Southern Exposure

Desde as Entranhas dos Labirintos Latinos.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Travel In Latin-America In Your Own Vehicle

No, you don't need to be rich or win the lottery to make a 6 months trip in you own vehicle around Latin America. Also, you don't need to be Indiana Jones to discover yourself Central America or the incredible South America. Regular people, with run-of-the-mill jobs and real life expenses can save enough cash to buy themselves some freedom for a while.

If you are living in the USA, or perhaps other developed country, maybe you heard many times this; "Don't cross the border, It's not safe over there. My sister-in-law's uncle was just minding his own business and they stripped him naked and tied him to a donkey." We got tired of hearing stories like this before each one of our trips.

Although there are some dangers in pretty much everyplace and crime does happen virtually everywhere, including our own "safe" neighborhood, most people are afraid of the unfamiliar. Those who live close to a border look toward the other side as the great unknown, full of goblins and corrupt officials.

Having lived in one of those highly industrialized countries, we have heard every imaginable story about bandits, corruption and horrible situations in Latin America. We end in the conclusion that for most of these stories, the person telling it heard the story from someone else but not directly from the victim and/or the victim was doing something that you shouldn't do in a strange place where you do not know how things are or this person did not follow basic security rules.

Clear heads and common sense helped us to avoid trouble most of the time. It's not as scary over there as it may seem and you can obtain a rich and possibly life changing experience. We followed some simple rules and our common sense and we were mainly safe in most of our trips. The most important thing is to pay attention! There is no need to be paranoid, but you need to make sure you are not driving yourself into a situation it would be hard to get out of.

Particularly on the road, we avoided driving at night in most countries, not only because of the road conditions or bad drivers but because if something bad was to happen, it could be more difficult to solve it at nighttime than during the daylight. Also, after down you don't get to enjoy the landscape and there are many awesome things to see around.

Carrying traveler's guides is a good idea and reading travel books or checking websites of other travelers helps a lot. However, asking and asking and asking to local people gave us the richest and most up-to-date information about the present situation and how to take care of ourselves and our vehicle.

Unexpected things can happen even if you think you took all the necessary precautions, so you need to be prepared to the unplanned. Traveling with a vehicle can bring some extra risk of unexpected problems. It can be sometimes hard to get parts and stuff for your vehicle, so before starting your trip you might want to stock up with some "extra parts" that are most likely to break down during a long trip.

The vehicle can brake down and leave you on the road. Probably, there won't be a AAA office to call or not even a phone to call someone!! Our vehicle broke down a couple of times and the parts shops did not always have what we needed or the mechanics were not particularly skilled with the problem or they didn't have the right tools. However, with patience, we received help and advices from local people and we could solve all the problems. It could be easier if we were driving one of the several Japanese vehicles that are common in Latin-American but anyways we never had major difficulties to solve the mechanical issues we had, other than having to wait for a couple of days to get parts.....

One good piece of advice would be to carry with you the repair manual of you vehicle, one of those "do it yourself" manuals. There you can find all the specs of the parts for your vehicle and in case you do not find the original part you need, you will be sure able to get something similar that will work for your ride.

In our own personal opinion, we found that traveling in Latin-America is an enriching and fulfilling experience. We are glad we did not pay attention to those saying it was a crazy and dangerous thing to do, since we honestly did not feel at any point we were doing something to put ourselves at risk.

Daniela L. Eaton

Copyright Daniela Eaton. Daniela is a MD and her husband is a PhD who love to travel around the world. For travel stories, tips, tons of excellent photos and free information, visit:

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Wage Gap in Latin America

Latin American politics have moved left. Twelve of the regions countries have held presidential elections since November 2005. Six of the countries in Latin America have elected heads of state that are further to the left than the outgoing leaders. The latest elections in the region have confirmed such trend; the reelection of Lula Silva in Brazil, the ascent to power of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and the election of Rafael Correa in Ecuador (another headache for Washington as Ecuador is the second largest exporter of crude oil in the region and it hosts the only U.S military base in South America).

Two basic camps of leftists have emerged within the region. Those who run on authoritarian populist platforms such as Hugo Chavez and those who support representative democracy such as Lula da Silva of Brazil.

While the authoritarian populist platforms receive the most scrutiny for their social and economic policies, further analysis indicates countries closest to the left-centre of representative democracy suffer from the largest level of inequality. This inequality is most apparent in Colombia, Mexico, Chile and Brazil. While Colombia and Mexico enjoy right wing governments, Chile and Brazil have the regionsmost marked centre-left governments.

