Tungarahua Volcano: Active Once Again

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAqviIwTvEA

It’s official folks, Tungurahua volcano has officially gone active again as of 6:47 a.m. yesterday (Sunday, July 14), with authorities declaring an “orange alert” – the second highest warning level.

200+ residents were evacuated from the Cusua, Chacauco and Juive areas. Forunately, no injuries have been reported.

While Tungurahua has had its spontaneous bursts of activity in the past year, the power of the explosive eruption was apparently grater than anticipated. VolcanoDiscovery.com, having measured elevated seismic activity in the area over the past few weeks, claims that the eruption was not as surprising as the sheer power and force of it, with heavy rain and mild flooding following suit.

Visitors already in or heading to Baños should take note of the volcano’s activity, making sure to take reasonable measures to either stock up on supplies (water, masks, non-perishable goods, etc.), or packing up and heading elsewhere. For those planning on going to the Tungurahua region, it is advised you postpone plans for at least the next week, or until further news and updates come in regarding the volcano’s potential future activity.

Is Quito ready for its upcoming Underground Metro?

Ask any quiteño what their biggest annoyance is with living in the capital city, and more often than not you’ll hear them mutter a disgruntled “traffic.”

Oh, hey there Traffic, I can see you sneaking up behind me...

In just over a decade, Quito has quite literally exploded in all directions, or at least as much as the massive hills and mountains that flank this bit of civilization will allow it to. Look closely at the steep hills of Pichincha on any night, and you’ll see the city lights quite literally floating upwards towards the stars – an indicator of just how much the city is beginning to bulge and teem with new buildings and infrastructure. With an estimated annual growth of 18,000 people per year, Quito keeps getting bigger by the day.

But if Quito is so excited to grow, can it sustain itself and its people while expanding at such a rapid pace?

The city’s boundaries are a long shot from what they once were in the Northern end (once the old Mariscal Sucre Airport) and at the Southern end (just past El Panecillo, by El Recreo). The furthest reaches of the city now border closer to Mitad del Mundo near Carcelen, and the Southern recesses by Quitumbe – a jaunt away from Pasachoa.

I can see the mothers and fathers of this city, hands on their hips, looking down endearingly on this great expanse of civilization, and gleefully saying, “they grow up so fast, don’t they?”

But as the boundaries of the city grow wider and wider apart, commutes get longer and longer, and not to mention – the people get grumpier and grumpier as they arrive to work (Disclaimer: The VIVA Offices are an exceptional and energetic haven for all weary travelers, workers and commuters alike. We have plenty of coffee and would gladly share it with any tired soul that feels the need to amble in through our doors on the way to… well, wherever!). Point being, buses and cars can only do so much in mitigating the growth of the city. More people can only mean more buses, and likewise – more cars.

Even Quito’s relatively recent Pico & Placa (literally Peak & Plate, whereby cars with specific license-plate numbers are prohibited from driving during certain hours, on specific days) traffic-regulating system is getting lukewarm in its effectiveness as the oh-so-cunning populace does what any tree-hugger would rightfully gag at, and that is – they’re all buying secondary cars to use on their “prohibited” days!

What recourse does the city have now, but to look to the future and envision a way of mitigating the traffic – the crowds on wheels – by getting into gear and funneling much of that crowd into a nice and shiny new metro system that’s set to open in 2016!

Wait, was that a… 2016?

Yup.

Three more years of waiting, but a total of 6 if you go back to 2010 and understand that they were already doing an examination of the city in order to better understand how exactly it is that they’d put a Metro through a city as motley and topsy-turvy as this. Not to mention, all the logistics of how many stops it’ll have, or where they’ll be located and how many passengers they’ll transport has been investigated.

So that part is over, or “Phase 1” as it’s technically called, is officially complete, thanks in large part to the savvy and knowledgeable minds at Metro Madrid – an engineering company that has years of expertise in the metro-building business over in Spain. The the future of transportation is in capable and good hands, to say the least. The engineering firm has also been commissioned to supervise the remaining phases, as well as performing technical maintenance on the metro once it’s finished.

There will be 15 stations in total, with La Magdalena being the terminus station located in South and El Labrador being its counterpoint in the North.

Budget for the entire line? 1.5 million.

But why can't it stop directly at my doorstep?!

Wait a minute, did I get that right? One-and-a-half million? Aren’t there cars that are worth more than that???

