriented towards big football stars:

@btoae: El Balon de Oro 2012 de FIFA es como los Oscar para Blatter, es dificil imaginar una pelicula de bajo presupuesto en una terna.

@btoae: The FIFA Ballon d'Or 2012 is like the Oscars for [Joseph] Blatter, hard to imagine a low budget film being short-listed.

Despite not making the top 3 goals of the year, Gastón Mealla's astonishing, but low-quality broadcast scorpion kick will remain as one of the most spectacular goals of Bolivian football history.

Day 2 of Developing Latin America 2012

[All links lead to Spanish language pages unless otherwise noted]

Last Sunday December 2 saw the completion of day 2 of the regional hackathon Developing Latin America 2012, organised by the Ciudadano Inteligente Foundation. This year the event was carried out [en] in eight Latin American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.

After about 36 hours of intense and continuous work, the teams participating in the various headquarters began the presentations of their projects in order to later find out the jurys' decision.

From Chile, the website Fayerwayer announced the country's three winners out of the 26 applications that were presented:

Equipo ganador DAL2012 Chile

Winning Team DAL2012 Chile. Photo shared by @Tia_Ivonne via Twitter.

  • Seg3“: Creada por Ivonne Yañez y Rodrigo Fuentealba, esta app ayuda a realizar evaluaciones médicas generales a adultos mayores, mediante tests en el ámbito fisiológico, deterioro cognitivo y trastornos afectivos, proponiendo ciertas actividades y seguimiento a las personas a su cuidado.
  • “Friendly Food“: Una aplicación para smartphones que ayuda a elegir alimentos saludables en el supermercado, haciendo una evaluación rápida del contenido nutritivo.
  • “Ciclo rutas”: Una app para ciclistas, donde estos pueden dar a conocer los recorridos que realizan, independientemente de si hay ciclovías o no. La idea es que con esta información, los gobiernos puedan evaluar la creación de nuevas ciclovías.
  • Seg3“: Created by Ivonne Yañez and Rodrigo Fuentealba, this app helps to carry out general medical evaluations on the elderly through tests in the fields of physiology, cognitive deterioration and affective disorders, proposing certain activities and monitoring their care.
  • “Friendly Food“: An app for smartphones that helps [the user] to choose healthy food in the supermarket by making a quick evaluation of the nutritional content.
  • “Ciclo rutas”: [Cycle Lanes] An app for cyclists, where they can publish the journeys that they take regardless of whether or not there are cycle lanes. The idea is that this information can be used by the government to better evaluate the creation of new cycle lanes.

TechnoChat announces the three winners in Costa Rica, where there were 11 teams participating:

Equipos DAL2012 Costa Rica

DAL2012 Teams in Costa Rica. Photo shared by Inco Group on Facebook.

Primer lugar: Pixelated Dot, compuesto por William Rodríguez, Diego Carballo y David Madrigal. Ellos desarrollaron un juego denominado “Escuadrón Salud”, que permite educar a los niños de 6 a 10 años en materia de prevención de enfermedades. En el prototipo utilizaron de referencia el dengue y la diarrea.

Segundo lugar: TIC, compuesto por Daniel Castro, Mauricio Muñoz y Samantha Ramijan. Este equipo desarrolló una solución para que los médicos puedan, al recetar, consultar la disponibilidad de un medicamento en la farmacia, además, con la puesta en línea de la aplicación, se reduce el tiempo y despacho de las recetas prescritas.

Tercer lugar: The Code Monkey, compuesto por Natalia Sibaja, Leonardo Ortiz, Iván Alarcón y Javier Carvajal. Este grupo desarrolló una plataforma que brinda los datos sobre sismos que acontecen en el país y permite al usuario detallar información sobre su estado, así como emitir alertas en caso de riesgo.

First place: Pixelated Dot, consisting of William Rodríguez, Diego Carballo and David Madrigal. The team developed a game called “Escuadrón Salud” [Health Squad], that educates children between 6 and 10 years of age in matters to do with the prevention of illnesses. In making the prototype, the team used dengue and diarrhoea as their references.

Second Place: TIC, consisting of Daniel Castro, Mauricio Muñoz and Samantha Ramijan. This team developed a solution for doctors to be able to check the availability of medicines in the pharmacy when prescribing drugs to patients. Not only this, but also by reserving the medicines online it reduces the time to prepare and dispatch the prescriptions.

