For Chile and Argentina, it was the chilliest of winters, and not just on the thermometer.
During one of the coldest South American winters in decades, Argentina almost daily cut more than 90 percent of the natural gas it sends to Chile along pipelines that connect the two countries.
Power plants and factories in this smoggy capital were forced to switch to diesel and fuel oil, which belch more air pollution and have nearly quadrupled the cost of producing electricity.
Santiago reported its highest number of dangerous smog days in seven years.
Argentina's actions have chilled relations between the two countries. But the impact of South America's energy crisis is far broader. Across the region, concerns about energy are roiling national politics, generating tensions between neighbors and emerging as one of the biggest brakes to growth and integration.
"Bottlenecks in energy supply will be a critical policy concern in Latin America over the next two to five years," said Christopher Garman, the Latin America director at Eurasia Group, a New York-based consulting firm.
Energy concerns are at the top of the agenda for the region's leaders, most of whom have high popularity ratings, thanks largely to buoyant economies riding a wave of higher commodity prices.
But the steady economic growth of recent years has increased energy demand, while governments have failed for a decade to invest enough in natural gas exploration and new power plants.
BRAZIL LOOKS TO CANE
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is particularly preoccupied with the risk of power shortages.
In an interview last month, he said the region's gas woes were reason to support new hydroelectric power plants and projects to produce electricity from sugar cane.
"I do not want to make Brazil dependent on gas," he said.
The alternatives are to raise consumer prices and impose austerity measures. Politicians have been reluctant to do either, and history shows why.
When Brazil suffered an energy crunch in 2000, for example, then president Fernando Henrique Cardoso implored consumers to conserve, and imposed penalties on those who did not.
In the end, a major crisis was averted -- but the government's approval rating dropped by a third, and da Silva -- not Cardoso's chosen successor -- was elected in 2002.
Argentine President Nestor Kirchner has steadfastly refused to raise his country's gas and electricity prices, which are among the lowest in the world, ahead of the Oct. 28 election.
Kirchner's wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, is the leading candidate to succeed him.
Instead, his government placed wintertime energy-use restrictions on industrial customers and cut off its neighbor to the west, Chile.
Kirchner's strategy has satisfied voters and kept Argentina's economy humming, for now.
But the low prices for gas and power in Argentina have scared away needed foreign investment in energy development and raised fears of runaway inflation.
Moreover, while the government refuses to impose on residential consumers to cut back, Argentina's energy demands are rising faster than supplies.
Power plants have little or no spare capacity and are suffering from a lack of maintenance, increasing the chances of brownouts or blackouts, said Sylvie D'Apote, an analyst with Cambridge Energy Research Associates.
Argentina's economy, which is expected to grow this year by about 8 percent for a fifth straight year, is struggling with rising inflation pegged by private economists at nearly 20 percent, more than double official government claims.
The president has publicly denied that there is even an energy crisis, noting that residential consumers have yet to feel a pinch.
Instead, it is Chile that is being squeezed.
With few energy resources of its own, Chile had come to rely on Argentina for natural gas. The neighbors signed contracts in 1994, giving Chile a cheap source of fuel and a way to help clean Santiago's notoriously smoggy air.
Argentine officials now say the Argentine Congress never approved the energy accords, making them nonbinding. The Chileans call that claim ludicrous.
The energy situation is already contributing to inflation in Chile, which is expected to be 6.4 percent this year.
CHILE TO DIVERSIFY
Faced with few options, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, is moving on several fronts to diversify her nation's energy supplies.
Two terminals for liquefied natural gas should be completed by mid-2009.
Chile is also opening up some land for oil and gas exploration, though it historically has found little.
Bachelet recently received a government-financed study exploring the prospects for building nuclear power plants, which the next government will have to decide whether or not to do.
SECURITY CONCERNS: The Telecom Technology Center ran black-box tests for the Executive Yuan on devices and software from Chinese, US and South Korean firms Network devices from several Chinese manufacturers are insecure and allow personal information to be leaked, testing commissioned by the Executive Yuan has shown. A variety of devices and software, including apps, from Chinese, US and South Korean manufacturers that are used by government agencies at the central and local level were subjected to black-box testing — in which the functionality of an application is examined without knowing about its internal structure, an information-security official said yesterday on condition of anonymity. The Telecom Technology Center conducted the tests, which simulated cyberattacks, to determine their resilience to the attacks, the official said. The center
Americans awoke yesterday to charred and glass-strewn streets in dozens of cities after another night of unrest fueled by rage over the mistreatment of African Americans at the hands of police, who responded to the violence with tear gas and rubber bullets. Tens of thousands marched peacefully through streets to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died on Monday last week after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck until he stopped breathing. However, many demonstrations sank into chaos as night fell: Vehicles and businesses were torched. The words “I can’t breathe” were
The nation marked its 49th day with no new domestic COVID-19 cases yesterday, and there were no new imported cases, but that does not mean the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) can relax its attention, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said yesterday in Tainan as he and a team of health officials wrapped up a weekend visit to the city. The visit is part of the center’s efforts to promote domestic travel under the “new disease prevention lifestyle.” Among the 442 confirmed cases, 423 have been released from isolation and 12 people remain hospitalized, Chen
EXTRA INVITATIONS: Russia, Australia, South Korea and India would be asked to a later summit dedicated to countering China, Donald Trump said US President Donald Trump has been forced to cancel a planned face-to-face summit of G7 leaders this month and now wants to host an expanded meeting in September dedicated to countering China to which Russian President Vladimir Putin would be invited. Trump on Saturday announced that he had canceled the June meeting, which he had billed as a symbol of the US “transitioning back to greatness,” after German Chancellor Angela Merkel told him in a telephone call that she saw the summit in Washington as a health risk. Hundreds of security staff, journalists and officials also attend the two-day summits. Reports suggest