Economy

Has The Pandemic Shelved Formal Office Clothing Forever?

Casual Friday? Or Casual Monday-through-Friday? In Argentina and elsewhere, confinement completely upended work routines — and may lead to the end of "dressing up" to go in the office.

BUENOS AIRES — A minority of workers in Argentina remains "entrenched" at home, avoiding the office to escape catching the coronavirus. The rest have traded their at-home armor of slippers and pyjamas for suits, skirts and heels as they head back to the office for at least three days a week.

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Teacher A Viral Hit In Argentina After Holding Student's Baby During Class

A high school history teacher has won hearts and minds after carrying a young mother's baby in class so she could do her work.

BRANDSEN, ARGENTINA — It was a small act of kindness: A schoolteacher in the Coronel Brandsen district outside of Buenos Aires held a baby in class so her teenage mother could study in peace. Federico Tenreyro said he offered to hold the infant while teaching in order to help dissuade his pupil, Ludmila Disante, from any thought of dropping out of school to raise a child.

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Case Of Abandoned Grandma In Argentina Raises Questions About Elder Care

Relatives of an 84-year-old said they left her at a clinic overnight after medics had refused to even look at a worsening leg infection. Who's responsibility is it?

It's a case in Argentina that has shined a light on the burdens of elderly care on the poor, and the question of who holds ultimate responsibility: the family or the state.

An 84-year-old woman suffering from dementia was left at a private clinic in San Juan, in western Argentina last Saturday, with a note asking the facility to take her in. The letter, written by her stepdaughter, read, "it pains me, but I can't take care of Ursulina," without help from the PAMI, an Argentine social services agency.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

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food / travel
Adriana Santagati

How Argentina's Soup Kitchen Cooks Serve Up Haute Cuisine

People like Aunt Eva, in the outskirts of Mendoza, Argentina dedicate countless hours to preparing food for the needy. They make use of whatever is at hand, and invent some remarkable dishes in the process.

BUENOS AIRES — Pretty much everyone has at least heard of goulash, the Hungarian meat stew served in cafés the world over. But who invented it? Impossible to say. What we do know is that it's a recipe born from necessity: the need, in this case, to slowly cook dried or lesser quality meat until tender.

Indeed, many famous dishes originated this way, from people having to make do with what they had. And who knows, perhaps 20 or 30 years from know we'll be tracking the origin of the corn flour pizza that María Angélica Parodi — Mary, as most people know her — prepares in her kitchen in Rosario, in central Argentina.

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Green Or Gone

Polluted Pink Lake In Argentina Has Now Turned Red

Locals in the coastal Argentine district of Trelew say a fish processing plant has turned a nearby lake into a cesspit that left its waters pink this past summer, and now the situation has grown darker.

CHUBUT — Back in July, Argentine authorities had told people in Trelew, in the coastal province of Chubut, not to worry — a local lake that had turned pink, likely by chemicals, would soon be fine again. But instead, it has now turned red — or a kind of red-to-purple violet — as the daily Jornada de Chubut reported.

And again, locals don't know why.

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CLARIN
Sergio Rubin

Argentina Plays Politics With Pope's Words On Property Rights

Some would like to paint the Argentine-born Pope Francis as a sympathizer of his native country's leftist government. But his 'socialist' declarations are in line with more than a century of Church doctrine.

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — Ever since Pope Leo XIII issued the Rerum novarum encyclical (1891), which christened the Roman Church's Social Doctrine, any time a pontiff attributes a social purpose to private property, the Catholic defenders of capitalism make their voices heard.

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CLARIN
Rafael Toriz*

Nothing Is More Latin American Than Not Wanting To Be One

Argentine President Fernández's suggestion that Argentines were more European than others from the region was a sorry bid to ingratiate himself with Europe — and so typically Latin American.

-OpEd-

BUENOS AIRES — The denial of reality, provoked by a range of neuroses, is a particularly acute malady in Argentina. It's as if facts were banished in this strange land and only their interpretations permitted. Even anachronistic and decadent interpretations are welcome, like those this week from President Alberto Fernández...

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CLARIN
Gabriela Samela

VR For HR: Virtual Reality As A Tangible Tool For Human Resources

Latin American firms are joining others around the world testing Virtual and Augmented Reality solutions in personnel recruitment and training.

