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June 25, 2015

Petition pressures City of Edinburgh Council to review clause affecting live music scene

Petition pressures City of Edinburgh Council to review clause affecting live music scene

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Phoenix Bar on Broughton Street in Edinburgh.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Live music venues in Edinburgh, Scotland are awaiting a review later this year on the 2005 licensing policy, which places limitations on the volume of amplified music in the city. Investigating into how the policy is affecting the Edinburgh music scene, a group of Wikinews writers interviewed venue owners, academics, the City of Edinburgh Council, and local band The Mean Reds to get different perspectives on the issue.

Since the clause was introduced by the government of the city of Edinburgh, licensed venues have been prohibited from allowing music to be amplified to the extent it is audible to nearby residential properties. This has affected the live music scene, with several venues discontinuing regular events such as open mic nights, and hosting bands and artists.

Currently, the licensing policy allows licensing standards officers to order a venue to cease live music on any particular night, based on a single noise complaint from the public. The volume is not electronically measured to determine if it breaches a decibel volume level. Over roughly the past year there have been 56 separate noise complaints made against 18 venues throughout the city.

A petition to amend the clause has garnered over 3,000 signatures, including the support of bar owners, musicians, and members of the general public.

On November 17, 2014, the government’s Culture and Sport Committee hosted an open forum meeting at Usher Hall. Musicians, venue owners and industry professionals were encouraged to provide their thoughts on how the council could improve live music in the city. Ways to promote live music as a key cultural aspect of Edinburgh were discussed and it was suggested that it could be beneficial to try and replicate the management system of live music of other global cities renowned for their live music scenes. However, the suggestion which prevailed above all others was simply to review the existing licensing policy.

Councillor (Cllr) Norma Austin-Hart, Vice Convenor of the Culture and Sport Committee, is responsible for the working group Music is Audible. The group is comprised of local music professionals, and councillors and officials from Edinburgh Council. A document circulated to the Music is Audible group stated the council aims “to achieve a balance between protecting residents and supporting venues”.

Interior of the main auditorium of the Usher Hall in Edinburgh.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Following standard procedure, when a complaint is made, a Licensing Standards Officer (LSO) is dispatched to investigate the venue and evaluate the level of noise. If deemed to be too loud, the LSO asks the venue to lower the noise level. According to a document provided by the City of Edinburgh Council, “not one single business has lost its license or been closed down because of a breach to the noise condition in Edinburgh.”

In the Scotland Licensing Policy (2005), Clause 6.2 states, “where the operating plan indicates that music is to be played in a premises, the board will consider the imposition of a condition requiring amplified music from those premises to be inaudible in residential property.” According to Cllr Austin-Hart, the high volume of tenement housing in the city centre makes it difficult for music to be inaudible.

During the Edinburgh Festival Fringe during the summer, venues are given temporary licences that allow them to operate for the duration of the festival and under the condition that “all amplified music and vocals are controlled to the satisfaction of the Director of Services for Communities”, as stated in a document from the council. During the festival, there is an 11 p.m. noise restriction on amplified music, and noise may be measured by Environmental Health staff using sophisticated equipment. Noise is restricted to 65dB(A) from the facades of residential properties; however, complaints from residents still occur. In the document from the council, they note these conditions and limitations for temporary venues would not necessarily be appropriate for permanent licensed premises.

Busker sitting in sealed window of St Cecilia’s Hall on Niddry Street, Edinburgh during 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Image: Brian McNeil.

In a phone interview, Cllr Austin-Hart expressed her concern about the unsettlement in Edinburgh regarding live music. She referenced the closure of the well-known Picture House, a venue that has provided entertainment for over half a century, and the community’s opposition to commercial public bar chain Wetherspoon buying the venue. “[It] is a well-known pub that does not play any form of music”, Cllr Austin-Hart said. “[T]hey feel as if it is another blow to Edinburgh’s live music”. “[We] cannot stop Wetherspoon’s from buying this venue; we have no control over this.”

The venue has operated under different names, including the Caley Palais which hosted bands such as Queen and AC/DC. The Picture House opened in 2008.

One of the venues which has been significantly affected by the licensing laws is the Phoenix Bar, on Broughton Street. The bar’s owner, Sam Roberts, was induced to cease live music gigs in March, following a number of noise complaints against the venue. As a result, Ms Roberts was inspired to start the aforementioned petition to have Clause 6.2 of the licensing policy reviewed, in an effort to remove the ‘inaudibility’ statement that is affecting venues and the music scene.

“I think we not only encourage it, but actively support the Edinburgh music scene,” Ms Roberts says of the Phoenix Bar and other venues, “the problem is that it is a dying scene.”

When Ms Roberts purchased the venue in 2013, she continued the existing 30-year legacy established by the previous owners of hosting live acts. Representative of Edinburgh’s colourful music scene, a diverse range of genres have been hosted at the venue. Ms Roberts described the atmosphere when live music acts perform at her venue as “electric”. “The whole community comes together singing, dancing and having a party. Letting their hair down and forgetting their troubles. People go home happy after a brilliant night out. All the staff usually join in; the pub comes alive”. However licensing restrictions have seen a majority of the acts shut down due to noise complaints. “We have put on jazz, blues, rock, rockabilly, folk, celtic and pop live acts and have had to close everything down.” “Residents in Edinburgh unfortunately know that the Council policy gives them all the rights in the world, and the pubs and clubs none”, Ms Roberts clarified.

Discussing how inaudibility has affected venues and musicians alike, Ms Roberts stated many pubs have lost profit through the absence of gigs, and trying to soundproof their venue. “It has put many musicians out of work and it has had an enormous effect on earnings in the pub. […] Many clubs and bars have been forced to invest in thousands of pounds worth of soundproofing equipment which has nearly bankrupted them, only to find that even the tiniest bit of noise can still force a closure. It is a ridiculously one-sided situation.” Ms Roberts feels inaudibility is an unfair clause for venues. “I think it very clearly favours residents in Edinburgh and not business. […] Nothing is being done to support local business, and closing down all the live music venues in Edinburgh has hurt financially in so many ways. Not only do you lose money, you lose new faces, you lose the respect of the local musicians, and you begin to lose all hope in a ‘fair go’.”

With the petition holding a considerable number of signatures, Ms Roberts states she is still sceptical of any change occurring. “Over three thousand people have signed the petition and still the council is not moving. They have taken action on petitions with far fewer signatures.” Ms Roberts also added, “Right now I don’t think Edinburgh has much hope of positive change”.

Ms Roberts seems to have lost all hope for positive change in relation to Edinburgh’s music scene, and argues Glasgow is now the regional choice for live music and venues. “[E]veryone in the business knows they have to go to Glasgow for a decent scene. Glasgow City Council get behind their city.”