Which is why many have come to doubt the construction of the metro (which is even harder to stop now, given the project is already underway, as construction of the terminus stations began earlier this year). Many are skeptical of whether or not the entire project has enough money to finance it to the finish line (50% is provided by the municipality, and the other half by the central government). The budget, to some, seems way to small to justify and sustain the sheer size of the project, especially given the fact that the greater part of the metro is going to be underground – which costs a prettier penny than it does to build above ground.

Not to mention, with two stations planned for Quito’s Old Town, UNESCO has cast a rather questionable glance at the project itself. As a world heritage site, Old Town seems to be the most vulnerable and fragile location to undergo a project as big as this, and yet ironically – the one most in need of it. With an average intake of 280 thousand people – mediated by some 2,600 buses and 80,000 cars per day – we can see how the Old Town is under a lot of pressure to ease the flow of traffic in and out of its lauded and much celebrated cobblestone streets and enduring antiquity.

Could've been worse, they could've turned it into a Nightclub. A "holy" Nightclub.

With Quito promising to be careful in its execution and construction of the Metro underneath the Historical Old Town (apparently, stating that instead of using a tunnel boring machine they’ll dig manually), it seems that the city and the government has a rather headstrong outlook in getting this thing underway.

After all, doesn’t Rome have its own Metro under the Colosseum? And China, a metro underneath the Forbidden (yes, FORBIDDEN!) City?

I say: Persevere Quito, persevere! And I will see you all, dear friends and family that live on the other side of the city, in less than 36 minutes,

Come 2016.

Can Bolivia's native food boost its tourism industry?

Being ranked as one of the most unfriendliest places in the world might be a huge setback for your tourism industry, but are there certain things and tastes that might be able to redeem Bolivia’s unwelcoming demeanor? The answer might be found in the country’s culinary roots.

The Problem

Here in Ecuador for example, cheap quinoa (along with many other grains and beans) are classified by many as the food of the indigenous, and are – in some ways – quietly considered inferior to foreign and imported, more expensive and exciting delicacies. Ironically, such ‘delicacies’ might merely be McDonald’s or Subway. As a result of its higher price and exotic appeal, a person’s choice of food in this sense has also inadvertently become somewhat of a status icon.

With Latin America becoming more westernized each year and with international fast-food franchises becoming more rampant, “dining out” might actually involve sampling the new and exotic or Western fried foods at a Wendy’s and McDonald’s. The act itself becomes more socially exalting and appealing to many (despite the higher price and exceptionally lower-quality ingredients) because it’s so different from what the country itself has to offer, as well as the social undertones that the national food might carry.

The inverse (and irony) of all this being  that in the western world (specifically Canada & the US) the price of quinoa can exceed the price of a fast food meal in weight alone, and is considered a high-end food as a result.

But if a country’s populace becomes jaded towards its own traditions and food, tourists might find themselves perplexed by the overabundance of international restaurants available and disappointed by the lack of local and traditional fare.

Or will they? A fresh and foreign palate might be the only way to reevaluate the worth of a country’s own cuisine – as well as raise appreciation for the local ingredients grown inside the nation. At least that’s what Claus Meyer, the Danish co-founder of Noma (one of the best restaurants in the world), intends to do in La Paz, Bolivia.

The Solution

Using his conviction that regards food as an instrument to improve life – as well as his resentment towards food being taken hostage by the industry – Meyer is setting up a restaurant named Gustu in La Paz as a non-profit organization. The restaurant will serve as a platform for fine dining, a bakery and bistro, and even a cooking school for underprivileged young indigenous chefs.

“The idea is to turn those young, marginalized people into culinary entrepreneurs,” he says in his Ted-Talk, “and, in close cooperation with all the major stakeholders in Bolivia, form the Bolivian food movement.”

He underlines the fact that, in light of the problem stated earlier, the movement intends to go against the international junk and fast food industry, which he says is one that is “dominated by massive corporations that ruin our health, undermine our independence and potentially damage the planet.”

In many ways, Meyer is the white knight of Bolivia’s culinary heritage, bringing to international light the fact that Bolivia has the largest biological diversity worldwide in terms of agricultural produce. Local delicacies can range anywhere from llama steak to giant runner beans. In addition to this, Meyer claims that he’s found fruits that he’s seen nowhere else, along with “thousands of varieties of potatoes, high jungle coffee and even exquisite red wine from the landlocked country’s eastern border with Argentina.”

