Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Uruguay

Tidbits and notes posted on FB and Twitter. Part 171

Note: I take notes of books I read and comment on events and edit sentences that fit my style. I pa attention to researched documentaries and serious links I receive. The page is long and growing like crazy, and the sections I post contains a month-old events that are worth refreshing your memory.

At a packed dinner held by the Global Business Blockchain Council, few hands went up when the moderator asked how many people worked in crypto, 5 years ago. That could make it the richest room at Davos this week; bitcoin is up more than 200,000% since then. (Since then, bitcoin is down in value)

Tammy DuckworthA US senator, will become the first sitting senator in history to give birth later this year. The Illinois Democrat, a double amputee, was a helicopter pilot in the Iraq War and has slammed Trump for being a “5-deferment draft dodger.”

“I loved justice and hated iniquity. Therefore I die in exile”

Uruguay was best country to live in recently, until the Israelis took over the illegal activities in a society soft on diversity.

Never mind the earthquakes: New Zealand is still best country for social progress

“After climbing a great hill, you only finds that there are many more hills to climb – Nelson Mandela.”

WordPress.com yearly review: Comments closed? What of individual yearly Monkey Stats? Too big to care for the early users?

Will the issue of Palestine/Palestinians be brought up in Davos? Especially the economical hardship that Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza are suffering from? In the refugee camps of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan?

About time to consider the Palestinians as people on this map of rich people abusing of the humiliation and indignities of apartheid systems

We are finally engaged in a slow cruising speed in our daily life (elder mother and eldest son): I’m adapting to her doing whatever she want to do and taking care of her suffering at the end. And her is trying to admit that I should be doing whatever I want to do. In moderation.

The door is constantly open. Yet, no one come in to tell her hello. Mostly, they come and leave without us noticing. All she is asking is a couple of minutes a day is for the visitors to listen to her babbling.

Turkey of Erdogan incursion into Syria Kurdish territory of Afrin is claimed to secure a “buffer zone” from terrorist activities. Fact is, unintentionally, Syria is currently enjoying a buffer zone from Turkish aggression and infiltration of terrorist factions from Turkey. 

The Syrian army has two main tasks up north its frontier with Turkey in the coming year: 1) controlling the province of Edleb and 2) closing the gap between the Kurdish provinces of Afrin and Kameshly to terrorist factions infiltrated by Turkey.

Turkey is controlling and supporting 8,000 terrorists that came from Chechnya, Dagestan, Turkmenistan and China Ouigour. 

Russia knows that the current military incursion of Turkey into Afrin province will be short lived, even if it enters and occupies this Kurdish/Syrian canton. This incursion is to give Turkey more time to find a pragmatic alternative to her failed policy toward the political settlement in Syria.

 

Small nations, renewable giants

‘What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business

Uruguay gets 94.5% of its electricity from renewables. In addition to old hydropower plants, a hefty investment in wind, biomass and solar in recent years has raised the share of these sources in the total energy mix to 55%, compared with a global average of 12%, and about 20% in Europe.

Costa Rica went a record 94 consecutive days earlier this year without using fossil fuel for electricity, thanks to a mix of about 78% hydropower, 12% geothermal and 10% wind. The government has set a target of 100% renewable energy by 2021. But transport remains dirty.

Iceland has the advantage of being a nation of volcanoes, which has allowed it to tap geothermal sources of 85% of its heating and – with the assistance of hydropower – 100% of its electricity. This has made it the world’s largest green energy producer per capita.

Paraguay has one huge hydropower dam at Itaipu, which supplies 90% of the country’s electricity.

Lesotho gets 100% of its electricity from a cascade of dams that have enough spare capacity to export power to South Africa.

Bhutan’s abundant hydropower resources generate a surplus of electricity that accounts for more than 40% of the country’s export earnings. But over-reliance on one source can be a problem. In the dry season, it has to import power from India.

As the world gathers in Paris for the daunting task of switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy, one small country on the other side of the Atlantic is making that transition look childishly simple and affordable.

In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs, according to the national director of energy, Ramón Méndez .

In fact, he says that now that renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s electricity, prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts.