Ms Martina Cannon, member of local band The Mean Reds, said a regular ‘Open Mic Night’ she hosted at The Parlour on Duke Street has ceased after a number of complaints were made against the venue. “It was a shame because it had built up some momentum over the months it had been running”. She described financial loss to the venue from cancelling the event, as well as loss to her as organiser of the event.

The Mean Reds at the Blind Poet, Edinburgh during Saturday Wolf Sessions, November 8, 2014.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Sneaky Pete’s music bar and club, owned by Nick Stewart, is described on its website as “open and busy every night”. “Many clubs could be defined as bars that host music, but we really are a music venue that serves drinks”, Mr Stewart says. He sees the live music scene as essential for maintaining nightlife in Edinburgh not only because of the economic benefit but more importantly because of the cultural significance. “Music is one of the important things in life. […] it’s emotionally and intellectually engaging, and it adds to the quality of life that people lead.”

Sneaky Pete’s has not been immune to the inaudibility clause. The business has spent about 20,000 pounds on multiple soundproofing fixes designed to quell complaints from neighboring residents. “The business suffered a great deal in between losing the option to do gigs for fear of complaints, and finishing the soundproofing. As I mentioned, we are a music business that serves drinks, not a bar that also has music, so when we lose shows, we lose a great deal of trade”, said Mr Stewart.

He believes there is a better way to go about handling complaints and fixing public nuisances. “The local mandatory condition requiring ‘amplified music and vocals’ to be ‘inaudible’ should be struck from all licenses. The requirement presupposes that nuisance is caused by music venues, when this may not reasonably be said to be the case. […] Nuisance is not defined in the Licensing Act nor is it defined in the Public Health Act (Scotland) 2008. However, The Consultation on Guidance to accompany the Statutory Nuisance Provisions of the Public Health etc (Scotland) Act 2008 states that ‘There are eight key issues to consider when evaluating whether a nuisance exists[…]'”.

The eight key factors are impact, locality, time, frequency, duration, convention, importance, and avoidability. Stewart believes it is these factors that should be taken into consideration by LSOs responding to complaints instead of the sole factor of “audibility”. He believes multiple steps should be taken before considering revocation of licenses. Firstly, LSOs should determine whether a venue is a nuisance based on the eight factors. Then, the venue should have the opportunity to comply by using methods such as changing the nature of their live performances (e.g. from hard rock to acoustic rock), changing their hours of operation, or soundproofing. If the venue still fails to comply, then a board can review their license with the goal of finding more ways to bring them into compliance as opposed to revoking their license.

Nick Stewart has discussed his proposal at length with Music is Audible and said he means to present his proposal to the City of Edinburgh Council.

Dr Adam Behr, a music academic and research associate at the University of Edinburgh who has conducted research on the cultural value of live music, says live music significantly contributes to the economic performance of cities. He said studies have shown revenue creation and the provision of employment are significant factors which come about as a result of live music. A 2014 report by UK Music showed the economic value generated by live music in the UK in 2013 was £789 million and provided the equivalent of 21,600 full time jobs.

As the music industry is international by nature, Behr says this complicates the way revenue is allocated, “For instance, if an American artist plays a venue owned by a British company at a gig which is promoted by a company that is part British owned but majority owned by, say, Live Nation (a major international entertainment company) — then the flow of revenues might not be as straightforward as it seems [at] first.”

Despite these complexities, Behr highlighted the broader advantages, “There are, of course, ancillary benefits, especially for big gigs […] Obviously other local businesses like bars, restaurants and carparks benefit from increased trade”, he added.

Behr criticised the idea of making music inaudible and called it “unrealistic”. He said it could limit what kind of music can be played at venues and could force vendors to spend a large amount of money on equipment that enables them to meet noise cancelling requirements. He also mentioned the consequences this has for grassroots music venues as more ‘established’ venues within the city would be the only ones able to afford these changes.

Alongside the inaudibility dispute has been the number of sites that have been closing for the past number of years. According to Dr Behr, this has brought attention to the issue of retaining live music venues in the city and has caused the council to re-evaluate its music strategy and overall cultural policy.

The Parlour, Edinburgh.
Image: Brian McNeil.

This month, Dr Behr said he is to work on a live music census for Edinburgh’s Council which aims to find out what types of music is played, where, and what exactly it brings to the city. This is in an effort to get the Edinburgh city council to see any opportunities it has with live music and the importance of grassroots venues. The census is similar to one conducted in Victoria, Australia in 2012 on the extent of live music in the state and its economic benefit.

As for the solution to the inaudibility clause, Behr says the initial step is dialogue, and this has already begun. “Having forum discussion, though, is a start — and an improvement”, he said. “There won’t be an overnight solution, but work is ongoing to try to find one that can stick in the long term.”

Beverley Whitrick, Strategic Director of Music Venue Trust, said she is unable to comment on her work with the City of Edinburgh Council or on potential changes to the inaudibility clause in the Licensing Policy. However, she says, “I have been asked to assess the situation and make recommendations in September”.

According to The Scotsman, the Council is working toward helping Edinburgh’s cultural and entertainment scene. Deputy Council Leader Sandy Howat said views of the entertainment industry needs to change and the Council will no longer consider the scene as a “sideline”.

Senior members of the Council, The Scotsman reported, aim to review the planning of the city to make culture more of a priority. Howat said, “If you’re trying to harness a living community and are creating facilities for people living, working and playing then culture should form part of that.”

The review of the inaudibility clause in the Licensing Policy is set to be reviewed near the end of 2016 but the concept of bringing it forward to this year is still under discussion.



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May 12, 2013

Fifth Expo Gastronomía finishes in Caracas

Fifth Expo Gastronomía finishes in Caracas

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

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The event was held for the first time in the Plaza Francia in Altamira , Caracas.
Image: Paulino Morán/Flickr.

Caracas, Venezuela — The fifth edition of the Expo Gastronomía food event finished its run yesterday in Caracas at the Plaza Francia in Altamira. It was the first time the event was held at this particular location. Starting on Thursday, it was the first edition of the event to be held in 2013, and was organized by Carlos Garcia and Yolanda Martin.

In its fifth version, the exhibition organizers estimated to receive between 10,000 and 13,000 people to the event, which had nine pavilions representing eight countries around the world. The exhibitors were divided into four categories: typical food of the country they represent, handicrafts, gastronomy (comprised of cooking books and products, and metalwork((es))), and hotel businesses and tourism.

The event was sponsored by Coca-Cola, La Granja, Oroweat, G2000 Events, CGYM Group, and the Chacao Mayor’s Office. In addition, the food company Cosecha San José participated as one of the exhibitors. According to organizers, the sixth edition of the event is planned for later this year.

The festival first took place on April 2011, with a attendance of around 3,000 people. On that occasion, eight countries participated in the event.

Expo Gastronomía, V Edición, Altamira - Mayo 2013 1.jpg Expo Gastronomía, V Edición, Altamira - Mayo 2013 5.jpg
Expo Gastronomía, V Edición, Altamira - Mayo 2013 3.jpg Expo Gastronomía, V Edición, Altamira - Mayo 2013 4.jpg
Expo Gastronomía
Image: Hahc21.



