Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Large Ash Eruptions from Volcanoes Fuego and Santiaguito

The Institute of Seismology, Volcanology and Meteorology (INSIVUMEH) reported that the volcanoes of Fuego and Santiaguito have been throwing up large amounts of ash, and alerted aviation and the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction to take precautions.

The two giants volcanoes are producing loud explosions and throwing incandescent material and steam. Columns of ash from Santiaguito are reaching 600 to 700 meters in height, and scatter about 8 to 12 miles away.

Around the Volcan de Fuego the village of Sangre de Cristo is having problems with the ash causing contamination of drinking water and food.

Austria and Finland Contribute Support for Renewable Energy

The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE) signed agreements with Finland and Austria for nearly $4 million to support renewable energy projects in Central America.

The Government of Finland provide two million euros (about U.S. $2.6 million) to create a partial guarantee fund for renewable energy projects, said the bank in a statement.

The agreement stems from an initiative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, the main promoter of "The Energy and Environment Partnership with Central America." The agreement is aimed to "promote renewable energy in the region, thus contributing to their sustainable development, reducing the increase in greenhouse gases and the mitigation of global climate change," said the bank.

Similarly, the bank also signed an agreement for one million euros (U.S. $1.3 million) with the Austrian Development Bank, to create a Special Fund for Technical Cooperation. The funds will be used with a special focus on environmental and energy efficiency.

Remittances to Latin America Drop

Remittances to Latin America from the United States rose by just one percent in 2008 but will be negative in 2009 due to the recession.

The total for 2008 came to U.S. $69 billion, compared with $ 68.6 billion in 2007, said the IDB, which has been monitoring the movement of money since 2000.

In Guatemala, the effect is already evident. In February, remittances were U.S. $281.9 million, $36.8 million less than the same month in 2008.

"Remittances are a vital resource for millions of homes in the region," said Luis Alberto Moreno, IDB President, "A loss means social problems because remittances are a major source of income for thousands of families."

Moreno said that the reduction will bring difficulties for the governments of countries receiving remittances and increase pressures for social programs.

The drop expected during 2009 results from the recession in the United States, Spain and Japan, which are major sources of remittances to the region.

He said that in the United States and Spain, the construction sector which employs large numbers of immigrants and is one of the hardest sectors hit. Industrial paralysis in Japan, for its part, is directly affecting remittances to Brazil and Peru.