It was a very different story just 15 years ago.

Back at the turn of the century oil accounted for 27% of Uruguay’s imports and a new pipeline was just about to begin supplying gas from Argentina.

Now the biggest item on import balance sheet is wind turbines, which fill the country’s ports on their way to installation.

Biomass and solar power have also been ramped up. Adding to existing hydropower, this means that renewables now account for 55% of the country’s overall energy mix (including transport fuel) compared with a global average share of 12%.

Despite its relatively small population of just 3.4 million, Uruguay has earned a remarkable amount of global kudos in recent years.

1. It enacted groundbreaking marijuana legalisation,

2.  pioneered stringent tobacco control, and

3. introduced some of the most liberal policies in Latin America on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Now, it is being recognised for progress on decarbonising its economy. It has been praised by the World Bank and the Economic commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the WWF last year named Uruguay among its “Green Energy Leaders”, proclaiming: “The country is defining global trends in renewable energy investment.”

Cementing that reputation, Méndez – who also heads climate policy – has gone to this week’s UN talks with one of the world’s most ambitious national pledges: an 88% cut in carbon emissions by 2017 compared with the average for 2009-13.

There are no technological miracles involved, nuclear power is entirely absent from the mix, and no new hydroelectric power has been added for more than two decades.

Instead, he says, the key to success is rather dull but encouragingly replicable: clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and private sector.

As a result, energy investment – mostly for renewables, but also liquid gas – in Uruguay over the past five years has surged to $7bn, or 15% of the country’s annual GDP.

That is 5 times the average in Latin America and three times the global share recommended by climate economist Nicholas Stern.

“What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business,” Méndez says. “The construction and maintenance costs are low, so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is a very attractive.”

The effects are apparent on Route 5 from Montevideo to the north.

In less than 200 miles, you pass three agro-industrial plants running on biofuel and three windfarms . The biggest of them is the 115MW Peralta plant built and run by the German company, Enercon.

Its huge turbines – each 108 metres tall – tower over grasslands full of cattle and rhea birds .

Along with reliable wind – at an average of about 8mph – the main attraction for foreign investors like Enercon is a fixed price for 20 years that is guaranteed by the state utility.

Because maintenance costs are low (just 10 staff) and stable, this guarantees a profit.

As a result, foreign firms are lining up to secure windfarm contracts. The competition is pushing down bids, cutting electricity generating costs by more than 30% over the past three years.

Christian Schaefer, supervising technician at Enercon said his company was hoping to expand and another German company Nordex is already building an even bigger plant further north along route five.

Trucks carrying turbines, towers and blades are now a common sight on the country’s roads.

Compared to most other small countries with high proportions of renewables, the mix is diverse.

While Paraguay, Bhutan and Lesotho rely almost solely on hydro and Iceland on geothermal, Uruguay has a spread that makes it more resilient to changes in the climate.

Wind-farms such as Peralta now feed into hydro power plants so that dams can maintain their reservoirs longer after rainy seasons.

According to Méndez, this has reduced vulnerability to drought by 70% – no small benefit considering a dry year used to cost the country nearly 2% of GDP.

This is not the only benefit for the economy. “For three years we haven’t imported a single kilowatt hour,” Méndez says. “We used to be reliant on electricity imports from Argentina, but now we export to them. Last summer, we sold a third of our power generation to them.”

There is still a lot to do. The transport sector still depends on oil (which accounts for 45% of the total energy mix). But industry – mostly agricultural processing – is now powered predominantly by biomass cogeneration plants.

Méndez attributed Uruguay’s success to three key factors:

1. credibility (a stable democracy that has never defaulted on its debts so it is attractive for long-term investments);

2. helpful natural conditions (good wind, decent solar radiation and lots of biomass from agriculture); and

3. strong public companies (which are a reliable partner for private firms and can work with the state to create an attractive operating environment).

While not every country in the world can replicate this model, he said Uruguay had proved that renewables can reduce generation costs, can meet well over 90% of electricity demand without the back-up of coal or nuclear power plants, and the public and private sectors can work together effectively in this field.

https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/r20151117/r20110914/abg.js//

 

 

The tobacco giant Philip Morris is suing Uruguay for having some of the best anti-smoking laws in the world, and there’s a good chance it could win, unless we step in.