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April 2, 2013

Sydney plans loss of rainbow

Sydney plans loss of rainbow – Wikinews, the free news source

Sydney plans loss of rainbow

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Correction — April 8, 2013
 
The cost of painting the crosswalk was misstated here as 11,000 AUD; the cost was reportedly about 80,000 AUD, with funds allocated of 110,000 AUD including about 30,000 AUD for removal if necessary. We apologize for the misstatement.
 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The rainbow colored sidewalk
Image: Bidgee.

Yesterday, the deadline expired for the rainbow colored sidewalk located at Rainbow Oxford St, Taylor Square in Sydney, Australia to remain intact.

The pedestrian crossing had been painted with the colors of the rainbow to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community (LGBT) pride march in Sydney during this year’s Mardi Gras celebrations, at a cost of AU$11,000 and, according to a spokesman for the City of Sydney, it had a very positive impact for local tourism and within the community.

The initial idea plan was to conduct a month long pilot and, if positive, keep the crossing painted in rainbow colors for twelve month period. However, the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) warned of the potential danger the painted the road could pose for drivers and demanded the road be painted over. Despite an online petition gathered almost 15,000 signatures to save the rainbow, the Roads Minister Duncan Gay and Premier Barry O’Farrell decided not to meet the requests from the City of Sydney for the road to remain with the colors of rainbow.

A spokeswoman for Gay’s office cited road safety hazard and unsafe behavior as the reason for removal, including people who sat in the road to take pictures. Alex Greenwich, the local representative from Sydney in the New South Wales state government, had organised the petition earlier and said Gay exaggerated the potential safety hazards, and said that people took pictures during the parade of Mardi Gras, when there was no traffic.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore also disputed Mr Gay’s claims, citing no safety hazards, “The audit also shows that generally the risk to the public of having the rainbow crossing is low. This is bureaucracy gone wild — the Minister wants to remove the crossing because he doesn’t like some pictures that people have been taking. Those pictures are a drop in the ocean compared to the tens of thousands of other pictures of the crossing that have … promoted Oxford St as one of the best LGBT tourism destinations in the world.” The walk is scheduled to be painted over this week and will cost about AU$35,000.



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March 15, 2012

German hotels step up boycotts against online travel agency HRS

German hotels step up boycotts against online travel agency HRS

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

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A third call for boycott and second boycott hit the German online travel agency Hotel Reservation Service (HRS) this week. After a recent boycott against HRS in Münsterland, a boycott in Bremerhaven was next and is soon to be followed by the next round in Bremerhaven starting in the middle of March.

Hotels in the city of Bremerhaven already have to pay a new “bed tax” to the state of Bremen of 2.14 euro per person per night, whilst HRS is trying to increase their commission payments for its service from thirteen to fifteen percent. Further criticism of HRS focused on a preferential treatment clause that denied hotels the right to offer better prices through any other booking channel. The European umbrella organization of the catering facilities HOTREC had already criticized this type of clause and similar contract clauses in May 2011 in a position paper.

Piet Rothe, hotel owner and second chairman of the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA) Bremerhaven, explained that in his hotels the boycott hat not decreased bookings, merely shifted their volume to other channels such as, for instance, booking.com, who would only ask for twelve percent commission.

Rüdiger Magowsky, manager of the boarding house in Jaich, confirmed the observation that the volume of bookings had not decreased. Martin Seiffert, manager of the hotel Haverkamp, explained HRS had denied his hotel access to the system because he participated in the boycott. The access has been restored but he is considering participation in the next round of the boycott anyway.

On February 15 the higher regional court of Düsseldorf had ordered HRS in a preliminary injunction not to enforce its preferential treatment clause. Already on February 10 the German Federal Cartel Office had admonished the company for violating §§ 1 and 20 of the German Act against Restraints of Competition.

Meanwhile Markus Luthe, the CEO of the German International Hotel Association (IHA), recommended establishing a “Hotelwiki” as a yellow pages directory of the hotel industry.



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February 10, 2012

Egypt struggles to recover tourism, investment

Egypt struggles to recover tourism, investment

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Egypt
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The Egyptian pound is currently falling in value.
Image: Mabuhelwa.

Standard & Poor’s downgraded Egypt’s currency rating for the second time in four months based on the country’s shorfall in foreign reserves and shaky political transition. It’s the latest development for a nation facing mounting economic diffuclties.

Egypt’s foreign reserves fell by over 50 percent last year to about US$16 billion. Egypt has requested US$3.2 billion from the International Monetary Fund to bolster its reserves and prevent a devalation but that could take months.

Experts say that Egypt’s problem of attracting foreign investment and tourists, which are two sources that would increase reserves, has already caused the Egyptian pound to lose 1 percent of its value and if the country doesn’t solve the shortfall in foriegn currency, it could even lead to a further currency devaluation within the next two to three months.

The long-term solution is to restore tourism and foreign investments but both are suffering because of the continuing unrest.

Tourism

The Sphynx was said to guard the city of Thebes by killing anyone who couldn’t answer a riddle.
Image: Schreibkraft.

Egyptian tourism suffered this past year as a result of a revolution, a transition to an elected government, and continuing signs of unrest and instability.

The Egyptian Revolution began on January 25 last year and President Hosni Mubarak resigned over two weeks later on February 11. The protests have continued as Egyptians grew uncomfortable with the military’s control over the transition. At the start of this month, 79 people were killed at a soccer event in Port Said.

Tourism in Egypt accounted for US$12.5 billion in 2010 but fell 30 percent, or US$8.8 billion, in 2011, according to Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, Egypt’s tourism minister. Tourism accounts for 11.6 percent of Egypt’s GDP.

Tourists visit The Valley of the Kings in Egypt. It holds 63 tombs and chambers for Pharaohs and nobles of the New Kingdom era. The valley is on the west bank of the Nile across from Thebes.
Image: Markh.

Last week, two U.S. female tourists and their Egyptian guide were abducted in the Sinai peninsula by Bedouin tribesmen and released shortly afterward.

The kidnapping took place in broad daylight on a busy road while the tourists travelled after a visit to St. Catherine’s Monastery. Masked tribesmen stopped their bus, abducted the tourists by gunpoint, and escaped into the mountains. Three other tourists of unknown nationalities were left on the bus. Local authorities organized a search which ended in negotiations with local Bedouin tribesmen. The Bedouin demanded the release of recently apprehended tribesmen, who had been detained for drug trafficking and robbery. The US hostages were released unharmed, Abdel Nour said.

As a location, Egypt boasts ancient pyramids, the Nile River, Biblical sites like Mount Sinai, museums, and Red Sea coastal resorts. Last year the number of tourists plunged from fifteen million people down to nine million, which is a 40 percent drop.