Third Place: The Code Monkey, consisting of Natalia Sibaja, Leonardo Ortiz, Iván Alarcón and Javier Carvajal. This group developed a platform that provides data about earth tremors occurring in the country and allows the user to detail information about their situation, in this way sending out alerts in case of risk.

In OpenDataMx they write about the seven projects that participated and present the three winners:

Ganadores DAL2012 México

Winners DAL2012 Mexico. Photo shared by Juan M Casanueva in Facebook.

Codeando México 1er lugar Integrantes: @adrian22 @emikebr @rod_wilhelmy @edolopez @juanpabloe @javi_ayala. Codeando México busca habilitar un espacio de hackatón permanente en donde la transparencia y colaboración ocurren todos los días, codeandoMexico es una plataforma donde se pueden publicar proyectos por parte de fundaciones o gente de la sociedad civil exponiendo datos abiertos e involucrando interesados del área de tecnología, diseño, o de industrias en general para desarrollar una solución tecnológica.

FONDOxDiabetes 2do lugar Integrantes: @dave_domz @karemcitamz @mgjoseluis Elías Sánchez Martín. FONDOxDiabetes es un sitio de consulta y participación ciudadana en donde se puede votar a favor o en contra georeferenciando los votos y publicando argumentos a favor y en contra. Se buscó exponer el problema del consumo de refrescos embotellados en México y su relación con la diabetes, un problema de salud pública nacional.

InfoAgua 3er lugar Integrantes: @janzaldo @tuxtitlan @balam_0 @lepamaz. InfoAgua es una herramienta de consulta para realizar análisis estadísticos del agua en relación al crecimiento de la población y detectar factores de riesgo por Entidad Federativa. También se realizaron juegos interactivos educativos para Facebook vinculados a la educación sobre la problemática del agua.

Coding Mexico First Place Members: @adrian22 @emikebr @rod_wilhelmy @edolopez @juanpabloe @javi_ayala. Coding Mexico looks to house a permanent hackathon space where transparency and collaboration are everyday occurrences. Coding Mexico is a platform where projects can be published on behalf of foundations or civilians exposing open data and involving people interested from the areas of technology, design or industry in general in order to develop a technological solution.

FONDOxDiabetes Second Place Members: @dave_domz @karemcitamz @mgjoseluis Elías Sánchez Martín. FONDOxDiabetes is a consultation and participation site where you can vote in favour of, or against, georeferencing votes, as well as publishing arguments for and against. It was looking to expose the problem of consumption of bottled drinks in Mexico and its relationship with diabetes, a national public health problem.

InfoAgua [InfoWater] Third Place Members: @janzaldo @tuxtitlan @balam_0 @lepamaz. InfoAgua is a consultation tool in order to carry out statistics analysis of water in relation to the growth of the population and to detect risk factors for Federative Entity. They also carried out interactive educational games for Facebook linked to educating people about the issues surrounding water.

Escuelab announced the Peruvian winners:

Equipos, colaboradores y staff de DAL2012 en Perú

Teams, collaborators and staff of DAL2012 in Peru. Photo by Maru Panta for Escuelab. Used with author's permission.

Primer lugar grupo: Rememos. Proyecto: Monitoreo Ambiental. Integrantes: Antonio Cucho Gamboa, Renzo Arauco, Jordi Cook, Juan Luis Peña

Segundo lugar grupo: YS. Proyecto: Alerta Ciudad. Integrantes: Arturo Ochoa, Riccardo Mija, Franks Samamé, Paul Osorio Schuler

Tercer lugar grupo: #OTA. Proyecto: EducAya! Integrantes: Pedro Valverde, Jairo Gutierrez, Daphne Orihuela

First Place: Rememos. Project: Environmental Monitor. Members: Antonio Cucho Gamboa, Renzo Arauco, Jordi Cook, Juan Luis Peña

Second Place: YS. Project: City Alert. Members: Arturo Ochoa, Riccardo Mija, Franks Samamé, Paul Osorio Schuler

Third Place: #OTA. Project: EducAya! Members: Pedro Valverde, Jairo Gutierrez, Daphne Orihuela

Wingu (@desdewingu) tweeted about the Argentine winners:

Ganadores DAL2012 Argentina

Winners DAL2012 Argentina. Photo shared by Sandra Crucianelli in Facebook

@desdewingu: Tercer puesto #DAL2012 #Argentina para Mapa de asistencia a la víctima @pollatos @alegranza_a @malev

@desdewingu: Third Place #DAL2012 #Argentina for assisting Map for victims @pollatos @alegranza_a @malev

@desdewingu: Segundo puesto #DAL2012 #Argentina Grandes pequeñas ideas!