It’s a scary reality: a single company, with a product that kills, could overturn laws that protect our  health. This court has already come under fire for not listening to the public in similar lawsuits.

Let’s ensure they listen now: if we launch a giant call and work with a world class legal team to carry our voices into the courtroom, the judges won’t be able to turn a blind eye.

Let’s tell the court that this doesn’t just affect Uruguay — if Big Tobacco gets their way, it opens the door for challenges everywhere — at least 4 other countries are in the legal crosshairs, and many more have anti-smoking laws at risk.

We have to move fast — the court is already hearing arguments. Click to protect our public health and our democracies from corporate greed — each of our names will be submitted to the court:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/uruguay_vs_big_tobacco_rb/?bFAfecb&v=56987

Uruguay requires 80% of the cigarette package to be covered with medical warnings and graphic images. Smoking had reached crisis levels, killing around 7 Uruguayans each day, but since this law was put in place smoking has decreased every year! Now tobacco giant Philip Morris is arguing that the warning labels leave no space for its trademarks.

It’s all part of a global Philip Morris strategy to sue and intimidate countries. The company already slapped an expensive lawsuit on Australia — and if it wins against Uruguay, it could run cases against more than a hundred other countries including France, Norway, New Zealand, and Finland who are all considering new life-saving legislation.

Experts say Philip Morris has a good chance of winning because it’s using a closed door international tribunal that ruled for corporations two-thirds of the time last year. And their rulings are binding, even though many of the judges are private citizens with corporate ties instead of impartial legal experts. It’s up to us to force them to consider the devastating effect their ruling could have on health across the world.

Uruguay has its own legal team, but they’re rightly focused on arguing their individual defence. We can submit a unique legal argument about how this ruling would set a precedent for every country with smoking laws and a similar trade agreement. And we can show the court that public opinion is behind them if they rule in favour of Uruguay and health protection everywhere.

When big corporations launch deadly attacks on our public good, our community has jumped into action — from Monsanto to H&M, we’ve made sure that profits don’t come before people. This is our chance to do it again, for all of us. 

Emma, Maria Paz, Katie, Mais, Alice, Ricken, Risalat and the whole Avaaz team

MORE INFORMATION

Uruguay sued by cigarette makers over anti-smoking laws (BBC)
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-30708063

Philip Morris Sues Uruguay Over Graphic Cigarette Packaging (NPR)
http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/09/15/345540221/philip-morris-sues-uruguay-over-graphic-cigarette-packaging

Big Tobacco puts countries on trial as concerns over TTIP deals mount (The Independent)
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/big-tobacco-puts-countries-on-trial-as-concerns-over-ttip-deals-mount-9807478.html

The Secret Trade Courts (New York Times)
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/27/opinion/27mon3.html?_r=1&

Recent Trends in IIAs and ISDS (UN Conference on Trade and Development)
http://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/webdiaepcb2015d1_en.pdf

The arbitration game (The Economist)
http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21623756-governments-are-souring-treaties-protect-foreign-investors-arbitration

 

 

They passed away: Uruguay writer Eduardo Galeano and Gunter Grass (Nobel prize for literature in 2009

Uruguayan writer and journalist Eduardo Galeano, author of “Las venas abiertas de América Latina”, among other masterpieces, died today, aged 74, in Montevideo, where he lived.

His best-known works are “Las venas abiertas de América Latina” (Open Veins of Latin America, 1971) and “Memoria del fuego” (Memory of Fire Trilogy, 1982–86), which have both been translated into 20 languages and transcend orthodox genres, combining journalism, political analysis, and history.

The author himself has proclaimed his obsession as a writer saying, “I’m a writer obsessed with remembering, with remembering the past of America and above all that of Latin America, intimate land condemned to amnesia.”

 posted in July 23, 2013:

Most mornings it’s the same. At the breakfast table Uruguayan-born author, Eduardo Galeano, 72, and his wife, Helena Villagra, discuss their dreams from the night before.