While there are many indicators of inequality, comparing the wage paid to elected representatives against the minimum wage earned by the average citizen; serves as an effective indicator. The wage gap between those "who legislate" and those "who elect" is a powerful one, as it demonstrates how a nation and its legislative institutions not only perceive, but act on their duty to fight against economic inequality.

The elected representatives in Felipe Calderons Mexico enjoy the largest wage gap - paying themselves 52 times (USD $6.773 a month) that of the minimum monthly wage! To put things in perspective the average United State senator receives a wage of USD $13,766 a month, based on figures provided by the United States Senate. This monthly wage is thirteen times that of the average minimum monthly wage of USD $990 in the United States.

The elected representatives of Chile receive a staggering monthly wage of USD $11.282, 44 times the average national minimum wage of USD $256 a month. Furthermore, the monthly wage of USD $11.282 paid to Chilean senators does not include extraordinary costs such as flights, accommodation or consulting. In the case of the average Chilean senator, their average net wage is doubled when accounting for all costs. While Chile leads the region in overall compensation for its elected representatives, Brazil is one of the world leaders. Senators in Brazil receive 15 salaries throughout the year, withe the average cost per senator amounting to almost USD $240.000 a year in tax payer money.

The wage rankings for elected representatives in Latin America reveals the wage gap of the five nations to be enormous. Chile leads the region with an average monthly wage of USD $11.282 for its elected representatives - 44 times minimum wage. In second place Colombia with USD $7.400 a month - 41 times the minimum wage. In third place is Mexico where elected representatives are paid a monthly wage of USD $6.773 - 52 times the minimum wage. Fourth is Brazil, paying its senators USD $5.961 a month - 34 times the minimum wage. Fifth in the rankings is Peru, paying its elected representatives USD $4.756 a month - 30 times the minimum wage.

During his presidential campaign, Rafael Correa, elected president of Ecuador, used a belt as a symbol of his campaign (a wordplay on his last name, which means belt). The belt was a symbol for the radical changes he would bring to the country including the "whipping of the old political guard". We suggest Rafael Correa sends his belt to all his fellow Latin American leaders, so they can bring an end to the unjustifiable high levels of compensation paid to elected representatives in the region.

Alain Portmann, Dark Matter Politics []


Monday, June 07, 2010

Russia Makes Another Big Step in Visa-Free World

The list of countries where Russians can travel without visas has become longer. The agreement about non-visa travel between the citizens of Russia and Brazil came into effect on June 7.

Russian diplomacy has taken a lot of efforts during the recent years to make the list of visa-free destinations for Russian travelers as long as possible. Russia and Brazil signed the adequate agreement on November 26, 2008 during Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Rio.

“On June 7th we are opening the visa-free communication between our countries. We agreed about that in 2008. This will definitely expand our opportunities for communication,” the Russian president said on May 14.

Russia, South Ossetia introduce visa-free travel

Officials of the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry later clarified the details of the visa-free regime.

“In accordance with the agreement, the citizens of the Russian Federation and the citizens of Brazil holding valid passports will be relieved of the requirement for obtaining entry visas on the territory of the state of destination for up to 90 days during every 180-day period starting from the day of the first entry,” officials said.

However, it turns out that Russians and Brazilians will have to obtain the Brazilian visas in their passports in certain instances.

“Citizens of one state will be obliged to receive adequate visas if they enter the other state for conducting commercial, work, religious, educational and charitable activities or if they enter for internship or scientific work,” officials of the Russian foreign affairs ministry said.

A flight from Russia to Brazil is not a direct one. Passengers have to make a stop either in Senegal or in Portugal. It is not safe in the first case and quite problematic in the second one because travelers have to receive a transit Schengen visa.

On May 14th, Medvedev and Lula decided to set up a workgroup to elaborate the conditions for creating direct air communication between the two countries.

It is worthy of note that the Russian-Brazilian relations have been developing steadily during the recent years. The two countries cooperate closely within the scope of the BRIC organization (Brazil, Russia, India, China), as well as the G20 and the UN. Russia and Brazil have not had any considerable discrepancies regarding key international issues such as the Iranian nuclear program or the recognition of Kosovo’s independence. The abolishment of visas was another step to prove the friendly relations between the two countries.

Russia has come to an agreement to cancel visas with several other countries recently: Turkey, Serbia, Croatia (for summer period), Israel, South Korea and Argentina.

At present moment, Russian citizens can visit many countries without visas. Many of them are located in Latin America and on the Caribbean Islands. They are Antigua, Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras, Grenada, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Peru and Ecuador. Chile is expected to join them soon.