@desdewingu: Second Place #DAL2012 #Argentina Great Small Ideas!

@desdewingu: Ganador #DAL2012 #Argentina Puedo jugar solo. Proyecto para niños con autismo de @casaangelman

@desdewingu: Winner #DAL2012 #Argentina I can play alone. A project for children with autism by @casaangelman

In Uruguay, Data (@DataUY ) also tweeted its winners:

@DataUY Felicidades a Ombudsman Uy, Me Robaron, y Tu Huerta, los tres primeros proyectos ganadores del #DAL2012 en #Uruguay

@DataUY Congratulations to Ombudsman Uy, Me Robaron [I Was Robbed], and Tu Huerta [Your Veg Patch], the first three winning projects from #DAL2012 in #Uruguay

W3C Brazil followed suit (@w3cbrasil):

@w3cbrasil App brasileiro no @DAL hackathon latino americano  @w3cbrasil #dadosabertos

@w3cbrasil Brazilian App @DAL Latin American hackathon  @w3cbrasil #dadosabertos

The Bolivian Apps can be found on the Developing Latin America website, where you can also find all the other apps. A recount of tweets, photos and anecdotes from the second day of #dal2012 can be found in Storify.

Now all that is left is to wait a few more days before finding out the regional winners. In the meantime, the teams that have passed this stage find themselves making improvements to their apps in order to be best prepared for competing with the rest of the winners. We will continue to update!

Other related posts:

Developing Latin America 2012
What exactly is a hackathon and what is open data?
Hackathones in droves: How is a hackathon organised?
Developing Latin America Draws Near!
Day 1 of Developing Latin America 2012
What is web mapping? [es]
Brasil: Rio de Janeiro Demands Better Sanitation
Crowdmapping Water Contamination in Peruvian Indigenous Communities

December 05 2012

The Winning Applications from Latin America's Biggest Hackathon

This post was originally published in the engine room

Desarrollando America Latina [es], a kind of World Cup for hackers in Latin America, took place this weekend in 8 countries in South and Central America. When technologists get in the room with open data and a mandate to address social problems, a lot can happen. Here are some of the winning ideas.

1. Codeando Mexico [es]: Why should hackathons be time bound? Codeando Mexico would be an online space for a hackathon that is always happening.  The platform would provide an opportunity for people working on social issues to post ideas for things they would like to do with open data, and create entry points to get technologists involved. This idea is really only 10% about code and 90% about community building, but Mexico would be a great place to pilot the concept.  (Mexico)

2. AlertaCiudad [es]: Allows people to find information about where they are in their city taken such as the closest hospital, the owner of a car (based on license plate), the cheapest medical services, the closest fire and police stations.  It's 100% made for SMS, and the code (the hacker used Python on a Linux server to create an SMS Gateway) is available now for anyone interested. (Peru)

Desarrollando América Latina

Desarrollando América Latina

3. Ciclas Rutas [es]: An application for cyclists to share their favorite routes so that the municipality can then react accordingly by replicating the characteristics that people like so much when it is designing other bicycle routes. (Chile)

4. FondoxDiabetes [es]: Aims to spotlight the problem of sugary beverages and diabetes in Mexico by creating a geo-referenced voting mechanism for people to express their opinion the prospect of a 20% tax [es] on such beverages. (Mexico)

5. Mapa de Asistencia a la Víctima [es] (Victim Assistance Map): Makes it easier for Argentinians to find community centers providing legal aid and other kinds of support for victims of politically motivated false accusations. (Argentina)

6. LimaiO [es]: This is a piece of hardware which collects information about its surrounding environment like air quality and temperature and uses its own internet connection to send this information out to citizens. It might sound simple (which it is) but the creators decided that someone needed to start collecting information about changes in the environment after growing sick of seeing the same traffic light display the words “without data” instead of the information is was put there to display. (Peru)

7. Grandes Problemas, Pequeñas Acciones [es] (Big Problems, Small Actions): Because statistics about pressing, global problems often overwhelm people, this team opted to create a toolkit for people to get together and start small, community initiatives and then see how these community-driven initiatives that are related to pressing global problems like climate change. (Argentina)

8. Seu Lixo [pt]: Visualizes the amount of trash produced daily in Brazil, to show the impact of major cities on the country's garbage production. (Brazil)

9. Friendly Food [es]: A smartphone tool allowing people to do a rapid evaluation of food when they are in the aisles of their local super market so that they can choose what is healthiest. (Chile)

10. InfoAgua [es]: An application for people to learn more about the relationship between population growth and water quality by district. (Mexico)

There were 14 other winners – 3 for each country – and a few runners up, including:

Seg3 [es] from the Chileans, which makes it easier for people to track their health as they get older and supports activities to avoid physical and mental deterioration.