“Mine are always stupid,” says Galeano. “Usually I don’t remember them and when I do, they are about silly things like missing planes and bureaucratic troubles. But my wife has these beautiful dreams.”

“There is a tradition that sees journalism as the dark side of literature, with book writing at its zenith,” he told the Spanish newspaper El Pais recently.

“I don’t agree. I think that all written work constitutes literature, even graffiti. I have been writing books for many years now, but I trained as a journalist, and the stamp is still on me. I am grateful to journalism for waking me up to the realities of the world.”

Those realities appear bleak.

“This world is not democratic at all,” he says. “The most powerful institutions, the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank, belong to three or four countries. The others are watching. The world is organised by the war economy and the war culture.”

And yet there is nothing in either Galeano’s work or his demeanour that smacks of despair or even melancholy.

While in Spain during the youth uprisings of the indignados two years ago, he met some young protesters at Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. Galeano took heart from the demonstrations.

“These were young people who believed in what they were doing,” he said. “It’s not easy to find that in political fields. I’m really grateful for them.”

One of them asked him how long he thought their struggle could continue. “Don’t worry,” Galeano replied. “It’s like making love. It’s infinite while it’s alive. It doesn’t matter if it lasts for one minute. Because in the moment it is happening, one minute can feel like more than one year.”

Galeano talks like this a lot – not in riddles but enigmatically and playfully, using time as his foil.

When I ask him whether he is optimistic about the state of the world, he says: “It depends on when you ask me during the day. From 8am until noon I am pessimistic. Then from 1pm until 4 I feel optimistic.” I met him in a hotel lobby in downtown Chicago at 5pm, sitting with a large glass of wine, looking quite happy.

His world view is not complicated – military and economic interests are destroying the world, amassing increasing power in the hands of the wealthy and crushing the poor.

Given the broad historical sweep of his work, examples from the 15th century and beyond are not uncommon.

He understands the present situation not as a new development, but a continuum on a planet permanently plagued by conquest and resistance. “History never really says goodbye,” he says. “History says, see you later.”

He is anything but simplistic.

A strident critic of Obama’s foreign policy who lived in exile from Uruguay for over a decade during the 70s and 80s, he nonetheless enjoyed the symbolic resonance of Obama’s election with few illusions.

“I was very happy when he was elected, because this is a country with a fresh tradition of racism.”

He tells the story of how the Pentagon in 1942 ordered that no black people’s blood be used for transfusions for whites. “In history that is nothing. 70 years is like a minute. So in such a country Obama’s victory was worth celebrating.”

All of these qualities – the enigmatic, the playful, the historical and the realist – blend in his latest book, Children of the Days, in which he crafts a historical vignette for each day of the year. (That’s exactly what Grass did for each year in the 20thcentury)

The aim is to reveal moments from the past while contextualising them in the present, weaving in and out of centuries to illustrate the continuities.

What he achieves is a kind of epigrammatic excavation, uprooting stories that have been mislaid or misappropriated, and presenting them in their full glory, horror or absurdity.

His entry for 1 July, for example, is entitled: One Terrorist Fewer. It reads simply.

“In the year 2008, the government of the United States decided to erase Nelson Mandela’s name from its list of dangerous terrorists. The most revered African in the world had featured on that sinister roll for 60 years.” He named 12 October Discovery, and starts with the line: “In 1492 the natives discovered they were Indians, they discovered they lived in America.”

Meanwhile 10 December is called Blessed War and is dedicated to Obama’s receipt of the Nobel prize, when Obama said there are “times when nations will find the use of force not only necessary, but morally justified.”

Galeano writes: “Four and a half centuries before, when the Nobel prize did not exist and evil resided in countries not with oil but with gold and silver, Spanish jurist Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda also defended war as ‘not only necessary but morally justified’.”

And so he flits from past to present and back again, making connections with a wry and scathing wit.

His desire is to refurbish what he calls the “human rainbow. It is much more beautiful than the rainbow in the sky,” he insists. “But our militarism, machismo, racism all blinds us to it. There are so many ways of becoming blind. We are blind to small things and small people.”

And the most likely route to becoming blind, he believes, is not losing our sight but our memory.

