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Most Argentine Teens Lack Home Internet Access

May 27th, 2011 | 04:02 PM


About two-thirds of Argentine adolescents lack Internet access in their homes, according to a study published Friday.

The news may come as a bit of a surprise to some given Argentina’s pervasive online presence.

But sometimes perceptions don’t accurately reflect reality and that may be the case here. So how do Argentina’s number compare with those in other countries? Consider this:

“In developing countries 72.4% of households have a TV, only 22.5% have a computer and only 15.8% have Internet access (compared to 98%, 71% and 65.6% respectively in developed countries),” according to this International Telecommunications Union report.

The Argentine Catholic University study also indicates that almost 60% of Argentine kids lack access to books at home while another 54% have no home computer. Presumably, this helps explain the success and proliferation of cybercafes in Argentina.

“The deficit in the access to these resources increases as the socioeconomic class of the adolescents declines,” the study said.

On the upside, the study said most kids (67%) have access to family support when it comes time to do their homework at home.

Meanwhile, some 38% of Argentine kids were enrolled in school programs at the age of three last year. That percentage rises to 78% for four-year olds and 95% for children over the age of five (this is obligatory by law).

For more facts and tidbits about Argentina’s educational system, you can download the complete report here.


The San Antonio Spurs: A Pilgrimage

May 15th, 2011 | 01:50 PM


An Argentine fan describes his first trip to the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, and how he found much more than he was hoping for.

By Fernando Santillan

I’ll admit it right off the bat: I am a “new fan” of the Spurs, of basketball and of Manu Ginobili. Maybe that partly explains the 10-hour plane ride and 4-hour car ride I made to watch them play live: that kind of pilgrimage requires the faith of the recently converted. In any case, the much-anticipated trip proved to be so much more than what I expected that I decided to write about it, especially after reading this post by “SgtinManusArmy” at a Spurs fan blog called “Pounding the Rock.”

The Birth of a Fan

Born in soccer-crazed Argentina, I have been a soccer fan my whole life. Some of my happiest boyhood memories involve pestering my father to take me to games on Sundays to see Ricardo Bochini and the great 1980’s Independiente teams. Years later, I started watching some NBA basketball in my teens, rooting mainly for Patrick Ewing and the Knicks and always against Michael Jordan’s Bulls.

The year 2002 was one of crisis and rebirth. The 2002 soccer World Cup, held in Japan and Korea, was a disaster for the Argentine team. For me, it was more than that – it was a crisis of faith. The Argentine team, my team, the team that played soccer the way I believed the game should be played, was unable to make it past the first round. Since then, I have been less and less captivated by the game.

That same year, the Argentine basketball team at the FIBA World Championships in Indianapolis became the first team in history to beat a US team with NBA players. Argentina finished second. Starring on that team was a skinny guy from Bahía Blanca who would make his debut in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs later in 2002, and who would play a significant role in the 2002-2003 NBA title run. A new faith helped me find a new road, and I learned the game of basketball watching Gregg Popovich’s Spurs and Rubén Magnano’s Argentine national teams. These are teams that were, and still are, all about “playing the right way.” And they’re teams that get rewarded for doing it.

So I’ve been watching and learning and enjoying basketball since 2002. The gods of basketball have blessed my change of faith: my national team placed second in the 2002 World Championships, fourth in 2006 and fifth in 2010. They were Olympic champions in 2004 and won the bronze in 2008.

Meanwhile, my Spurs were champs in 2003, 2005 and 2007. What sacrifice had I made for these gods? Not much more than watching late games ending at about 1 or 2 am local time (even while already sleep-deprived because of the birth of my two beautiful daughters during this period). I also followed games on play-by-play text threads on But I thought a bigger sacrifice was called for, and that’s how the idea of doing a pilgrimage came to mind. (more…)


Cristina: ‘I’m Not Dying to Be President Again’

May 13th, 2011 | 07:19 AM

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Argentine President Cristina Fernández gave an exceptionally emotional speech Thursday in which she indicated she’s going through a very difficult period.

“I’m not dying to be president again muchachos,” Fernández said in an unusually emotional manner. “I already gave everything I had to give. Nobody is going to push me around. I want you to know that I’m making an immense personal and even physical effort to move forward.”

Fernández has always worn her emotions on her sleeve, even before the unexpected death of her husband and predecessor, Nestór Kirchner, last October. But Thursday’s speech may have been more revealing than usual. Fernández appeared physically and emotionally exhausted and she admitted to as much in the speech.