A camel resting between rides at the Pyramids in Egypt.
Image: Crashsystems.

The low amount of tourism to Egypt has also affected tourism in other countries. Stas Misezhnikov, Israeli tourism minister, said that Israeli tourism is down because the flow of tourism from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort is “almost nonexistent right now.”

Investment

Egypt’s current investment climate is also severely hampered by the perception that the climate is not yet right for investment.

Mulyani Indrawati, managing director of the World Bank, said investors were not ready to get back into the markets of the Arab Spring countries until stability is restored but the situation has also been exacerbated by the precarious state of the regional and international economy.

Egypt’s domestic politics is threatening one of the country’s largest stable sources of foreign investment. The United States’ annual military aid to Egypt accounts for US$1.5 billion. U.S. politicians have threatened to withhold that aid package, however, because of an investigation into pro-democracy NGOs that involve 19 American citizens and more U.S. money. Senator John Kerry said the Egyptian investigation is a “dangerous game that risks damaging both Egypt’s democratic prospects and the U.S.-Egyptian bilateral relationship.”

Faiza Abou el-Naga, who is the Egyptian minister who distributes Egypt’s aid money, a former Mubarak loyalist who survived through the transition, and one of Egypt’s most visible female politicians, claims the NGOs are meddling in her country’s sovereignty. Both the Muslim parties who won the election and the generals in power are backing those hearings. Her argument that foreigners are meddling in Egypt also has a populist appeal.

The military government’s slow transition is also stalling foreign investments. Khaled bin Mohamed al-Attiya, foreign minister of Qatar, said a few weeks ago his government is holding back from making US$10 billion in investments because power has not been transferred to an elected government. The other Middle Eastern countries that pledged investments, such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are also waiting.

The Egyptian government announced this week that it was investigating Yasser el-Mallawany, an investment banker with EFG Hermes based in Cairo, for allegedly paying soccer fans to riot at Port Said, a charge which el-Mallawany dismissed and attributed to gossip.

Meanwhile, investors within Egypt are looking for other investment vehicles such as real estate as they fear holding cash in a period of devaluation.

Florence Eid, who is an expert on Middle Eastern economies at U.K. Arabia Monitor, said the situation throughout the Middle East could get worse. “People are frustrated because the reasons that they revolted against to begin with, are still there,” Eid said. “Whoever said this was going to be smooth was naive.”

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“One year on: Egyptians mark anniversary of protests that toppled Mubarak” — Wikinews, January 25, 2012

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January 25, 2012

One year on: Egyptians mark anniversary of protests that toppled Mubarak

One year on: Egyptians mark anniversary of protests that toppled Mubarak

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

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Across Egypt hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets for the day, marking exactly one year since the outbreak of protests leading to 83-year-old longstanding ruler Hosni Mubarak’s downfall. The country’s decades-long emergency rule was partially lifted this week; meanwhile, a possible economic meltdown looms and a newly-elected parliament held their first meeting on Monday.

Protestors in Tahrir Square during the revolution.
Image: Jonathan Rashad.

Protestors in Tahrir Square today.
Image: Gigi Ibrahim.

Despite the new parliament, military rule introduced following Mubarak’s fall last spring remains. Echoing the demands from a year ago, some protesters are demanding the military relinquish power; there are doubts an elected civilian leader will be permitted to replace the army.

The brief unity against Mubarak has since fragmented, with Secularists and Islamists marking the revolution’s anniversary splitting to opposing sides of Cairo’s famed Tahrir Square and chanting at each other. Initial demonstrations last year were mainly from young secularists; now, Islamic parties hold most of the new parliament’s seats — the country’s first democratic one in six decades.

Salafis hold 25% of the seats and 47% are held by the Muslim Brotherhood, which brought supporters to Cairo for the anniversary. Tahrir Square alone contained tens of thousands of people, some witnesses putting the crowd at 150,000 strong. It’s the largest number on the streets since the revolution.

Military rulers planned celebrations including pyrotechnics, commemorative coins, and air displays. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces took power after last year’s February 11 resignation of Mubarak.

Alaa al-Aswani, a pro-democracy activist writing in al-Masry al-Youm, said: “We must take to the streets on Wednesday, not to celebrate a revolution which has not achieved its goals, but to demonstrate peacefully our determination to achieve the objectives of the revolution,” — to “live in dignity, bring about justice, try the killers of the martyrs and achieve a minimum social justice”

Alexandria in the north and the eastern port city of Suez also saw large gatherings. It was bitter fighting in Suez led to the first of the revolution’s 850 casualties in ousting Mubarak. “We didn’t come out to celebrate. We came out to protest against the military council and to tell it to leave power immediately and hand over power to civilians,” said protestor Mohamed Ismail.

“Martyrs, sleep and rest. We will complete the struggle,” chanted crowds in Alexandria, a reference to the 850 ‘martyrs of the revolution’. No convictions are in yet although Mubarak is on trial. Photos of the dead were displayed in Tahrir Square. Young Tahrir chanters went with “Down with military rule” and “Revolution until victory, revolution in all of Egypt’s streets”.

If the protestors demanding the military leave power get their way, the Islamists celebrating election victory face a variety of challenges. For now, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi — whose career featured twenty years as defence minister under Mubarak — rules the nation and promises to cede power following presidential elections this year.

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, pictured whilst he was still Mubarak’s defence minister, is now ruling the country.
Image: Helene C. Stikke, US DoD.

The economy is troubled and unemployment is up since Mubarak left. With tourism and foreign investment greatly lower than usual, budget and payment deficits are up — with the Central Bank eating into its reserves in a bid to keep the Egyptian pound from losing too much value.

Last week the nation sought US$3.2 billion from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF insists upon funding also being secured from other donors, and strong support from Egypt’s leaders. IMF estimates say the money could be handed over in a few months — whereas Egypt wanted it in a matter of weeks.

The country has managed to bolster trade with the United States and Jordan. Amr Abul Ata, Egyptian ambassador to the fellow Middle-East state, told The Jordan Times in an interview for the anniversary that trade between the nations increased in 2011, and he expects another increase this year. This despite insurgent attacks reducing Egyptian gas production — alongside electricity the main export to Jordan. Jordan exports foodstuffs to Egypt and has just signed a deal increasing the prices it pays for gas. 2011 trade between the countries was worth US$1 billion.

The anniversary also saw a new trade deal with the US, signed by foreign trade and industry minister Mahmoud Eisa and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. President Barack Obama promises work to improve U.S. investment in, and trade with, nations changing political systems after the Arab Spring. Details remain to be agreed, but various proposals include US assistance for Egyptian small and medium enterprises. Both nations intend subjecting plans to ministerial scrutiny.

The U.S. hailed “several historic milestones in its transition to democracy” within a matter of days of Egypt’s revolution. This despite U.S.-Egypt ties being close during Mubarak’s rule.