My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia. I wrote to recover the memory of the human rainbow, which is in danger of being mutilated.”

By way of example he cites Robert Carter III – of whom I had not heard – who was the only one of the US’s founding fathers to free his slaves. “For having committed this unforgivable sin he was condemned to historical oblivion.”

Who, I ask, is responsible for this forgetfulness? “It’s not a person,” he explains. “It’s a system of power that is always deciding in the name of humanity who deserves to be remembered and who deserves to be forgotten … We are much more than we are told. We are much more beautiful.”

Note 1: A post I published on Galeano.

https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/voices-of-the-time-in-very-short-stories-by-eduardo-galeano/

Andrew Bossone shared this link on FB

To quote Oscar Guardiola-Rivera: veins are still open

 What’s your position on legalizing smoking and planting marijuana?

Is there a referendum to take place in your state for legalizing marijuana consumption?

Most probably, the opposing group will show ads of a 12 year-old smoking a joint. The TV programs will portray potheads, clandestine growers and dealers.

The medical aspects will be highlighted with discussions and debates.

Does marijuana affect driving? Like using smart phone while driving? Or being under the influence of alcohol?

Suppose a car accident takes place and the police discover some marijuana in your glove compartment? Even if the accident is none of your fault, this salient issue at this particular period becomes the focus of attention.

“Marijuana kills yet another motorist” could be the caption on a few dailies.

Though the statistical relationship between smoking marijuana and car accidents is almost nil, possessing illegal marijuana becomes the prominent feature, a stand-out attribute.

The same salient effect is attached to the rare women who become CEO in major corporations.

Although no ethnic group is responsible for a disproportionate number of bank robbery, if the police catch Nigerians, Somalians, Porto Ricans… red handed, then the right wing propaganda will have a field day and they want to stop immigration of colored people or Africans or Moslem people…

The same salient effect with rape cases.

Mostly, salient effect is predominant in forecasting: sensational news get the upper hand over the long-term effect or growth, and supersede rational thinking processes.

Slow-to-develop and hidden factors are neglected.

No need to be blinded by irregularities each time.

Focus on the trend and statistical significant facts.

So far, in all Sates and nations were consumption of marijuana was legalized smoking dropped, crimes generated from both gangs and police officers reprisals have dropped… Cost dropped and rendered less attractive to traffic of this drug.

Uruguay legalized planting of marijuana and the crops dropped in quantity. And legalized gay marriages: Have no statistics yet if gay relationship dropped.

Bolivia legalized planting coca leaves and the production dropped. It is in the culture of the indigenous Bolivians to chew on the leaves for endurance sake. Like the qat in Yemen?

The less expensive the product and the lesser its emotional value.

This is the case of current drop of oil prices. It has nothing to do with this crappy equation of demand and supply.

Supply in crude oil is huge and demand is huge: The superpowers have exercised undue influence on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates to continue high output of oil in order for the western superpowers, which accumulated most of the capital, to replenish their depleted reserves under the illusion of potential world conflagration.

The decrease in oil prices is excellent news for the developing countries who have refineries: The deficit will shrink a bit. No refineries? the cost of gas and oil will never drop for the developing countries.

If the price of oil stays low for an extended period, the strategic psychological effect will kick in: Since oil is cheap then its effective value has been lowered emotionally to the common people.

The oil producing countries are shooting themselves in the foot by giving the impression that oil has lost in importance and value.

At least, if the oil producing lower their output for the sake of future generation: Oil is the most important raw material for chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

The same process is underway after Obama’s “blood mineral” import prohibition. All rebel movements in the Congo and in Africa rely on exporting raw minerals to sustain their movements.

You might think that this move is to make it harder on the Chinese companies to import from Africa. Wrong. The Chinese use fictitious companies (license produced within 2 days in due forms in Hong Kong) to import blood mineral products.

As it dawn on the rebels that it make sense to lower the prices because of the difficulty for them to export, very soon most raw materials in Africa will drop in prices and the capitalist nations will replenish their depleting reserves.

Uruguay in Latin America: Voted the Best country this year

How many Reasons do you You Need To Move To Uruguay?