Hopes are high within the Danish entrepreneur and seasoned cook as his restaurant is now operating in the capital, and he holds fast to the conviction that food can definitively change our minds, and to a certain extent – the world. It’s just the case that sometimes, especially when we’ve been living in a place for so long, the true value of the ground we stand on – and the fruits it provides – must be revealed to us once more by the fresh perspective and palate of savvy newcomer.

What camera is best for travel photography?

In a day and age where we all want to share our adventures with our family and friends,
how do we know which camera is for us?

Ahhh, memories of summer as I'm sitting in winter...

“A life worth living is a life worth recording.”

I think that to a certain extent, many of us hold a secret desire to stash and tuck away a large number of our experiences into a more accessible part of our memory. Be it the look in your eyes when you had your first sip of Coca-Cola as kid or when you bungee jumped off a questionable-looking bridge somewhere in Latin America, part of me believes that it’s safe to say that we all have moments in life that we never want to forget, or at least, that we wish we could relive.

Alas, and for better or for worse, it is the unfortunate case that our minds – as brilliant as they are – can be somewhat inefficient at ingraining in our memory the small and big details that make up every experience. Necessity being the mother of invention however, we find that our creative and ingenious species has come a long way in fixing that little shortcoming.

Photography

Travel is the one thing that especially calls out for this means of remembering more than any other occasion in life. We always seem to want to bring back or keep with us a visual souvenir as a testament of having visited a certain place. Except for, maybe the bathroom.

there are exceptions, of course

And in this new dawn and age of digital photography, it seems that the devices for doing so are more likely inside our pockets than sitting at home in the closet (as would be the case with a DSLR and its collection of lenses). Rather than asking if anyone has a camera handy to take a picture, don’t we actually find ourselves usually asking: does anyone have a cellphone?

A wise man once proclaimed: The man with the best camera is he who has one on them at the exact moment when it is needed (ladies, this goes for you too obviously!). So in many ways, be it on your next journey abroad or simply when you step out the door next time, realize that this anxiety of forgetting your experiences is actually mitigated quite powerfully by the technology you simply carry around inside your pocket on a daily basis.

What kind of photographer are you?

As the line gets blurrier by the day between smartphone cameras and DSLRs/point-and-shoots, it’s becoming even harder to justify the price of buying a bigger piece of machinery and lenses when something so tiny offers so much already. Even more troubling is the fact that smartphone cameras are starting to pack more bells and whistles than your average camera could shake a stick at. Starting from apps that stitch panoramas for you on the spot, all the way to letting you edit and share your pictures on the web right after you’ve taken them, it’s easy to see how standalone digital cameras are falling behind in terms of the tools and convenience they offer their user.

Look at this guy, even sporting a Jeweler’s loupe, so classy....

But there are many things the traveler must take into account before picking their camera of choice for their upcoming journey. Specifically, what do you want to get out of your images? Take a look at the following categories and questions to help you figure that out:

  • Type of photography: Low-light or bright-light? Soft-focus? Are you going to be taking pictures of birds? People up close? Skylines? Do you want creative control over shutter speed and aperture? Will you be taking your camera with you underwater?
  • Image Quality: What will you be viewing these pictures on? Will you be printing numberswiki.com

    them up into larger sizes? Or just posting them on the web? Are you all about getting the details in your photograph as sharp and focused as possible?

  • Connectivity: How frequently will you want to let the people you care about see where you’ve been and what you’ve been up to?
  • Convenience: How ready are you to haul around an extra couple of pounds around your neck or in your backpack? How intimidating do you want to look pointing your lens at the locals?
  • Safety: How well will you want to conceal your camera, given the areas you’ll be in?

These are all vital questions you must ask yourself before deciding on what kind of camera you’ll be taking with you, and as you answer them you should be getting a clearer image of what type of camera best suits you.

And I know. While there’s a large number of our readers slowly transitioning (and we love it!) into the electronic version of our books – which means they’ll be reading our guidebook on-the-go, either from their phones or tablet – the answer is pretty clear: Go with your phone or tablet if it has a camera, Go with what you’re already taking with you. Tablets are rather fragile though, so I wouldn’t advise taking that out with you on a daily basis.

The Purist Photographer

But there’s still many of you reading this right now probably thinking:

But what if I don’t feel comfortable taking my prized possession with me off into some unknown land? What if I don’t even own a smart phone or a tablet?