Escuadrón Salud [es] from the Costa Rican team, which raises awareness and provides information on public health epidemics and provides advice on how to avoid contracting prevalent diseases.

EducaYa! [es], an online learning platform for students in Peru which takes existing resources [es] from the Ministry of Education and makes them more user friendly. The only reason we didn’t include the latter in the top ten was because the low internet connectivity in most of Peru makes an online learning platform seem like a stretch.

If you want to learn more about who won in Uruguay, talk to DATA (@DataUY) [es]. If you’re interested in applications from Bolivia, check out their winning entry: a crime map called SeguriMapas [es].

The winning teams will now have one week to continue developing their ideas before they head to the regionals. Three teams will win this contest, and they will get personalized mentorship from Movistar’s innovation lab [es].

December 03 2012

Brazilian Immigration Policy Faces New Challenges

Whereas the subject has long been debated in Europe and the USA, the issue of immigration has only recently gained prominence in Brazil. Known until recently as a country of emigrants, this new reality which the country has been experiencing in recent years poses a series of new challenges, with clear impacts on the economy, foreign policy and the law, for which both Brazilian society and government must urgently prepare themselves if predictions of Brazil's rise on the global scene become reality.

The Brazil of immigrants and emigrants
Like all the European ex-colonies in America, Brazil has received various waves of immigration from many parts of the world. The first began with the Portuguese occupation of Brazilian territory in the XIV century, followed by the importation of slave workers from Africa and after the abolition of slavery in 1888, the substitution of the African workforce with European immigrants. Since then, Brazilian society has changed radically as a result of these immigration flows, giving each state its own ethnic and cultural characteristics.

Celebration of Carnaval in Vila Maria, São Paulo, 2008. Photo by Leo Caobelli on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Vila Maria, São Paulo, 2008. Photo by Leo Caobelli on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

As for the first Brazilian emigrants, they initially migrated to neighbouring countries, but it did not take long for them to reach the USA, Europe and Japan. Amongst the reasons for leaving the country were the poor prospects for social ascension, unemployment and rampant inflation which affected Brazil in the 1980s. At the same time, there was the existence of established social networks which facilitated the settlement of these emigrants in countries such as Japan (where the dekasegis settled) and Portugal. The number of Brazilians seeking better living conditions abroad has increased exponentially since that time and today they total around 3 million, including both regular and irregular migrants.

The current situation: the return of Brazilians
With the current economic crisis, many of these emigrants are now returning to Brazil, and particularly to the states of São Paulo, Paraná and Minas Gerais. The blog Geo-Conceição [pt] presents some interesting statistics in relation to these immigrants:

(…) 65% dos imigrantes são, na verdade, brasileiros que retornaram ao país. São os chamados “imigrantes internacionais de retorno”. Em 2000, os brasileiros que voltavam para casa representavam 61% do total de imigrantes.
O maior número de brasileiros retorna principalmente dos Estados Unidos, Japão, Portugal, Espanha, Paraguai e Bolívia. Alguns dados sobre a imigração de retorno chamam atenção, como o fato de 84,2% dos imigrantes dos Estados Unidos serem de brasileiros voltando ao país. No caso do Japão, esse percentual chega a 89,1% e no de Portugal, a 77%.

(…) 65% of immigrants are, in reality, Brazilians returning to the country. They are the so-called “international return immigrants”. In 2000, Brazilians returning home represented 61% of the total immigrant population.
The majority of Brazilians return primarily from the United States, Japan, Portugal, Spain, Paraguay and Bolivia. Some of the data on return migration is surprising, such as the fact that 84.2% of immigrants from the United States are Brazilians returning to the country. In the case of Japan, this proportion reaches 89.1% and where Portugal is concerned, 77%.