US$1 billion in grants has been received already from Qatar and Saudi Arabia but army rulers refused to take loans from Gulf nations despite offers-in-principle coming from nations including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. Foreign aid has trickled in; no money at all has been sent from G8 nations, despite the G8 Deauville Partnership earmarking US$20 billion for Arab Spring nations.

A total of US$7 billion was promised from the Gulf. The United Kingdom pledged to split £110 million between Egypt and Arab Spring initiator Tunisia. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development says G8 money should start arriving in June, when the presidential election is scheduled.

The African Development Bank approved US$1.5 billion in loans whilst Mubarak still held power but, despite discussions since last March, no further funding has been agreed. The IMF offered a cheap loan six months ago, but was turned away. Foreign investment last year fell from US$6 billion to $375 million.

Rights, justice and public order remain contentious issues. Tantawi lifted the state of emergency on Tuesday, a day before the revolution’s anniversary, but left it in place to deal with the exception of ‘thuggery’. “This is not a real cancellation of the state of emergency,” said Islamist Wasat Party MP Essam Sultan. “The proper law designates the ending of the state of emergency completely or enforcing it completely, nothing in between.”

One year after the protests that led to his loss of power, Hosni Mubarak faces death if convicted of killing those protesting against him.
Image: 2008 World Economic Forum.

The same day, Amnesty International released a report on its efforts to establish basic human rights and end the death penalty in the country. Despite sending a ten-point manifesto to all 54 political parties, only the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (of the Egyptian Bloc liberals) and the left-wing Popular Socialist Alliance Party signed up. Measures included religious freedom, help to the impoverished, and rights for women. Elections did see a handful of women win seats in the new parliament.

The largest parliamentary group is the Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood, who Amnesty say did not respond. Oral assurances on all but female rights and abolition of the death penalty were given by Al-Nour, the Salafist runners-up in the elections, but no written declaration or signature.

“We challenge the new parliament to use the opportunity of drafting the new constitution to guarantee all of these rights for all people in Egypt. The cornerstone must be non-discrimination and gender equality,” said Amnesty, noting that the first seven points were less contentious amongst the twelve responding parties. There was general agreement for free speech, free assembly, fair trials, investigating Mubarak’s 30-year rule for atrocities, and lifting the state of emergency. A more mixed response was given to ensuring no discrimination against LGBT individuals, whilst two parties claimed reports of Coptic Christian persecution are exaggerated.

Mubarak himself is a prominent contender for the death penalty, currently on trial for the killings of protesters. The five-man prosecution team are also seeking death for six senior police officers and the chief of security in the same case. Corruption offences are also being tried, with Gamal Mubarak and Alaa Mubarak accused alongside their father Hosni.

The prosecution case has been hampered by changes in witness testimony and there are complaints of Interior Ministry obstruction in producing evidence. Tantawi has testified in a closed hearing that Mubarak never ordered protesters shot.

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Hisham Talaat Moustafa, an ex-MP and real estate billionaire, is another death penalty candidate. He, alongside Ahmed Sukkari, was initially sentenced to death for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim. A new trial was granted on procedural grounds and he is now serving a fifteen-year term for paying Sukkari US$2 million to slit 30-year-old’s Tamim’s throat in Dubai. Her assassin was caught when police followed him back to his hotel and found a shirt stained with her blood; he was in custody within two hours of the murder.

The court of appeals is now set to hear another trial for both men after the convictions were once more ruled unsound.

A military crackdown took place last November, the morning after a major protest, and sparking off days of violence. Egypt was wary of a repeat this week, with police and military massed near Tahrir Square whilst volunteers manned checkpoints into the square itself.

The military has pardoned and released at least 2,000 prisoners jailed following military trials, prominently including a blogger imprisoned for defaming the army and deemed troublesome for supporting Israel. 26-year-old Maikel Nabil was given a three year sentence in April. He has been on hunger strike alleging abuse at the hands of his captors. He wants normalised relations with Israel. Thousands have now left Tora prison in Cairo.

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January 13, 2012

Observing the 2012 Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the US, and wider world

Observing the 2012 Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the US, and wider world

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Friday, January 13, 2012

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This week US citizens observed National Human Trafficking Awareness Day through acts of education, legislation, and enforcement; whilst, around the world, other people highlighted or tackled this global problem in their own countries.

According to an annual report on human trafficking released by the US State Department in June last year, 27 million men, women and children are exploited through human trafficking. Worldwide, at least two million children are estimated to be trafficked victims of the sex trade; and, in military conflicts, it is not uncommon for children to be forced to bear arms. In releasing the report last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted the importance of international cooperation in addressing trafficking, and cultural issues associated with it.

Brown, orange and red are source countries, while light blue and dark blue countries are destinations for victims of human trafficking.
Image: KVDP.

Under the United Nations’ Palermo Protocols, human trafficking encompasses cases where victims are born into slavery, forcibly transported for exploitation, consented to work with a trafficker, and/or were forced to participate in criminal activities. The Protocols also recognize the unique status and rights of children.

US-based action

Reports from across the United States show a number of communities taking local action to solve, or otherwise highlight, this global problem.

In Southern California, Sister Caritas Foster is an advocate for the area’s victims of human trafficking. Commenting on the area’s involvement, she stated: “We in the San Francisco Bay Area are one of the largest receiving areas with our borders and coasts”. For over four years, Foster has worked on educating the public on human trafficking, speaking to civic and religious groups and describing the power traffickers hold over their victims through vivid accounts of situations trafficked individuals find themselves in. Many have no idea where they are located, suffer under the constant threat of deportation, and most often lack the language abilities to seek help.

Los Angeles politician Don Knabe said human trafficking was not a distant problem but one that hits close to home. As the county supervisor overseeing the fourth district in Los Angeles County, Knabe cited figures from the Probation Department showing 84 percent of arrests of children on prostitution charges in 2010 were in his district; he believes the overall problem for the county is much larger, and wants the Probation Department to establish a special unit dedicated to sexually exploited minors.

Northward in Seattle, Washington, members of the King County Sheriff’s department realized that law enforcement had to deal supportively with the symptoms of human trafficking — rather than putting victims in jail. This gave birth to the “Genesis Project” where sheriff’s deputies offer potential victims of trafficking a comfortable safe haven with amenities for 24 hours, and put them in touch with social services for counselling, job training, and education advice.

Politicians from several states have sought to address the connection between tourism and human trafficking; Indiana’s state Senate unanimously passed a human trafficking bill on Tuesday morning. Current legislation only considered forced marriage and prostitution as human trafficking; loopholes in the existing laws allowed some forms of human trafficking to escape prosecution. Lawmakers in the state hope to toughen their human trafficking laws, and have new legislation on the statute books in time for the Super Bowl, due to be held in Indianapolis on February 5. The just-passed bill now goes to the House for approval.