Well dear traveler, find some respite in knowing there’s some incredibly powerful cameras available on the market today that can fit inside your pocket, or at most – very inconspicuously in your satchel or backpack. Not to mention, some are even waterproof, unlike your phone! But all in all, I’ll have to point most travelers away from going the DSLR-way…

Not because I hate them, not at all! Just…

Bigger is not always better. In my experience, portability has always managed to trump the image-quality of a DSLR. I mean this in the sense that weight – for the sake of quality – is never a sacrifice I’m willing to make when it comes to remembering an experience. I’d rather be less burdened by my camera and enjoy the ride, than lug around its whiny-weight and end up distracted by all the care/effort I have to put into it.

Look Ma! I made it all the way up to the top with my point-and-shoot! And I can prove it!

And that’s not to say that there aren’t cameras that pack a mighty punch in a small package. Below I’ve listed some examples of some solid, compact and light-weight options depending on the type of photography you’re interested in exploring.

  • Lens-interchangeability: A luxury you can cradle in your palm, mirror-less camera’s are slowly paving the way for DSLR and smartphone convergence.  For those interested in changing their depth of field, or tinkering with their aperture and shutter speed, this is it.
  • DSLR strength (in a point-in-shoot body): Packing a big sensor in a point-and-shoot body can make you feel like you’re driving a Volkswagen with a Porsche engine under the hood, sometimes. Check it out.
  • Point-and-Shoot: When you’re not in the mood to have to fiddle with your camera to get the shot you want, relax.
  • Waterproof: If you have the sinking suspicion that you’re going to end up getting completely soaked, stay dry. 

The Magic is in The Moment

Just remember, what makes a picture isn’t really the quality of the camera nor how many megapixels it has. Sometimes it all just depends on being at the right place, at the right time, and having any type of camera on you to capture that moment – that’s what will do the trick. And a marvelous trick it is, for our memories.

So dear traveler, just soak it in and keep your eyes peeled! You never know what you might miss if you’re not looking!

Happy Travels,
V!VA

 

New Quito Airport Is Officially Operational

It’s been 50 years in the making, but travelers flying into Quito after February 20th will find themselves touching down over the brand new Mariscal Sucre Airport, located about an hour away from the city itself. The airport is situated on a plateau near the small town of Tababela, 18 kilometers east of Quito.

It’s a stretch then to say that Quito itself has a new airport, given how far away it is. And we can absolutely sympathize with travelers finding themselves disgruntled by the substantial detour this creates in getting to capital.

But since Quito’s emergence as a popular tourist destination, the number and frequency of flights slowly began to outgrow the operating capacity of the former airport, previously nestled in the northern part of the city. Not to mention, it’s location in a tightly-packed commercial and residential area meant that there was no room to expand the existing terminals and runways. Thus, a whole new airport was needed.

All in all, the new airport is better adapted to satisfy the movement of modern-day airlines and travelers; as well as provide speedier baggage handling, customs, and customer services. In addition to this, the new airport will allow for direct flights to and from a number of major cities around the world.

Getting more info

to Quito won’t be too much of a burden either, granted the airport counts on a number of methods for transporting its arrivals to the capital and back:

  • The transportation company Aeroservicios S.A. (www.aeroservicios.com.ec) runs Wi-Fi equipped buses 24/7 that depart every 30 minutes. Buses leave from the old airport to the new one at a set rate of $8 per passenger, taking about one hour to an hour-and-a-half to get there. Tickets can be bought online or right before boarding.
  • Alternatively, public transit will provide buses departing from the Rio Coca terminal to the new airport every 15 minutes for $2. The catch is that you’ll have to wait patiently through 5 brief stops before finally getting there. Estimated transport time between the two points will be at least an hour-and-a-half to two-hours until traffic conditions improve – specifically once the bypasses are constructed (the main Collas-Tababela highway that is being built from the city to the airport is not expected to be completed until April of 2014)
  • The third option is to take a Taxi, which will cost an estimated $25 to get to the airport from most places in Quito (and vice-versa). To consult the chart of fixed taxi rates, divided up by neighborhood, click here.

Send in Photos of You with Your VIVA Guidebook for a Free eBook Version!

Hi VIVA Readers and Followers!

We absolutely love receiving your photos with our books, so keep them coming! Starting with the most recent edition of our Colombia book, we have urged loyal VIVA guidebook owners to send in photos of themselves with the hard copy of their books in order to receive a free eBook version of the edition, updated for life! You can download this eBook on whichever travel companion you may have: a smart phone, kindle, nook or notebook computer for quick access on the road.