BUENOS AIRES — The image of someone wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset immediately makes you think they're playing games. Yet immersive simulation is now being used to recreate a work environment where present or future employees can learn, practice and train for work.

While simulation technology is used more frequently for operations or the security sector, in Argentina some firms are using it to manage human resources: in selection processes and in staff inductions and training.

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CLARIN
Loris Zanatta

The Pandemic, And The Siren Song Of Demagoguery

Like the last century's world wars, the COVID-19 crisis is causing trauma on a global scale and opening the door to enticing but deeply dangerous political impulses.

-OpEd-

The pandemic is not a war, but like wars, it raises big questions. What caused it? How do we come out of it? How to avoid its recurrence? Diagnosis and answers are connected here.

The situation also gives rise to an old dilemma: Will it impose a closed, or an open society? Will we be seduced by dangerous visions of a tight-knit tribe to protect us from the menacing ocean? There is enough trauma for the recoil instinct to prevail.

When history becomes a hostile place, and life a dangerous exercise, people begin entertaining thoughts of sterilizing the first and protecting the second, by shutting themselves in a familiar place. Utopias have accompanied humanity since Plato's Republic. The Platonic state or the City of God is an oft-recurring fantasy of the world kept in check. That is the yearning of populism and its collectivizing urges: a homogeneous people and a closed society, behind a solid door.

Conflict is life, change is the norm and recurring trial-and-error, inevitable.

The closed society triumphed after World War I. Not in all places, but almost. Nationalism was one of its main causes, as many believed they would find safety in its torrid embrace. Cultural uniformity, economic autarchy, autocracy, a sense of belonging, and pride in one's identity all seemed like umbrellas against history's bluster.

Those who chose more cooperation, democracy and free trade were defeated: The open society, exposed to the winds of its time and its own unpredictable, unstable and conflictive nature, survived only where it was born — in Anglo-Saxon countries.

Yet coexistence did not work inside, or between, closed societies. Internally, calls for unanimity stifled liberties and fueled the desire to recover them. Internationally they provoked another war. Nationalists hardly love each other.

At the end of World War II, the open society prevailed, at least in the Western world. Frontiers expanded, and later brought down the walls of closed societies. Then followed an extraordinary period of economic growth, social mobility, political participation and international cooperation. There were also ideological conflicts, social confrontation, the end of empires, sexual revolution, etc.

Like it or not, open societies are like this: Conflict is life, change is the norm and recurring trial-and-error, inevitable. While this dark side kept alive a vague nostalgia for closed societies, in eastern Europe and Latin America, decades of oppression opened the doors to the open society. Now these same societies are facing their own, nostalgic backlash: It's cyclical.

Evidently neither model of society exists in its pure state and each includes ingredients of the other. Like a good recipe though, the trick is in the proportions.

Commemorating COVID deaths — Photo: Diego Radames/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

So, which type of society will emerge from the pandemic? Which is the most desirable? Is it better to take inspiration from the end of the First or of the Second World War? Some contend that dramatic social conditions and a sense of vulnerability have reached a point where the closed society seems destined to win. This is understandable. Everywhere, the apocalyptic party has the wind in its sails.

Nothing will be the same again, they claim (with scant historical sense). We must start all over. The apocalypse wants to be redeemed. It is impervious to the fact that evil exists in history. It always seeks scapegoats to blame, in spite of the dubious links it finds. And crises that encourage this mindset, be it the pandemic, global warming or local wars, are always out there.

The disaster party is quick to find its culprits: liberal globalization, plotting powers, greedy banks, corrupt politicians. And the solutions — a return to nature, native renaissance, worship "the people" and its purity. In other words, the closed society ...

The loftier the goal, the more horrors it justifies in the process.

It is not a sustainable narrative, though one may ask if it can provide at least a sensible, feasible solution. Like the thinker Karl Popper, I see it as a remedy worse than the ailment it would cure. The idea of eliminating evil by shutting out history and restoring the supposed purity of the past is a powerful illusion, but a dangerous one.

And the more powerful it is, the more dangerous it becomes. The loftier the goal, the more horrors it justifies in the process. What won't we do to "protect" ourselves?