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Also on Tuesday, lawmakers from Hawaii held a special hearing on human trafficking. Kathryn Xian, of Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, says traffickers capitalize on the state’s tourist-based economy. She introduced a package of seven bills she says will help prevent human trafficking in the state.

At a national level, the US government continues to work abroad on the issue of trafficking; Luis CdeBaca, a special ambassador for human trafficking, is working with Myanmar, commonly known as Burma, as the country seeks to improve diplomatic relations with the United States. Myanmar was identified by the US State Department as having one of the worst records of forced labor, and as a country that lacks necessary laws to curb human trafficking.

Trafficking, the global picture

File image of a Nepali mother who travelled to Mumbai, India, hoping to rescue her teenage daughter from an Indian brothel.
Image: Kay Chernush, US State Dept..

Although National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is a US-based effort to recognise, and highlight, this issue — as a topic of global concern being highlighted through the United Nations, others around the world continue efforts to increase public awareness and tackle trafficking.

Forty-six women from the international group Operation Mobilization sought to raise awareness by climbing Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro. The summit is called “Uhuru Peak”, with Uhuru meaning “freedom” in Swahili. Each of the non-professional climbers raised US$10,000 to help those affected by human trafficking.

In the Middle East, several countries are reported to have problems with human traffickers recruiting unemployed gay Kenyan men to become sex slaves. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are supposedly the more-common destination countries into which Kenyans are lured with offers of high-paying jobs. However, in the United Arab Emirates — where no law prohibits trafficking, but homosexuality is illegal — the problem is compounded.

Enforcement of existing laws, and acting against trafficking, are seen as key steps in reducing the activity. Showing that no country is unaffected, Northern Ireland police are currently investigating five sex trafficking cases; and, on Monday, Filipino police rescued fifteen women following a tip-off regarding women recruited, and being held, prior to being sent to work abroad.

In the Northern Ireland situation, Detective Superintendent Philip Marshall stated that fifteen men are to be contacted, suspected of having paid for sex with trafficked women. Identifying victims within the UK, or victims seeking help, is becoming more challenging with the sex industry having switched to using hotel rooms as-opposed to street corners. Many victims of trafficking are found to be unaware of where within the country they are.

In the Philippines situation, Zamboanga City police are still seeking the recruiter of the fifteen women rescued in Rio Hondo.

A range of complexities are involved in the sentencing of both those convicted of human trafficking, and their victims. In one Canadian case, 43-year-old Hungarian Lajos Domotor pled guilty to trafficking men and women into forced labor. Following being charged with conspiracy to commit human trafficking, he developed terminal stomach cancer and has been given a 10 to 15 percent chance of living five years.

In the UK, officials are seeking to detect exploitation prior to sentencing — as a counter to the high number of foreign women in jails, frequently having been victims of trafficking. One in seven women prisoners across England and Wales are foreign, with the primary offenses being drug or immigration-related. A report into the issue recommends sentencing decisions should consider the role of women, and of coercion, in such cases.

Artists also have a special role to play in the education and awareness of the public. The first opera about sex trafficking will premiere in Liverpool, England, on March 7. Anya17 was composed by Adam Gorb with a libretto written by Ben Kaye. Performers will come from Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic contemporary music ensemble 10/10. Funding for the production was provided in part by the United Nations.

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August 14, 2011

Corruption threatens Brazil\’s Olympics and World Cup

Corruption threatens Brazil’s Olympics and World Cup

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

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Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff wrote that “[i]t looks like corruption is increasing, but what really is increasing is the investigation and identification of criminals”.
Image: Agência Brasil.

Deputy Tourism Minister Frederico Silva da Costa was among 33 Brazilian tourism ministers and officials arrested for embezzlement of public funds on Tuesday. The operation extended across Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Macapa.

The arrests were made following an operation involving up to 200 police officers. Five wanted officials remain at large. Federal Police allege the officials were involved in a scheme that has the potential to destabilise the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The group are said to have used up to R$3.05 million (US$1.88 million, £1.16 million)—allocated in government funding to train almost 2000 taxi drivers, waiters and hotel staff in the lead-up to the events—for private gain.

Federal Police say they intend to charge all 38 (including the five not yet apprehended) with criminal associations, fraud and embezzlement. If found guilty, they face up to twelve years imprisonment.

This is the latest in a string of corruption scandals throughout the nation, which saw Transport Minister Alfredo Nascimento and thirty colleagues resign in July, while a senior Agriculture minister was sacked. A further scandal claimed the President’s chief of staff earlier this year.

President Dilma Rousseff wrote in “Conversation with the President”—her weekly column—that “[i]t looks like corruption is increasing, but what really is increasing is the investigation and identification of criminals”.

The arrests follow 63 similar anti-corruption operations carried out last year by Federal Police in conjunction with government organisations.

The nation now faces an uphill battle to be ready in time for the commencement of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the 2016 Olypmic Games.



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June 27, 2011

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visits Shakespeare\’s birthplace

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visits Shakespeare’s birthplace

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Premier Jiabao
Image: World Economic Forum.

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao paid a visit to the birthplace of English playwright and poet William Shakespeare on Sunday. The visit to Stratford-upon-Avon was included in his three-day tour of various industries in Britain. The UK is one of China’s biggest trading partners, second only to the EU.

Cquote1.svg [Stratford-upon-Avon] has produced a figure who belongs not only to the UK but to the world. A great man who belongs not just to his era but to entire history. Cquote2.svg

—Premier Wen Jiabao

The 68-year-old Wen, reportedly a fan of Shakespeare, was met upon his arrival at Stratford-upon-Avon by dozens of flag-waving individuals from the UK’s Chinese community. He visited Shakespeare’s birthplace, which is now a museum and then attended a scene from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet“, his favourite play, while sitting in the “sun-drenched” garden. He toured the collection of treasures at the town’s Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. On his tour at the Trust, lasting half an hour longer than planned, he looked through a 17th-century folio of Shakespeare’s famous plays. Trust director Diana Owen, who talked with Wen during his informal tour, said Wen described Shakespeare as “the greatest writer of all time.”

Wen told Sky News that his love of Shakespeare began as a child.

“The local people here have every reason to take pride that this place has produced a figure who belongs not only to the UK but to the world,” Mr Wen said to Sky News. “A great man who belongs not just to his era but to entire history.”

The Chinese leader’s arrival in England came days after the announcement of activist and dissident sculptor Ai Weiwei‘s release by Beijing last Wednesday, after a global call for his release. The announcement, made before Wen’s meeting today with British Prime Minister David Cameron, was likely discussed along with the issue of China’s record on human rights and trade deals. There were several protesters outside Downing Street, who held a banner that read “Cameron and Wen: human rights before trade”.

The goal of the visit, part of a three-nation tour of Europe, is the strengthening of economic ties between the two countries. China is increasingly outsourcing its own manufacturing to less costly labour markets and wants to increase its investments in established European brands. Today, China and Britain announced contracts worth over one billion pounds.