No visas are required for Russian citizens traveling to Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia (up to 30 days with the presentation of a tourist voucher or an invitation), Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Tunis, Morocco as well as several countries of Tropical Africa and Oceania. No visa is required for visiting the majority of republics of the former USSR, except for Turkmenistan, Georgia and the three Baltic States.

Citizens of Brazil can travel freely nearly all over the world and they do not need to have visas to visit the countries of the European Union, which is still a dream for all Russians.


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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Mexican Economy

Mexico is the twelfth largest economy on the globe, with a GDP exceeding one trillion dollars. It has the highest per-capita income and the highest purchasing power parity out of all the countries in Latin America. Mexico is also the only South American member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Mexico has been experiencing constant economic growth over the past years. It is estimated, in one of Goldman Sachs' studies, that the country will be one of the world's economic leaders by 2050, along with Brazil, Japan, China and the US. Mexico's economy is quite mature and stable, although the gap between the rich and the poor is continuously growing.

1994 was a rough year for Mexico's economy. The administration has been trying since then to ameliorate the country's macroeconomic situation. In 2002 South Africa suffered an economic crisis, but this didn't have a considerable effect on Mexico's economic state. In the present day, Mexico is affected, like many other countries, by the run up in food and oil. The levels of inflation and the interest rates are very low, especially since the Mexican government has been making sure of it.

Recent studies have shown that, in spite of its economic growth, Mexican economy has plenty of fundamental problems. There is an economic discrepancy between one region of the country and another, especially between the south and the north. Rural areas are being left way behind the urban areas, from not only the economic point of view, and the gap between the rich and the poor has increased over the past few years.

A certain level of inequality exists also as far as incomes are concerned. This inequality needs to be decreased in order to improve Mexico's economy and to minimize the chances of social and political instability. Mexico's infrastructure also needs to be improved. The tax system has to be modernized and labor laws have to be amended.

An important role in the Mexico Economy is played by agriculture. The private sector has begun to get more and more involved both in the industrial and in the agricultural sector. Competition exists in certain sectors such as generation and distribution of power, airports, railroads, seaports, and telecommunications. This is due to the measures taken by the government, hoping to improve the Mexican economy by building infrastructure while clamping down on its black economy.
Juan Abdel Nasser is a writer with the economic reports site Economy Watch , an extensive resource on economics, finance, investing and business worldwide.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Amazing Vacation in Brazil

Enjoy your Brazil Vacations. The Country that gave birth to carnival, the dazzling costumes and glorious beaches of Brazil, will allure you to the rhythm of the Samba. The mix of colors shows Brazil's great diversity. It has a hospitable spirit unequaled anywhere else in the world. The country of Soccer, good food, exotic beaches, rain forest, waterfalls, and many other topics make Brazil come together and the ideal destination for those who wish to be well received and treated as if at home. This is a place where many people leave their hearts, so look for some of the best Brazil Travel Deals.

Indubitably it is an ideal destination for travelers that look for a very luxury custom program or just a getaway from work and routine life for a great time of relaxation and fun. You will find here the perfect spot at any occasion for amazing Brazil vacations. Many tourists arrive home already dreaming of returning. Rio de Janeiro Brazil is the principal entrance of the Country for tourists. People from all over the world looking for the life style, gorgeous beaches, friendly and smile people, and the unforgettable tours sites to visit like Corcovado mountain, Sugar Loaf and the Botanical Garden in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil travel deals offer a variety of activities for different tastes and budgets and an exciting and worldwide know night life.

Brazil is a unique mix of nationalities, rich cultures, breath-taking mountains and gorgeous landscapes, amazing wild life, and rhythms. Come and get a glimpse of Brazil rich biodiversity. Those who come, fall in love. Your Brazil vacations will provide you with excellent opportunities to see an amazing Country and have exotic experiences.
Large International Hotels and good quality of service, unique way of life. From Amazon to Iguassu Falls you will experience fantastic scenes and a happy people with a laid-back way of living that enchant every visitor. From the big cities to the little ones, you are always going to find many magic spots and a reason to come back to a paradise named Brazil. Do not forget to check if you need visa to travel to Brazil, for more information speak with your travel guide or visit specialized web sites and enjoy the variety of beautiful places that Brazil travel deals offer to you. See You in Brazil and have fun!

Brazil is an amazing Country! To learn more click Brazil vacations

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mayan Caves - A Large Part of Belize's Tourism Industry

The Central American country of Belize gained its independence from Great Britain in 1981. It is in a tropical region, located in between Mexico and Guatemala and to its east is bordered by the Caribbean Sea. Belize is a very culturally diverse nation, and the only Central American country that has English as its official language. Spanish and Belizean Creole or Kriol are also spoken by the ancestors of the Mayan, Spanish, British, African and other ethnic groups in the region, with Kriol being the most popular language actually spoken by the people.