Looking for a new adventure? Maybe you should head down south.

, BuzzFeed Staff, posted this December 10, 2013

1. They have the BEST President ever.

They have the BEST President ever.

Andres Stapff / Reuters

This is Jose Mujica, better known as Pepe.

He’s considered the ‘poorest President’ because he donates 90 percent of his salary to those in need.

Here’s Uruguay, right next to Argentina and Brazil.

Here's Uruguay, right next to Argentina and Brazil.
gibgalich/gibgalich

Home to 3.3 million awesome Uruguayans.

He's considered the 'poorest President' because he donates 90 percent of his salary to those in need.

Handout / Reuters

He even drives his own car, an old light blue Volkswagen Beetle.

He and his wife are super chill.

He and his wife are super chill.

Oscar Cassini / Via fusion.net

And even pose to passersby during their vacations.

His speeches are always pure perfection. youtube.com

To live you need freedom, and to have freedom you need time.

No, really, he’s the coolest President.

No, really, he's the coolest President.

Handout / Reuters

Here he is being all happy with a guitar signed by Aerosmith.

2. It was once dubbed “the Switzerland of America,” mainly for its banking stability.

It was once dubbed "the Switzerland of America," mainly for its banking stability.

Vepar5/Vepar5

So your savings will be safe!

3. Education is free and secular.

Education is free and secular.

4. Same sex marriage is legal – and celebrated.

Same sex marriage is legal - and celebrated.

5. So is marijuana legal

So is marijuana.

JeremyNathan/JeremyNathan

6. It is one of the VERY few countries in Latin America where abortion is legal.

It is one of the VERY few countries in Latin America where abortion is legal.

AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico

7. The opposition to the abortion law wanted a referendum but less than 10% of the population supported it so the law was maintained.

The opposition to the abortion law wanted a referendum but less than 10% of the population supported it so the law was maintainted.

AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico

8. Its beaches are one of the best kept secrets in South America.

Its beaches are one of the best kept secrets in South America.

fotoember/fotoember

Very very very nice beaches.

9. But there’s more to see than just sand…

Uruguay is one of the leading meat producers in the world, as that is its main industry.

But there's more to see than just sand... Uruguay is one of the leading meat producers in the world, as that is its main industry.

ToniFlap/ToniFlap

10. It’s estimated that there are 3.5 cows per every person in the country.

It's estimated that there are 3.5 cows per every person in the country.

Tobias Schwarz / Reuters / Reuters

Which means you can either have a bunch as pets or eat a lot of meat.

11. You will hardly ever be stuck in a traffic jam.

You will hardly ever be stuck in a traffic jam.

12. They have a replacement for coffee: It’s called mate and it will amp you up when you drink it.

They have a replacement for coffee: It's called mate and it will amp you up when you drink it.

13. There’s a little town called Cabo Polonio where there’s no electricity ON PURPOSE. Perfect place to get over your Instagram addiction, huh?

There's a little town called Cabo Polonio where there's no electricity ON PURPOSE. Perfect place to get over your Instagram addiction, huh?

joaowendel/joaowendel

14. But if you’re looking for less silence, Punta del Este is considered one of the best party cities in the world.

But if you're looking for less silence, Punta del Este is considered one of the best party cities in the world.

15. Their music will get you out of any chair. youtube.com

Hit play and test yourself.

16. And they definitely know how to party…

And they definitely know how to party...

17. They not only hosted the first World Cup but also won it. And they’re hoping to win again next year.

They not only hosted the first World Cup but also won it. And they're hoping to win again next year.

Pablo La Rosa / Reuters

They have so much confidence they’ll win that when they qualified they made fun of Brazil. youtube.com

Because why not?

18. It’s a fantastic place to buy cheap and beautiful antiques.

It's a fantastic place to buy cheap and beautiful antiques.

19. Uruguayan men are a very well kept secret. Just look at Forlan’s abs…

Uruguayan men are a very well kept secret. Just look at Forlan's abs...

Kevin Granja / Reuters

20. And so are Uruguayan women, like Natalia Oreiro.

And so are Uruguayan women, like Natalia Oreiro.

Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

21. But above all, they’re considered the nicest and warmest people in South America.

But above all, they're considered the nicest and warmest people in South America.

The Economist published this Dec. 21, 2013:

Country of the year: Uruguay in Latin America

HUMAN life isn’t all bad, but it sometimes feels that way.

Good news is no news: the headlines mostly tell of strife and bail-outs, failure and folly.

2013 has witnessed glory as well as calamity. When the time comes for year-end accounting, both the accomplishments and the cock-ups tend to be judged the offspring of lone egomaniacs or saints, rather than the joint efforts that characterise most human endeavour.

To redress the balance from the individual to the collective, and from gloom to cheer, The Economist has decided, for the first time, to nominate a country of the year.

But how to choose it?

Readers might expect our materialistic outlook to point us to simple measures of economic performance, but they can be misleading.

Focusing on GDP growth would lead us to opt for South Sudan, which will probably notch up a stonking 30% increase in 2013—more the consequence of a 55% drop the previous year, caused by the closure of its only oil pipeline as a result of its divorce from Sudan, than a reason for optimism about a troubled land.

Or we might choose a nation that has endured economic trials and lived to tell the tale. Ireland has come through its bail-out and cuts with exemplary fortitude and calm; Estonia has the lowest level of debt in the European Union. But we worry that this econometric method would confirm the worst caricatures of us as flint-hearted number-crunchers; and not every triumph shows up in a country’s balance of payments.

Another problem is whether to evaluate governments or their people.

In some cases their merits are inversely proportional: consider Ukraine, with its thuggish president, Viktor Yanukovych, and its plucky citizens, freezing for democracy in the streets of Kiev, even though 9 years ago they went to the trouble of having a revolution to keep the same man out of office.

Or remember Turkey, where tens of thousands protested against the creeping autocracy and Islamism of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister-cum-sultan. Alas, neither movement has yet been all that successful.

Advertisement?

Definitional questions creep in, too. One possible candidate, Somaliland, has kept both piracy and Islamic extremism at bay, yet on most reckonings it is not a country at all, rather a renegade province of Somalia—which has struggled to contain either.

As well as countries yet to be, we might celebrate one that could soon disintegrate: the United Kingdom, which hasn’t fared too badly, all things considered, since coming into being in 1707, but could fracture in 2014 should the Scots be foolhardy enough to vote for secession.

And the winner is?

When other publications conduct this sort of exercise, but for individuals, they generally reward impact rather than virtue. Thus they end up nominating the likes of Vladimir Putin, Ayatollah Khomeini or, in 1938, Adolf Hitler.

Adapting that realpolitic rationale, we might choose Bashar Assad’s Syria, from which millions of benighted refugees have now been scattered to freezing camps across the Levant.

If we were swayed by influence per head of population, we might plump for the Senkaku (or Diaoyu) islands, the clutch of barren rocks in the East China Sea that have periodically threatened to incite a third world war—though that might imply their independence, leading both China and Japan to invade us.

Alternatively, applying the Hippocratic principle to statecraft, we might suggest a country from which no reports of harm or excitement have emanated. Kiribati seems to have had a quiet year.

But the accomplishments that most deserve commendation, we think, are path-breaking reforms that do not merely improve a single nation but, if emulated, might benefit the world. Gay marriage is one such border-crossing policy, which has increased the global sum of human happiness at no financial cost.

Several countries have implemented it in 2013—including Uruguay, which also, uniquely, passed a law to legalise and regulate the production, sale and consumption of cannabis. This is a change so obviously sensible, squeezing out the crooks and allowing the authorities to concentrate on graver crimes, that no other country has made it.

If others followed suit, and other narcotics were included, the damage such drugs wreak on the world would be drastically reduced.

Better yet, the man at the top, President José Mujica, is admirably self-effacing.

With unusual frankness for a politician, he referred to the new law as an experiment. He lives in a humble cottage, drives himself to work in a Volkswagen Beetle and flies economy class.

Modest yet bold, liberal and fun-loving, Uruguay is our country of the year. ¡Felicitaciones!

From the print edition: Leaders


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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