That, after all, is what happened after World War I. The open society, with its modest pragmatism, isn't as seductive. It doesn't promise anything beyond its prerogatives, like identity, community and belonging. It rests on our responsibility, respects our freedom and gauges our civic culture.

All this may appear abstract but is, in fact, quite specific. The present vaccination campaigns finely illustrate the differences between open and closed societies. Those of the first are universal in character, and the latter, tribal. The more open the society, the more universal its vaccination criteria, and the more closed, the more discriminatory they become.

Open societies have ordered vaccinations beginning with those most at risk. On the other side, there has been jostling by sectors: firms, lawyers, teachers, professionals or trade unions. Not to mention cronies. It's best to tie ourselves to the mast like Ulysses and not succumb to the closed society's siren song. It is enticing, but deadly.

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CLARIN
Luis Galeazzi

The Education Revolution Began Before The Pandemic

Technology is turning education into a data-driven, personalized learning process. It's up to humans to be sure it serves the needs of students, and societies.

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — One of the most striking effects of this time of social isolation is the way we have turned to digital tools to adapt our behaviors and routines. And in no area of society is this more evident than the experience of studying and learning online.

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CLARIN
Rúben Perina

China And Russia, Or The West? Latin America Must Choose A Side

The region's democratic states must close ranks and work with the United States to protect the rule of law at home and abroad against 'an authoritarian onslaught,' Rubén M. Perina* writes in Clarín.

-OpEd-

The international order features a growing rivalry between the interests and values of the liberal democratic world, and those of an emerging, autocratic world. The first is represented by powers like the United States of America, the European Union (led by France and Germany), Australia, Great Britain, India, Israel, Japan, South Africa and other, lesser powers.

The second bloc of emerging, autocratic if not dictatorial and revisionist powers, consists of states like China, with its starkly rising economic, military and technological power and Russia, with lesser economic capabilities but considerable military and technological reach.

This rivalry is perhaps more specifically evident in the relationship between the U.S. and China, after recent evolutions. Under U.S. leadership, the liberal-democratic world briefly enjoyed, starting in 1989 as the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union began to collapse, a period of hegemony that has gradually waned as the U.S. entered into relative decline. It remains, nevertheless, the premier world power.

Meanwhile, China's dizzying rise to economic preeminence is paving the way for a bipolar rivalry brimming with conflict possibilities. Although for now, at least, it is not a "to the death" fight or a "zero sum game" like the Cold War. Today, the two sides will compete intensely over values and interests, and cooperate in global strategic issues of mutual interest.

As Latin America seeks to adapt to this alignment while preserving its autonomy, experts have proposed approaches variously termed "equidistant diplomacy," "selective collaboration," "strategic autonomy," "active neutrality" or "peripheral realism."

The basic idea to bear in mind, however, is that Latin America belongs to the liberal-democratic world by virtue of history, geography and political culture. That, then, makes it incumbent on certain regional heavyweights to end their "strategic flirting" or fake neutrality between two poles of unequal moral weight. There have been calls for these states to commit themselves, unequivocally, to a strategic alliance of liberal democracies headed by the U.S.

The two sides will compete intensely over values and interests.

Where is the problem in joining an alliance with the world's first power, as most democratic — and mostly the more prosperous — states are doing? The strategic-democratic alliance means a firm commitment to the defense and promotion of democratic values and practices, including an unflinching respect for the rule of law, human rights, freedom, human dignity and the like.

This global commitment begins with a strategic-democratic alliance in the hemisphere. Latin America is part of the inter-American system, which has enshrined its historical ideals and democratic values in legal instruments like the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio de Janeiro, 1947), the Organization of American States (Bogotá, 1948) and the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José, 1969). These constitute pillars of a regional system of cooperation on which to build an alliance with a role in the new world order.

At a market in La Paz, Bolivia — Photo: Martin Alipaz/EFE via ZUMA Press

This bloc, or even a lesser bloc within it like MERCOSUR, can act significantly to defend democracy against the authoritarian onslaught, either in the wider democratic world or as a hemispheric alliance. Its commitment must be clear in moral and political terms. There can be no neutrality or complaisance toward tyrannical regimes like those of Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela, which are not the moral equal of democracies.