It’s unclear what her comments indicate, if anything at all, about her plans to seek reelection in October’s presidential election. Indeed, it still seems likely she’ll seek reelection. But the manner in which she spoke seemed to indicate an unusual sense of vulnerability.

Fernández slammed unions, indirectly attacking the Confederación General de Trabajo, for praising her in public while simultaneously making life more difficult by staging strikes, blocking streets and demanding wage hikes that spur inflation.

“I want to say with all sincerity that I’m tired of the hypocrisy. I’m tired of those who say they’re helping out and that they’re living on my behalf but who then turn around the next day and do exactly the opposite so that all of this falls apart,” Fernández said.

Fernández didn’t say precisely what she meant when she said that nobody is going to push her around. Was it a reference to union leaders in the CGT who publicly called for her to seek reelection or who are constantly pushing for higher wages? Was it a reference to people in her own party who are pushing her to run? Was it a reference to critics who urge the country to abandon the government’s policies? It may have been a combination of all these, with special emphasis and disdain reserved for CGT leader Hugo Moyano.

There’s no question that Fernández would face a harder time governing Argentina in her second term than in her first. She faces multiple challenges, not the least of which is rampant inflation that threatens to undue key pillars of the government’s economic model. Meanwhile, union pressure has reached a fever pitch and Fernández, unlike her husband, doesn’t appear comfortable engaging in trench warfare with “los gordos.” Hence, the raw emotional discomfort displayed in her speech.

What does seem clear is that Fernández doesn’t want anyone else telling her what to do. She doesn’t want anyone forcing her hand. The word most used in her speech was “quiero,” or I want. She said “I want” this or “I want” that more than two dozen times. But it may be that this is more a reflection of what she doesn’t want. (more…)


The Buenos Aires Herald Goes On Strike (Updated)

May 11th, 2011 | 09:06 PM


About two dozen journalists at the 135-year-old Buenos Aires Herald went on strike Monday, demanding higher wages and better working conditions.

As of late Wednesday, the journalists were still on strike, having rejected a 3% retroactive pay hike for 2010 and a 10% raise for 2011.

The Herald, Argentina’s only major English-language newspaper, gained international recognition for its courageous coverage of disappearances and other dastardly deeds during the country’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

“Unfortunately we haven’t been able to reach an agreement about salaries,” said Judith Rabinovich, a spokeswoman for the Buenos Aires Press Workers Union, or UTPBA. “We’ve had a lot of patience with these negotiations, which have been going on since January.”

Journalists at the Herald typically make somewhere between 2,300 (US $563) and 4,000 pesos a month, with the average likely being closer to 2,700 pesos.

“There’s a big difference between what Herald workers make and what reporters at other papers make,” Rabinovich said in a phone interview. “These salaries are very low. But these are very qualified reporters who speak two languages.”

Herald employees are seeking a 35% salary hike for 2011, putting the basic salary at the paper at around 4,100 pesos a month, she said.

The vast bulk of economists in Argentina estimate that inflation totals somewhere in the neighborhood of 25% annually. Most major unions have obtained annual salary hikes of between 20% and 30%, and often higher, in recent years.

“The company is very far from satisfying that request and making a deal,” he added.

The Herald is owned by the same publishing company that owns the financial daily Ambito Financiero. Despite the strike, Rabinovich said a reduced version of the paper is being published.

Union reps are set to meet with management Thursday at the Labor Ministry to try and reach a a settlement. A spokesman for the Herald’s management could not be reached immediately for comment.

UPDATE: The Herald workers on Thursday suspended the strike in hopes of reaching an agreement soon with management.


Crime in Argentina Unchanged from Year Ago

May 10th, 2011 | 08:13 PM


Torcuarto Di Tella University’s latest crime “victimization rate” survey indicates that overall criminal activity in Argentina was unchanged in April from the same month a year ago.

The victimization rate refers to the percentage of households which reported that at least one person in that home has been the victim of crime within the past year. This could be any kind of crime, reported or not to the police.

According to the latest survey, which was published Tuesday and polled 1,206 households, 33.2% of the homes said at least one member of the household had been the victim of crime.

That rate is unchanged from a year earlier but up from 29.6% the previous month.

Violent crime accounted for about 60% of the crimes experienced by household members. That is to say, for every 100 homes surveyed, 22 reported experiencing violent crime.