John Shakespeare’s house, believed to be Shakespeare’s birthplace, in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Image: File Upload Bot (Magnus Manske).

Cquote1.svg I am hoping that a billion Chinese might see some pictures on their TV of their premier coming and visiting the birthplace of Shakespeare, and thinking: ‘Well, I’d like to go there as well.’ Cquote2.svg

—Jeremy Hunt, British Culture Secretary

British Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, whose wife is Chinese, was hopeful that Wen’s visit would have a positive effect on the country’s tourism industry. He told Sky News, “I am hoping that a billion Chinese might see some pictures on their TV of their premier coming and visiting the birthplace of Shakespeare, and thinking: ‘Well, I’d like to go there as well.’ ” Hunt noted that 150,000 Chinese visit the UK yearly and thinks that is “the tip of the iceberg”.

Hunt stressed that Wen’s visit is not only about jobs. It is also about developing broader cultural ties “which is the best possible way to make sure we understand each other and avoid the kind of misunderstanding that so can bedevil relationships, as has happened in the past,” he told the BBC.

The Chinese are interested in British happenings. About 30 million Chinese watched the recent Royal wedding.



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October 24, 2010

Wikinews investigates the reconstruction of Pichilemu, Chile after February earthquake

Wikinews investigates the reconstruction of Pichilemu, Chile after February earthquake

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

A recently constructed kiosk with the new design. Image: Diego Grez. The original design of the kiosk, as shown in the plans by the Municipality. Image: Ilustre Municipalidad de Pichilemu.

Left: A recently constructed kiosk with the new design. Image: Diego Grez.
Right: The original design of the kiosk, as shown in the plans by the Municipality. Image: Ilustre Municipalidad de Pichilemu.

Eight months after a catastrophic earthquake, Wikinews has investigated the devastation caused in February and the reconstruction of Pichilemu, Chile. The February 27 earthquake and a subsequent tsunami completely destroyed Pichilemu’s most coastal street and its oldest villages. Wikinews has also had access to the original design plans of the new kiosks in Pichilemu, and conducted an interview with merchant Alejandro Mella, known locally as the King of the Cochayuyo (“El Rey del Cochayuyo”), who lost his kiosk after the earthquake.

Pichilemu is a coastal city in the O’Higgins Region of Chile, known as one of the “best surfing spots” in South America. Its current Mayor is Roberto Córdova Carreño, who was elected internally by the Councillors of the city in September 2009, after several political controversies that ended with three Mayors being displaced.

The territory of Pichilemu has a surface of 7,491 square kilometers, and comprises at least 24 villages, such as Ciruelos, Rodeíllo and Espinillo (the latter two also severely damaged by the March 11 earthquake). Pichilemu is the most popular beach in O’Higgins Region, and many tourists visit it every summer.

‘The house moved from side to side. I really thought it was going to fall’: First earthquake strikes

People in Pichilemu fled to La Cruz Hill, the village of Pueblo de Viudas, or simply they left the city, risking themselves because roads were very damaged. In the picture, people near Los Navegantes, going to La Cruz Hill.
Image: Diego Grez.

The earthquake took place in what is considered the “last weekend in the summer;” on Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 03:34 local time (06:34 UTC), while almost all Chileans were sleeping. Hours earlier, on Friday, thousands of people had arrived at Pichilemu. “The house moved from side to side. I really thought it was going to fall. It was 3 or 4 minutes long,” Diego Grez, a Chilean student who was in Pichilemu at the time of the quake, told Wikinews in an interview.

A concert was being held at the One Discotheque when the earthquake occurred. It is said that the audience panicked and fled outside the discothèque, and then to the La Cruz Hill. Most tourists fled outside the city right after the earthquake occurred, but many others opted to stay in the La Cruz Hill or the village of Pueblo de Viudas, which are the higher points in the city.

“Pichilemu is the symbolic beach resort in the Sixth Region [of O’Higgins], so it was not strange to even think that [during] the last weekend before the entrance to school, many people would be going to take advantage of it to take a vacation; and that’s what happened,” reported El Rancagüino, the most important newspaper in O’Higgins Region, on February 28.

Agustín Ross Balcony after the earthquake and tsunami.
Image: Diego Grez.

The only radio broadcasting in the area was Entre Olas, directed by Jorge Nasser, which also helped Pichileminians know what happened in other affected places by the earthquake, as they re-broadcasted the audio of Televisión Nacional de Chile (National Television of Chile). On the day of the earthquake, the station reported that a local police truck had crashed near La Cruz Hill. There was no tsunami warning, and Mayor Córdova was away on holiday when the earthquake struck.

“Those who live in Pichilemu, and those who were visiting it, were surprised by the giant waves that annihilated its beach and reached the city’s square, destroying everything on their way,” reported El Morrocotudo on February 28. “The most tough thing occurred when the firefighters’ alarms sounded twice, and the people in the hill began to yell ‘tsunami!’,” journalist Tania Arce told the newspaper.

The earthquake destroyed one of Pichilemu’s oldest and iconic buildings, the post office, which was demolished in July. The urban centre of Pichilemu was not severely damaged by the earthquake, but its subsequent tsunami caused most of the destruction. The Agustín Ross architecture in the city (three of his buildings are National Monuments of Chile) was damaged. Agustín Ross Balcony was completely destroyed.

‘It’s something unforgettable to me, I’m proud I saved all of those lives’

The tsunami destroyed most of Pichilemu’s coastal street establishments, including kiosks, restaurants and hotels. The picture shows the Donde Esaú Restaurant, which was severely damaged by both the tsunami and earthquake.
Image: Diego Grez.

According to SHOA, the Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service of the Chilean Navy, the tsunami triggered by the earthquake first reached Pichilemu, at 03:48 (06:48 UTC). A second wave came at 04:15 (07:15 UTC).

Policeman José Arévalo was the only person to warn residents that a tsunami was approaching. Arévalo was patrolling the Las Terrazas beach, when the earthquake occurred. He told El Rancahuaso there were around 25 people in the beach. “Right after the quake, he noticed the sea had shrank around 500 meters inside. He took his megaphone, and shouted people should leave the place instantly.” “The sea is coming out! The sea is coming out!,” he shouted. “The warning was also preceived by nightclubs and pubs surrounding the costanera. Then, the tragedy occurred. The sea destroyed everything on its way,” El Rancahuaso reported. “It all was really quick. Everyone is safe, luckily [..] It’s something unforgettable to me, I’m proud I saved all of those lives,” Arévalo added.

The tsunami destroyed restaurants, hotels, kiosks, the Fishermen Store (Caleta de Pescadores), surf schools, the Agustín Ross Balcony (located right in front of the Las Terrazas beach) and houses near the costanera (the nearest street to the beach), and flooded the building of the Government of Cardenal Caro Province, the boarding school of Pichilemu, the city square (Arturo Prat Square), and the Supermarket El 9.