The alliance could include a new trade integration initiative to reduce poverty in the hemisphere. Democracy must show it can solve problems and offer opportunities for progress and prosperity. There are significant precedents: the Alliance for Progress conceived by the presidents of Argentina, Brazil and the U.S. in the 1960s, or the Free Trade Area of the Americas, an initiative of the elder President Bush, well received at the 1994 Summit of the Americas but dismissed in 2005 by the regional trio of anti-American leaders: Hugo Chávez, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Néstor Kirchner.

The alliance would strengthen Latin America's ability to defend and project its values and interests, both in the hemisphere and the concert of nations. It would exert greater influence on decisions for transnational issues like the pandemic, climate change, organized crime and trafficking, corruption, money laundering or terrorism.

The commitment would not mean losing the freedom to actively trade with the rest of the world. The democratic world is perfectly compatible with economic and commercial openness, which is also the surest path to the prosperity of nations.

Mid-level powers like Germany, Canada, France, Great Britain and Australia have not hesitated to align themselves with the U.S to defend democracy and freedom. They are unconditional and trustworthy allies, though this has not prevented them from trading with China and Russia, in spite of ideological differences. Certain global challenges and economic and security concerns demand cooperation, but without abandoning basic, liberal and democratic values.

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CLARIN

Argentina's Meat Industry Has A Beef With Paul McCartney

Is the former Beatles band mate to blame for declining beef consumption in the BBQ-loving country?

BUENOS AIRES — It goes without saying that beef is a big deal in Argentina, where barbecuing remains an almost sacrosanct pillar of social life. And yet, as of January, consumption has dropped to an historic low of 41 kilograms per person annually. So what gives?

That's the question Argentine beef lobbyists in what's known as the IPCVA, the meat industry's promotion institute, are asking. Could it be that the rise of vegetarianism and veganism are taking a toll?

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CLARIN
Irene Hartmann and José María del Pino

Argentina vs. Chile: Tale Of Two Vaccine Rollouts

Chile planned its COVID vaccinations in advance, and reserved millions of doses while Argentina dithered.

BUENOS AIRES — The geographical proximity of Chile and Argentina and their undoubted cultural and historical links can give the impression of that so much is the same. The dramatic contrast between the pace of their coronavirus vaccine rollouts paints a very different picture. While Chile has injected almost 11 million doses, Argentina has delivered just over a third of that figure. Chile has vaccinated nearly 27% of its population — Argentina stands below 4%. Why this significant difference?

Comparing oneself to others, particularly neighbors, probably isn't the best way to improve. But it can be useful when it comes to governance: seeing an alternative model that works can prompt you to consider it for your plans.

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CLARIN
Natasha Niebieskikwiat

Chinese Fishing Fleets Are Sweeping South American Oceans Dry

A new Greenpeace report warns that foreign fishing fleets, mostly from China, are gobbling up every bit of marine life they can into 'stadium-sized' nets.

BUENOS AIRES — A recent survey of fishing in the South Atlantic by the environmental group Greenpeace suggests that Argentina's sea waters are "under siege" by a fleet of foreign vessels.
The NGO found hundreds of foreign ships, mostly Chinese, but also Korean and Spanish, competing for fish in international waters on the edge of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that Argentina administers for up to 200 miles from its shore. The area affected is not covered by national or international laws, and a survey from 2019 already found signs of a depletion of resources due to over-exploitation.

"The lack of fishing control is such that at the time of monitoring we found more vessels bordering Argentine waters than the number of vessels authorized within the EEZ," warned Luisina Vueso of Greenpeace in the report.

Greenpeace recently counted at least 470 boats in a biodiversity hotspot.

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CLARIN
Nora Sánchez

How An Iconic Buenos Aires Ice Cream Shop Melted Away With COVID

BUENOS AIRES — It's only now that the news is finally spreading. El Vesuvio, the country's oldest heladería (ice-cream shop), is no more.

Founded in 1902 by the Cocitori family, the legendary Buenos Aires establishment had actually stopped operating shortly before the pandemic began. Its most recent owner was no longer able to keep it afloat. And yet, because the health crisis had occupied everyone's attention, nobody seemed to notice the end of a sweet era for the Argentine capital. Recently, though, the financial newspapers Bae Negocios ran a story and locals began to realize what had been lost.

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