Some sectors of Brazilian society are attentive to this return movement. For example, the Brazilian Support Service for Micro and Small Businesses (SEBRAE) has said that it has signed an agreement [pt] with the MRE (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to establish a partnership to assist Brazilians who are returning to the country:

O Sebrae em Minas Gerais e o Itamaraty [MRE] firmaram nesta sexta-feira (23) uma parceria de auxílio a brasileiros que vivem no exterior e pretendam abrir e gerir um negócio próprio quando retornarem ao Brasil. Com a atual crise econômica nos Estados Unidos e em países da Europa, a expectativa é de que aproximadamente 500 mil dos cerca de 3 milhões de emigrantes retornem ao país dispostos a tocarem seus próprios empreendimentos.

The SEBRAE in Minas Gerais and the Itamaraty (MRE) signed this Friday (23rd) a partnership to offer support to Brazilians who live abroad and intend to open and run their own business when they return to Brazil. With the current economic crisis in the United States and in European countries, the expectation is that approximately 500,000 of the around 3 million emigrants will return to the country ready to start up their own enterprises.

In a recent declaration [pt], minister Moreira Franco of the Secretariat of Strategic Affairs of the Presidency of the Republic (SAE), stated that laws on immigration are anachronistic and hinder the absorption of skilled workers who lack opportunities in their countries of origin.

É claro, conforme destacou Moreira Franco, que a educação é a melhor ferramenta para o País alcançar o desenvolvimento necessário. Mas esse é um caminho mais demorado. Por isso, ele salientou a importância de o Brasil aproveitar este momento de grande oferta no cenário internacional.

It is clear, as Moreira Franco emphasised, that education is the best tool in order for the country to reach the required level of development. But this is a slower path. That is why he stressed how important it is for Brazil to make the most of this moment of strong supply [of skilled workers] on the international scene.

The minister's statement is paradoxical, as one of the long-standing demands of the lower classes in Brazilian society has been precisely better access to education. Consistently present among these demands has been the granting of scholarships to students from poor backgrounds, the valorisation of the teaching profession through clear career plans as well as decent pay and cheaper books.

The list is long, and taken together with what has been said previously, shows the extent to which Brazil has wasted its own population. The minister considers that urgent alterations of the laws which govern work visas for foreigners and special programmes for their integration in a new country - including learning the Portuguese language - would not be necessary if a plan was formulated to facilitate foreigners' return while simultaneously increasing investment in education for young people in Brazil.

Celebration of Oktoberfest by the German community in Rio Grande do Sul. Photo by Pedro Rocha on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Celebration of Oktoberfest by the German community in Rio Grande do Sul. Photo by Pedro Rocha on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By entering into this race for foreign brains, Brazil comes to compete with countries like Australia and Canada, especially Quebec [fr], which have programmes designed to attract highly-skilled immigrants to cover the deficit caused by their ageing populations. Their case is quite different to that of Brazil, which still has a relatively young and numerous population of around 200 million, and without large demographic gaps as in these countries, besides the 3 million emigrants living abroad who wish to return to their country.

Professor of International Relations Oliver Stuenkel of the Fundação Getúlio Vargas ponders [pt] what scenario the future will bring:

O número crescente de pessoas do exterior em busca de emprego mudará a forma como o Brasil se relaciona com estrangeiros. Visitantes do exterior são bem quistos no Brasil, pois são poucos, ricos e não costumam ficar por muito tempo. No futuro, os imigrantes virão em maiores números, serão relativamente pobres, e terão a intenção de se instalar no Brasil. […] Embora possa levar décadas para que imigração ao Brasil chegue às proporções conhecidas na Europa, resta a ver quão bem o Brasil lidaria com uma nova onda de imigração, e os desafios que a acompanham.

The rising number of people from abroad looking for work will change the way in which Brazil relates to foreigners. Visitors from abroad are well-loved in Brazil, as they are few in number, rich and do not usually stay for long. In the future, immigrants will come in greater numbers, they will be relatively poor, and they will intend to settle in Brazil. […] Although it may take several decades for immigration to Brazil to reach levels seen in Europe, it remains to be seen how well Brazil will manage a new wave of immigration, and the accompanying challenges.

One possible scenario is that Brazil will replicate the same erroneous policies which prompted those 3 million Brazilians to emigrate: concentrating income in the hands of sections of society which are uncommitted to social justice. Another scenario is that the country will have learnt the lesson of the “years of lead” [the most repressive period of the military dictatorship in Brazil, from 1968 to 1974] and will pay attention to the debt which it owes both to those Brazilians who have emigrated and to those who remain in Brazil, above all with regards to access to education, and consequently, the right to decent work.

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