Brazil’s somewhat laid-back answer to the Arab spring works like this: invite your friends on Facebook to a mass barbecue in a public place to protest against a specified injustice. Then wait for it to go viral. The result is somewhere between a flash mob and carnival – the perfect cordial protest for a nation with an inbuilt aversion to confrontation and an obsession with Facebook.
Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat at 10,582 square kilometers. It is located in the Potosí and Oruro departments in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes and is at an elevation of 3,656 meters above mean sea level.
The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness with the average altitude variations within one meter over the entire area of the Salar.
The large area, clear skies, and the exceptional flatness of the surface make the Salar an ideal object for calibrating the altimeters of Earth observation satellites. The Salar serves as the major transport route across the Bolivian Altiplano and is a major breeding ground for several species of pink flamingos.
Flights are booked solid months in advance, not from a new interest in exotic destinations but because locals are profiting from a play on the nation’s tightly controlled currency market.
The airline scramble has added to shortages, power cuts and runaway prices as another symbol of the Byzantine economic challenges facing the new government of President Nicolas Maduro in the South American OPEC nation.
After a decade of currency controls set up by late socialist leader Hugo Chavez in 2003, the disparity between the official and black-market rates for the local bolivar currency is higher than ever. Greenbacks now sell on the illegal market at about seven times the government price of 6.3 to the dollar.
There are strict limits on the availability of dollars at the 6.3 rate, but Venezuelans are cashing in on a special currency provision for travellers. With a valid airline ticket, Venezuelans may exchange up to $US3000 at the government rate.
The profit is realised from an arbitrage process known locally as “el raspao,” or “the scrape.”
Credit cards are used abroad to get a cash advance – rather than buying merchandise. The dollars are then carried back into Venezuela and sold on the black market for some seven times the original exchange rate.
The large profit margin easily absorbs the cost of flights and accommodation for a trip.
Some Venezuelans do not even bother leaving the country, but merely send their credit cards to friends overseas, who swipe the cards and send the cash back to Venezuela.
“This is the reason many airlines are sending half-empty planes,” Ricardo Cusanno, head of a local tourism council, said, saying the government should cross-reference flight lists with those requesting foreign exchange to outwit the no-shows.
As well as perplexing the industry, the scramble for tickets has become a hot topic of conversation and humor on the street. But not everyone sees the humor in the situation.
The currency controls that Chavez implemented have exacerbated some of the very problems they were meant to address: inflation and capital flight from the country. The lack of dollars has left importers struggling to pay for basic items that range from toilet paper to bread and wine for church masses. It is also fueling the highest price rises in the Americas, 45 percent in the last year.
For critics of the government, the phenomenon of sold-out flights is a symbol of excessive interference and economic mismanagement during the last 14 years of socialist rule. For Maduro and his team, it is symptomatic of unscrupulous and greedy capitalist opponents who are “sabotaging” Venezuela’s economy in order to sink him.
The greatest driving roads in the world should have a perfect mixture between challenging and complicated bends, long fast straights, little to no traffic and especially breathtaking views!
These roads might have enough twists and turns to give you a headache but you’ll feel incredible after you’ve conquered them and you’ll surely want to try it again and again and again.
Can You Spot What’s Different In The 2013 Pirelli Calendar?
The use of models as a door to reality rather than superficiality.
Conscientious models, street art, favelas and urban nature are the protagonists of the 2013 Pirelli Calendar, shot by war photographer Steve McCurry.
The Pirelli calendar is famous for a few things. It is populated by the world’s most gorgeous women, unencumbered by clothing, and its distribution is so limited that, statistically, you have probably never seen one in person. Under photographer Stephen McCurry, the 2013 calendar features all fully clothed models set against the backdrop of Brazil. Breaking even further from tradition, some of this year’s models were chosen as much for social good deeds as their looks. The Brazilian actress Sonia Braga makes an appearance, even though she is in her early 60s, and Adriana Lima has the distinction of being the first-ever visibly pregnant Pirelli Calendar model.