Our website is also constantly being updated, so our guidebooks are being virtually updated often as well; be sure to check back often for travel tips, hotel and restaurant suggestions, and newly spotted activities and volunteer opportunities all over Latin America. Of course, we also hope you will continue to send in your feedback to help keep VIVA guidebooks accurate, up-to-date and user-friendly.

We are now inviting all members of the VIVA Travel Guides community to send in photos of themselves with a hard copy of their VIVA guidebook for access to the eBook version—free of charge and updated for life! Whether you have taken our Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Quito, Cusco and Machu Picchu, Galápagos, Nicaragua or Guatemala guide on the road, we want to see your faces and hear your feedback.

Thanks a million to those of you who have already participated, from all corners of the globe! Here are some photos from recent VIVA Colombia guidebook users:

 

Alternative Nightlife Options in Quito

Here at VIVA, we are busy updating the Ecuador book and are currently working on the Quito section. We have a unique perspective, since our office is located in Quito and all of our full-time staff lives in the city. That’s why we have compiled a list of some awesome nightlife spots outside of the well-known, party-centric La Mariscal neighborhood. If you are looking for a more low key night but still want to unwind, enjoy a pretty view of Quito, see a movie or show, or catch up with friends, we’ve got you covered.

1. El Pobre Diablo: This relaxed jazz bar in the La Floresta neighborhood has live music most weekend nights, hosting both local and visiting acts in various genres, including funk, acid jazz, salsa, soul, drum and bass, and world music. Solo artists as well as cover bands also take the stage. On nights when there are live acts, it is recommended to reserve a table in advance (and expect to pay a cover anywhere between $6.50 and 8). Accompany the music with some (pricey) drinks and appetizers.

2. Ocho y Medio: Run by a cultural organization founded by local film makers, Ochoymedio is an alternative independent movie theater in the La Floresta neighborhood. In addition to hosting film festivals, it regularly shows documentaries, foreign films and local Ecuadorian productions. Many of the films have subtitles in English, depending on their origin. Sometimes, classic old movies are on the agenda. It also has a café/bar/restaurant where you can grab a bite to eat or a coffee or beer before or after the showing.

3. Café Mosaico: It is hard to beat the view of the Centro Histórico from Café Mosaico’s outdoor terrace, right below Parque Itchimbia. This artsy restaurant is perfect for a romantic meal or to sip on coffee or a glass of wine at the end of a long workweek. Its menu is packed with international food and has a fair amount of Ecuadorian and Greek specialties. If there is no space outside, grab a spot by one of the cozy indoor fireplaces. On weekends, there is often traditional live music.

4. La Ronda: Quito’s oldest street fills up on weekend evenings with locals and foreigners looking for a laid-back evening. The cobblestone street in Centro Histórico is packed with art galleries and small restaurants selling empanadas and other traditional Ecuadorian food. It is a great place to sample canelazo (warm alcoholic drink made with cane alcohol, fruits and cinnamon), which is sold at nearly every locale on La Ronda. You will see many chilly patrons sipping on the classic drink outside to warm their bodies and souls.

5. Seseribó: There is no better way to immerse yourself in quiteño culture than salsa dancing, and Seseribó is one of the city’s best salsa spots. This underground dancing den sometimes has live salsa bands (but always has a salsa DJ) and hosts special events. Many salsa instructors come here to dance and practice their routines, so it is a good place to learn the steps and also a fun place to watch good salsa dancing. Most nights, there is a cover after 10 p.m., but it included one drink and a basket of popcorn and fried plantain chips. The best nights to come are Thursday-Saturday.

6. Guápulo cafés: Guápulo is a cute, bohemian neighborhood off of Gónzalez Suárez Street. The upper part of the only cobblestone road that runs through it, Camino de Orellana, is lined with artsy cafés and bars, most of with awesome views of the Guápulo church and the valley of Cumbayá below. You can easily stop by a few of them in one night, or just hole up at one and enjoy the chilled-out atmosphere, good music and photo-worthy views. Some good choices are Pizzería AnankéCafé GuápuloMirador del Guápulo and Café ChiQuito.