A local worker, Ricardo Vivanco, also known as “El Gordo” (“The Fat one”), almost was killed by a tsunami, ignoring warnings by the Police and the Fire Bureau. Vivanco was drunk, and went down to the Las Terrazas beach with his friends. The wave washed him away, and was hit on the Agustín Ross Balcony’s wall. His friends recorded a video and uploaded it to YouTube.

Damage in Punta de Lobos and villages

Punta de Lobos, Pichilemu’s most popular surfing beach, is located at about four kilometers south of the city’s centre.
Image: Diego Grez.

It was reported by Radio Entre Olas on February 27, that the tsunami had provoked massive damage in Punta de Lobos, Pichilemu’s most popular beach. The owner of Entre Mar, an hotel and restaurant in that beach, said the tsunami had destroyed all of his buildings there.

The village of Espinillo was badly damaged, and approximately 600 people were made homeless by the earthquake, Teletrece reported on March 16. “We are keeping the government informed, we’re also organized with some churches [sic, religious organizations] that are working voluntarily in Espinillo, Los Boldos, Alto Ramírez […] We thank a lot their work, that is not to give them mediaguas [temporary tenements], but something definitive, but I also think they need resources to do it,” Mayor Córdova said.

‘We are here because we fear about our safety’: Residents scramble after second earthquake

Many Pichileminians stayed in La Cruz Hill for several days after the March earthquake.
Image: Diego Grez.

On March 11, Chile was hit by a second earthquake, that reached a magnitude of 6.9, and that occurred 40 kilometers southwest of Pichilemu. It occurred at 11:39 local time (14:39 UTC), while the new President Sebastián Piñera was sworn in.

A tsunami warning was issued by SHOA, between Coquimbo and Los Lagos regions. People in Pichilemu fled again to La Cruz Hill. Military authorities assured people in the hill they were going to be safe there, and that it was unlikely a tsunami was going to hit again Chile’s coast. The tsunami warning was lifted at 15:50 local time (18:50 UTC).

People stayed in La Cruz Hill for a longer time than after the previous earthquake, and several activities were made there, such as a concert by Chilean-Brazilian singer Joe Vasconcellos. People were also given food, wood (mostly remains from the destroyed kiosks), and electricity.

“We are here because we fear about our safety. We don’t want it [a possible tsunami] to catch us. We have to settle down here and to accommodate,” Edith Larraín told to Wikinews. Mayor Córdova estimated that at least 2,000 people were staying at La Cruz Hill. Militaries and provincial authorities asked them to leave the hill on March 15, but most refused the deal. People eventually left the hill, due to complaints by the Mayor.

Eight months on, reconstruction begins

Caleta de Pescadores was destroyed almost completely after the earthquake and tsunami. The fishermen’s boats were thrown more than 200 meters away.
Image: Diego Grez.

On March 20, in collaboration with the Governor of Cardenal Caro Julio Ibarra, Colonel Raúl Melo, and the Mayor of Litueche Bernardo Cornejo, Mayor of Pichilemu Roberto Córdova announced a “tourism revival campaign” of Pichilemu, promoting the surf practice, whose goal was “to make the city go back to the normality.”

On April 4, the first monument was erected in memory of the earthquake and tsunami victims. The monument was created by local artisans, with rocks from several places of the Cardenal Caro Province. “We wanted to create this monument so we don’t forget it [the earthquake] […] This is the beginning of the reconstruction,” said Julio Ibarra. The monument was placed in front of the beach, near the building of the Cardenal Caro Government. Mayor Roberto Córdova said that “it definitely will help us reconstruct [ourselves] espiritually, [and that] is essential.”

On October 20, with the help of the Government, SERCOTEC (Technical Cooperation Service, Servicio de Cooperación Técnica) and FOSIS (Solidarity and Social Investment, Fondo de Solidaridad e Inversión Social), the Fishermen Store (Caleta de Pescadores) began to be reconstructed. Caleta de Pescadores is administered by the Independent Labour Union of Fishermen of Pichilemu (Sindicato de Trabajo Independientes de Pescadores Artesanales), which has twenty-three members.

“The Government of President Sebastián Piñera has been worried about the fishing area, carrying out several actions in help of them, after all that they’ve suffered after the earthquake and tsunami that hit them […] This area is working normally again,” Governor Ibarra said.

New kiosks; interview with Alejandro Mella

Alejandro Mella.
Image: Diego Grez.

On October 6, the Municipality of Pichilemu published the design of kiosks that were going to be constructed, as replacement of those destroyed by the earthquake. As of October 23, four kiosks have been constructed in Pichilemu, specifically on Las Terrazas beach, and two more are being constructed. According to Mauricio Grez, a construction engineer, the construction of one kiosk would cost up to US$ 2,500 (CLP 1,000,000).

Alejandro Mella, locally known as “el Rey del Cochayuyo” (“the King of the Cochayuyo”), is a merchant of Pichilemu, who promotes the cochayuyo (durvillaea antarctica), and lost his kiosk after the February earthquake and tsunami. “I was given my [former] kiosk by the Mayor Orlando Cornejo, back in 1993. It was right in front of us [in front of Las Terrazas beach, near “the grotto of the Virgin”], and was made smithereens by the tsunami,” he told Wikinews.

“I have always worked on selling cochayuyo here, and the terrain where my kiosk was located before has been disputed by private people, and the municipality approved that. I talked with the Mayor and he said ‘I don’t know what’s going on the beach’; that left me perplexed. […] I like the new design of the kiosks, they are larger, and we can do more things with it, but they are way too expensive,” he added. Mr. Mella also gave Wikinews a sample of his work as “the King of the Cochayuyo”, an essay called “El cochayuyo es una mina repleta de nutrientes y sales minerales” (“Cochayuyo is a mine full of nutrients and mineral salts”, pictured below), which he sells for 200 Chilean pesos (0.41 US$), and that contains “tips and information about the plant, and some recipes.”

A kiosk in Pichilemu, in 2007. The design is considerably different to the recently published one. Image: Diego Grez.

A kiosk in Pichilemu, in 2007. The design is considerably different to the recently published one.
Image: Diego Grez.

Isometrical view of the new Pichilemu kiosks. Image: Ilustre Municipalidad de Pichilemu.

Isometrical view of the new Pichilemu kiosks.
Image: Ilustre Municipalidad de Pichilemu.

Construction of kiosks in Las Terrazas Beach, on October 22. Image: Diego Grez.

Construction of kiosks in Las Terrazas Beach, on October 22.
Image: Diego Grez.

Front page of Alejandro Mella's essay Front page of Alejandro Mella’s essay “El cochayuyo es una mina repleta de nutrientes y sales minerales” (“Cochayuyo is a mine full of nutrients and mineral salts”), which he published under the nickname of “the king of the Cochayuyo of Pichilemu”.
Image: Alejandro Mella/Diego Grez.



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