This figure was up from the previous month (March), when it totaled 18. It was also up a tad from a year ago, when it was 21.

Di Tella’s study surveys households in 40 urban centers around the country. The survey was conducted from April 1-12.

The safest place to be in Argentina, according to the survey, is in scarcely populated towns of less than 10,000 people. The victimization rates in these towns is about 21%.

Cities with more than 500,000 residents appear to have the most crime per household, with a victimization rate of about 35%.

In general, the safest place in Argentina is the interior provinces while the most dangerous is Buenos Aires province.

Opinion polls have shown that crime is the top concern among Argentines, surpassing inflation and worries about the economy.


Is Netflix Coming to Argentina?

May 8th, 2011 | 07:40 PM


The Financial Times reported on Sunday that Netflix, the U.S. film and TV Internet streaming company, is close to launching its service in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico.

FT’s report comes about a month after La Nacion published similar information. Meanwhile, La Nacion’s article came several months after said in December that Netflix would likely be coming to the region this year. Finally, Seeking Alpha reported last week that Netflix plans to launch in South America.

I spoke with a Netflix spokesman last month and he declined to comment on the company’s plans. So far, Netflix has only operated in countries where the rule of law limits pirated downloads and the use of illegal video streaming sites such as those common in Latin America.

So-called “pirate” video services are extremely popular in Argentina. The online streaming service Cuevana is a perfect example. Cuevana, created by three college-aged Argentines, has become a tremendous success. Cuevana claims to have around 450,000 registered users.

Cuevana offers an exceptionally good service and it does so for free. Its questionable legality doesn’t seem to deter Argentines from using it and it’s legitimate to ask how Netflix could ever compete with such a free service.

But in the U.S., at least, Netflix offers something that Cuevana and other services do not. Netflix provides high quality HD streaming directly to your TV. If Netflix can offer such a service in Argentina, it will likely have a good chance of being a success.

However, for that to happen, Argentina’s comparatively slow bandwidth speeds will first have to improve dramatically. High quality streaming requires a fast Internet connection.

Happily, higher download speeds may be coming our way soon. Cablevisión has already confirmed that it plans to offer a super-fast Internet service in the first half of 2011. The company plans to launch the so-called DOCSIS 3.0 modem technology, giving customers download speeds that are around 10x faster than current rates.

That would let online addicts and heavy downloaders obtain speeds of up to 30 Megabits or even faster this year, easily enough to stream HD movies and TV shows directly to household TV sets, or to iPhones and iPads, etc.


Express Kidnappings Soar In First Quarter – Report

May 3rd, 2011 | 06:22 AM


The number of so-called “express kidnappings” reported by local media soared in the first quarter of 2011, according to a new study.

The media reported 28 of these kidnappings in the province of Buenos Aires in the first three months of the year, according to an analysis by the think tank Centro de Estudios Nueva Mayoria.

That’s up from just one in the same period last year and indicates the first three months of 2011 were the worst since 2004.

The vast bulk of Argentina’s kidnappings occur in the province of Buenos Aires.

Of course, the study reflects only express kidnappings reported by the media. It’s unclear what percentage of overall kidnappings this actually represents, though I suspect the percentage is extremely low.

I was kidnapped briefly in a taxi in 1999. The whole incident lasted only about an hour, making it an express kidnapping. I reported it to police, who didn’t seem to care at all. It never appeared in the media. Meanwhile, I know of two people who were kidnapped for much longer periods of time a few years ago. Their stories never made it into the press.

It can be very hard to get accurate crime data in Latin America, where, according to experts, only about one in 10 crimes are reported.

While this study is alarming, it should not be taken as a definitive statement on the nature of crime or kidnappings in Argentina. Because it is based on media reports, it’s very hard to know how reliable it is because the media can be a fickle beast.

A more accurate overview of crime in general is probably Di Tella University’s monthly crime survey, which I will post on Wednesday.


Photo Post: The ‘Mr. Cock’ Photo Shop

May 2nd, 2011 | 07:30 AM


We’ve all seen our fair share of poorly chosen English words or expressions, but this one takes the cake.

I saw this while walking around Olivos on Sunday. Mr. Cock appears to be a photography studio that specializes in taking “babies and kids” portraits. It may also sell kids clothing. I couldn’t tell for sure because the store was closed.

Whatever the case, the name of the business doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does it?

All of this reminded me of the “McPussy” windshield wiper post we did back in 2009. Or how about them “Barfy” burgers! Anyone tried those?

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