7. Café Libro: Café Libro is a cultural center that hosts literary readings, open mic nights, salsa and tango classes, creative writing workshops, and photography exhibits. Almost every night of the week it has some sort of activity, so check its website, www.cafelibro.com, for the full schedule of events. Many nights there is a minimum consumption, but the menu has lots of appetizers, sandwiches, burgers and salads, as well as beer, wine and mixed drinks.

8. Patio de Comedias: Patio de Comedias is one of the only places in town to see stand-up comedy. Plus, it has lots of other theater performances and workshops for those of all age groups looking for a taste of local theater. Check www.patiodecomedias.org for a list of current shows.

9. Centro Cultural Casa Nostra: This restaurant meets cultural center has set dinners (usually around $15) that include entertainment in the form of theater, magic shows, live music or art exhibitions. The set dinner usually includes a welcoming cocktail and several different types of sushi rolls. Check www.facebook.com/casanostraec for more information on current programming.

Tungurahua Volcano: Active Again

Tungurahua is at it again. One of the most active volcanoes in Ecuador, Tungurahua—meaning “Throat of Fire” in the area’s indigenous language, Quichua—has been intermittently spewing lava and ash since 1999. Just Monday, December 17, the volcano started erupting again, prompting the Ecuadorian government and the U.S. embassy to issue an emergency travel warning to the area. Residents of the touristy town of Baños, which is located at the foot of the volcano, along with residents of nearby towns, were urged to voluntarily evacuate and school classes were suspended. Baños is located about 3.5 hours south of Quito in the province in Tungurahua, named for the volcano that calls it home.

Interestingly enough, Tungurahua is as much a tourist attraction as a threat to travelers and residents of Baños. Thousands of travelers per year come to Baños just hoping for a glimpse of the fiery lava spewing from the volcano’s cone. In fact, every night, tour operators run chiva tours (tours in open-sided party buses) at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. to see the volcano from the Bellavista viewpoint. Most who sign up hope to be treated to a fire show, but depending on the weather and cloud cover, you may not even be able to make out the volcano’s shape. Whether or not you catch Tungurahua in action, the tours are a cheap nighttime activity and end with a complimentary canelazo, or warm alcoholic beverage made with sugar can alcohol, fruits and cinnamon.

You can get up-to-the-minute updates about Tungurahua’s current volcanic activities at: www.volcanodiscovery.com/tungurahua/news.html

The latest update is as follows: “Thursday, December 20, 2012:

Tungurahua volcano (Ecuador): increasing activity and new pyroclastic flow

An explosion at 01:50 (local time) this night was followed by an increase of seismic and visible activity. Between 02:00 and 04:00 am, explosions followed at intervals of only 5 minutes and produced loud cannon-shot noises and shock waves, and ejected incandescent blocks of various sizes. At 02:30, a pyroclastic flow ran down the Cusua ravine, and strong ash fall was reported from Penipe.”

Latin American News from Around the Web

Stay up-to-date and informed with the biggest headlines from Latin America this week:

1) Thousands of dissatisfied Argentines protest against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government policies, just a week after she officially lowered the voting age in Argentina from 18 to 16: www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-20263760

2) At least 48 people are dead in Guatemala after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake hit on Wednesday, November 7, shaking Central America all the way up to Mexico City: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/11/07/world/americas/guatemala-earthquake/index.html

3) Fifty-four percent of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood on Tuesday, November 6, awaiting final approval from Congress to become the 51st state of the United States of America: www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/election-2012/wp/2012/11/07/puerto-rico-approves-statehood/

4) The 20-year “banana war” has officially come to an end, as 11 Latin American countries (Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela and Peru) signed an agreement with the European Union over banana tariffs: www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/globalbusiness/9666147/Banana-war-ends-after-20-years.html

Hurricane Sandy kills at least 65 in the Caribbean

As the East Coast of the U.S. braces itself for Hurricane Sandy today – with businesses, schools and transport systems shut down and mass evacuations taking place – severe damage has already been wrecked by Sandy on the Caribbean, with Haiti the worst hit. At least 51 people have died in Haiti, and more than 2,000 people had to be evacuated due to extremely heavy rains and flooding.

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy (Jennette's Pier in Nags Head - Hurricane Sandy by County of Dare)

Many of the deaths occurred in the area around the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, where 370,000 Haitians are still living in temporary shelters following the deadly 2010 earthquake.

Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica were also affected. In Cuba, eleven were reported to have been killed, with two more people dead in the Dominican Republic and one in Jamaica. All three countries also experienced severe damage to and destruction of thousands of homes.