Americas - Issue 7 - Magazine | Monocle

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Capital punishment


Bolivia’s two main cities La Paz and Sucre each want to be the country’s sole seat of government, setting up a showdown at a critical time. President Evo Morales has convened an assembly to rewrite the constitution to give more rights to the poor Indian majority but a battle over a proposal to move the capital from sprawling La Paz in the west to Sucre in the east threatens to derail the process. Work was suspended in August after violent protests erupted outside the assembly meeting and the issue could impact the draft’s December deadline.

Sucre was Bolivia’s capital from 1825 until a civil war in 1899, when the government moved to La Paz. Sucre has remained the country’s judicial capital but its leaders now want to move the executive and legislative branches back, too. La Paz’s fans say the proposal is an attempt by Morales’ opponents in the wealthier eastern states to divert power from the poorer west.

So far, Morales has refused to budge, banning the topic from being discussed in the assembly. Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said this summer: “The capital is not a piece of bread. It’s not a roll or a potato to haggle over or sell.”

Longest-serving leaders:

the Americas

Fidel Castro
In power since 1959

El Presidente, now aged 81, is the world’s longest-serving leader, a feat all the more remarkable given the number and eccentricity of attempts to overthrow and/or assassinate him. Castro “temporarily” transferred power to his brother, Raul – a spry 76 – last summer following surgery but formal retirement seems unlikely, however wishful the thinking of the White House.

Mod converts


Once the province of couriers and Jean-Paul Belmondo wannabes, scooters areexperiencing a surge of popularity in the US. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, sales jumped from 12,000 in 1997 to 120,000 in 2006. Women make up nearly half of the buyers, but students and baby boomers are also revving up.

What’s behind the boom? Fuel prices for one thing. Commuters who are sick of doling out small fortunes – $3 (€2.19) a gallon is exorbitant in the US – to fill their cars are glad to buy a vehicle that offers decent mileage. Call it the anti-Hummer. And there’s nothing like a scooter to unlock a grid-locked commute. “Depending on the engine size, a scooter can do up to 125 miles to the gallon,” says Chris Carr, the owner of Fresno Motorsports in Fresno, California.

Sun-drenched markets such as San Francisco and Miami, and more recently Texas and the Carolinas, have the most scooters but cold weather cities such as Chicago are hitting the road on two small wheels, as well. “It’s not tough to put on the right gear and stay warm on a scooter,” says Carr.

Honda, Yamaha and Vespa are the leading sellers of scooters in the US and prices range from $1,800 (€1,300) to $8,000 (€5,900).Chicago-based Genuine Scooter’s Stella model – a facsimile of the Vespa Granturismo – sells for about $3,000, (€2,200). “Scooters are cheap and economical,” says Carr. And one other thing: they’re sexy as hell.

Korea opportunity


Korean is establishing itself as one of the key secondary languages in the US, a fact reflected in the booming US-based Korean-language media. It is estimated that there are from one to two million Korean speakers in the US, a fraction of the 32 million Spanish speakers, and fewer than those who speak Chinese and Vietnamese.

TvK24, the country’s leading Korean cable network, has dreams of becoming a Korean-language CNN and it has enjoyed spectacular growth since its launch two years ago. In the past year, the station has expanded to Seattle, Boston, Houston, Anchorage and suburban Washington – reaching 500,000 Koreans nationwide – and picking up advertisers such as Hyundai, Korean Air and Toyota. The channel features original dramas subtitled in English because of their massive popularity among all Asian audiences, as well as newscasts catering to Korean-Americans, game shows, talk shows – even a golf programme.

Andrew Lam, an editor at New America Media, which tracks ethnic news organisations in the US, says, “Korean culture is really hot right now. Even if you’re Vietnamese, Chinese or Filipino, you are watching Korean soap operas with subtitles. Korean-language programming is certainly one of the areas to invest in.”

Korean-Americans have a dedicated space online, too. On, one of the largest Korean websites in the US with 370,000 hits a day, newly arrived immigrants can find a place to live, a used bike or a new job.

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