Belize's limestone rich mountains are also home to many caves, and these caves were the home to the religious ceremonies of the Mayans. Archaeologists discovered the use of these caves dates back as far as 1000BC, or more than 3000 years ago. The Mayans believed that the natural karst topography of the region that lends itself toward these types of caves in the sides of limestone or dolomite rock were actually passage ways to the underworld, or the world of the dead.

This tangible ancient history has made Belize a natural tourist attraction for anyone with an interest in the mystical, the ancient, or simply beautiful landscape. The tourism industry in Belize accounts for 25 percent of all employment in there and 18 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product. The interesting habits of the Mayans during their rituals also makes the goings on inside the caves in Belize so fascinating to many people. There is some evidence that many sacrifices of humans of all ages were likely a typical occurrence.

The Caves Branch Cave System is a very popular tourist destination. Cave tubing tours allow visitors to ride the rivers inside the caves on inner tubes in guided tours of the ancient site. There are also caverns including the Actun Tunichil Muknal, or more easily pronounced ATM, that are accessed on foot. Visitors walk through the river and once inside the cave are able to climb above the water. Inside ATM are many representations of pottery and skeletons.

There is one skeleton of a teenaged female sacrifice victim inside one area of the cave called the Crystal Maiden that has been covered in a sparkling stone over time and who draws a lot of visitors to the cave. Visitors in canoes, on inner tubes, and those swimming and hiking on foot frequently visit Belize to navigate the caves.

Because tourism is such a large part of Belize's economy, there is a lot of attention paid to ensure the safety and entertainment of the tourists that come to this country. The Belizean Tourism Department plays a large role in trying to educate the tourists that come to their country of the rich heritage and long history of the region.

Larry Pudoky frequently produces detailed articles on areas relating to portugal. Through his detailed publications, the writer established his deep knowledge on issues dealing with faro portugal.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Legal Issues in Peru

Peru seems to always be changing its rules about legal translations and requirements for documents.

The first step seems to stay the same and that it to have the Peruvian Consulate or Embassy from where the document was remitted legalise it. In other words, if you were born in California, you need to have the Peruvian Consulate in California legalise your birth certificate before you can do anything with it in Peru.

In 2006 I just needed the Peruvian Consulate to legalise the document, then the official translation, then the RREE stamp. In 2007 they required the Peruvian Consulate to legalise the document, an RREE stamp on the document, a notarized copy, the official translation and an RREE stamp on the official translation. As I said before, rules often check, so be sure to ask or simply go to a translator and pay for them to do everything

After that steps start to change. Your best bet is going to an official translator and paying them to do everything for you. It saves a lot of time and frustration, also they know the steps, so you won't be running around needlessly. They don't charge too much and it's well worth it. For example, I needed my degree to be registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (RREE). The translator charged me 200 soles and this included a legalized copy, an RREE stamp on the legalized copy, the official translation and an RREE stamp on the official translation. I dropped my degree of on Friday at the translator's office and they delivered it to my house on Thursday with everything ready to go. Shorter documents cost less, the same translator charged me 100 soles for my birth cert, and took it around to get stamped and signed, just like my degree.

Documents in Spanish
If you need to get documents legalised that are in SPANISH, first you need to have them legalised by the Peruvian Embassy or Consulate that has jurisdiction over where the document was emitted. Then you will have to go to the Ministerio de Relacciones Exteriores (RREE). Prices vary (but are usually around 20 soles) so go to RREE and do a search for "legalisacion". You will have to go to the Banco de la Naci?n to pay the fee.

Documents Not in Spanish
If you need to get a foreign document legalised that is NOT in Spanish, first you need to get it legalised by the Peruvian Consulate or Embassy where it was remitted (usually around 30 USD) and then translated by an official translator and then legalised by the RREE. Only official translations are accepted by the Peruvian government and they have to be done in Lima. A list of official translators can be found at RREE and do a search for "traductores officials". Prices are about 60 soles a page. They might also require you to get a notarized copy somewhere along the way or legalised at RREE before it's translated.

Documents may also have to be notarized, which can be done at any public notary and they usually charge around 5 soles.

*** Rules often change, so be sure to check with the Municipality first. ***
Getting married in Peru can be a headache. It usually takes between 2-4 months if your documents are not in Spanish. Obviously if you're in Lima, it's much faster because you'll have access to the Ministery of Foreign Affairs and Official Translators. If you are marrying a foreigner, everything is the same except both of you have to go through the process for foreigners.

