A Chilean “beachhead” in landlocked Bolivia

Now this is interesting. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published a blog post on the case of Raúl Peñaranda, a Chilean-born reporter who has lived in Bolivia since he was a baby and whose book, Control Remoto, documents efforts by government authorities to control independent media outlets. These efforts include advertising boycotts, labor inspections, tax audits and the sale of newspapers and television stations to business owners sympathetic to the government of Evo Morales.

Earlier this year Bolivian Communications Minister Amanda Davila called a news conference to denounce Peñaranda, saying he represented a dangerous “beachhead” for Chilean interests in the country. Chile and Bolivia have diplomatic relations at the consular level, and the sea outlet lost during the War of the Pacific remains a major issue between the two countries.

But it appears that the real issue was Peñaranda’s book, which was due to appear a few days later. “The government was very upset with me and the only way they could try to discredit me was to say I was pro-Chilean,” he told CPJ.

To read more:


Earthquakes and borders

Now this is scary. Seismologists at the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado and the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam are predicting that northern Chile is due for another major earthquake, which will be much worse than the previous one.  Last April Chile suffered a magnitude 8.2 earthquake northwest of the port city of Iquique, killing six people and causing economic damage estimated at around $100 million. But this was only a prelude to something more serious, though scientists are unable to predict when this will take place.

This “seismic hot spot” is caused by the shifting of two tectonic plates: the oceanic Nazca Plate is moving under the Pacific Plate along the South American continent’s Pacific coast. According to Scientific American, “much of that fault is currently fully locked in position, building up stress.” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/big-earthquake-looms-for-chile/

This territory was once controlled by Peru and Bolivia, and won by Chile after the War of the Pacific (1879-1883). Why go to war over an earthquake-prone desert with a coast vulnerable to tsunamis?  Mineral wealth is one reason; the region contains some of Chile’s biggest mines. Bolivia has never recovered from the loss of its sea outlet, and this has been a bitterly contentious issue ever since. Patricio Navia, writing in the Buenos Aires Herald, has this good backgrounder on the dispute: http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/165203/unfriendly-terms.

And there are issues with Peru as well. The digital newspaper El Mostrador reports that Peruvian hackers managed to get into the Chilean air force’s computer network, extracting e mail correspondence with several U.S. and Israeli defense companies sent between February and May of last year. The newspaper quotes sources close to the Chilean air force as saying the e mail content is not a national security risk, while the hackers announced via Twitter that their actions were a “cybernetic revenge” for a similar attack by Chilean hackers five years ago. An investigation has been launched. http://www.elmostrador.cl/pais/2014/08/14/hackers-peruanos-vulneran-seguridad-de-la-fach-y-filtran-cientos-de-correos-electronicos-de-la-institucion/


Finally, a book review

Since its publication last May, my second book, The General’s Slow Retreat, http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520266803  has not drawn any interest from newspaper reviewers –until now.  And this review comes from Bolivia, by one of that nation’s most respected journalists, Harold Olmos, who has won prizes in his own country and worked for the Associated Press as bureau chief in Venezuela and Brazil.


He blogs at http://haroldolmos.wordpress.com/