Getting Married if You're Divorced
Here, because you are divorced, you need your birth certificate and divorce papers (all must be legalized and dated no more than 6 months from the date of registration to get married in the municipality).

1. Both sets of birth and divorce documents must be signed by County Clerks and Secretaries of States then Legalized, Stamped and Embossed Sealed by the consulate or embassy. Then the legalized apostille is sent to the Consulate of Peru in Washington, where it is legalized and then sent back to you, and then it has to come to you in Peru. Then the same process is required for the divorce certificate, except what you seek from the court is the official judgement nisi. So you must find out the process within the county in which you were divorced to acquire that judgement nisi. There is a different Consulate of Peru for different states. (Some Secretary of State's office will accept the judgement nisi directly without a notary or county clerk signature.)

2. Take them to Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores del Peru at Avenida Lampa 545 in Centro de Lima. Anyone can bring the documents to be legalized, it does not have to be the applicant. The cost of processing the documents was 22.60 soles for legalization of each document.

3. Once legalized, the documents must be officially translated by accepted translators, see the list on the Ministerio website.

Civil and Religious Ceremonies
Only civil ceremonies are legal, so if you want to get married in the church, first you have to get married in the municipality (town hall). Exact requirements vary, so check with your municipality. Most municipalities require you to have two witnesses who must be Peruvian or have Peruvian residency, an AIDS test and publish your marriage announcement in a newspaper.

Foreigners Getting Married
You (foreigners) need: your original birth certificate, legalised by the Peruvian embassy or consulate where you were born, a certificate saying that you are single (which can be gotten in the country where you have residency or in your embassy or consulate here in Peru) and a photocopy of your passport. If these documents are in another language besides Spanish, you will have to get them translated by a certified translator (see 6B for more information) After you get them translated, or if they're in Spanish, you then have to get them legalised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministerio de Relacciones Exteriores, RREE) (see 6B for more information) Before you can do this, you have to go to the Banco de la Naci?n and pay a fee. Bring the receipt when you go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Your soon-to-be-spouse needs their original birth certificate and DNI (National ID Document).

While you are waiting for your documents, you can go to the Municipality and pay a fee in order to get an AIDS test form. Then you take the form to a certain medical post, pay another fee and take the AIDS test. The next day you can pick it up.

Bring your legalized birth certificate and legalized certificate saying that you are single, (their translation, if needed), the photocopy of your passport, the AIDS test, your soon-to-be-spouse's DNI, their birth certificate, and photocopies of your witnesses DNIs or carn? de extranjer?a. You will then have to fill out forms and pay a fee. Then they will tell you that you have to publish your marriage announcement. You pick the day and then they give you a choice of newspapers you can publish it in. From the time you go to the Municipality, you usually have to wait a certain number of days, usually 7-15 before you get married. You also have to buy the newspaper and bring the entire page that has the marriage announcement to the municipality the day or day after it was published.

Finally, you're ready, bring your receipt from the municipality, your passport, your soon-to-be-spouse's DNI and your witnesses DNIs or carn? de extranjer?a. The whole ceremony takes about five minutes and then everyone has to sign and fingerprint the paperwork. Then you are given your Partida de Matrimonio. Congrats!

The easiest and fastest way is for one of you to go to Nevada in the USA (Las Vegas is the easiest). You have to "live" there for 6 weeks and it doesn't matter if your not a permanent US resident. After 6 weeks + 1 day you can be divorced, and a divorce in the US can be "legalized" in Peru (or almost any other country). According to recent legal framework , if you have been separated for more than 2 years , you can get divorce and you don't need your spouse for the legal papers, you can do it by yourself. If there are children involved, it is 4 years.

Using Peruvian Documents Abroad
If you want to use Peruvian documents abroad you'll have to go to a Notary, Colegio de notarios RREE, then finally the Embassy from the country where you'll use the document. The acceptions to this are birth, marriage and death certificates. You take these to RENIEC and have them legalise them, then to RREE and then the Embassy from the country where you'll use the document.

Sharon de Hinojosa (naturegirl321) has lived and worked (mainly teaching English) in the US, Scotland, Spain, the Czech Republic, China, Korea, and Peru. As well as teaching short-term in Venezuela and Taiwan.

She has created The LA Job List which lists schools, institutes and universities in 19 Latin American countries which offer English teaching positions.
Since living in Peru since August 2006, she wrote The Ultimate Peru List With 60 pages it's a comprehensive guide for those living in or moving to Peru.

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