All posts by Hannah Greasley

Inspired by the Olympics? Head to Rio!

If you’ve been inspired by last month’s Olympic Games to visit Rio de Janeiro, now is the perfect time to head to Brazil’s second-largest city. With the atmosphere of the Games still prevalent, a stop in Rio is a must if you’re thinking of heading to Latin America. Here is a selection of this vibrant city’s highlights, which encompass both some famous landmarks as well as lesser-known sights.

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Rio 2016: Who Will Really Benefit?

As the long-awaited 2016 Olympic Games get underway, Rio de Janeiro’s state employees have voiced their concerns about the financial crisis their city is facing. Back in June, Rio’s state governor Sergio Cabral Filho declared a state of ‘financial emergency’ and urged the Brazilian government to offer aid to the city to avoid widespread repercussions for ‘public security, health, education [and] transport’ after the majority of the city’s budget for several years now, has given priority to the Games. Continue reading

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Does Latin America Hold the Answer to Sustainable Palm Oil Production?

From food to cosmetics, toiletries to household cleaners, products containing palm oil are practically unavoidable, and in the Western Hemisphere we each consume around 10 kilograms of palm oil annually. The mass production of palm oil has increased significantly in the last twenty years because its yield is cheaper and more efficient compared to other vegetable oil varieties such as soy and corn. Whilst the world’s top palm oil-producing nations are Malaysia and Indonesia, several Latin American countries also feature heavily, with Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras and Guatemala in the top ten, and Costa Rica, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and the Dominican Republic in the global top 25. However, the immense demand for palm oil around the world has meant thousands of hectares of palm oil forests have been planted in recent years, and this has resulted in some catastrophic environmental and ecological repercussions such as severe deforestation, the endangering of animals and forced relocation of indigenous peoples. With global requirements for palm oil expected to rise steadily over the next decade, have the farmers of Latin America unlocked the answer to producing palm oil without leaving such a negative imprint on the surrounding habitat?

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Will the Zika Virus Jeopardise Rio 2016?

A group of nearly 150 healthcare professionals from around the globe are calling on the World Health Organization to postpone or move the Olympic Games this August due to the risks surrounding the recent Zika virus outbreak. The virus, which is transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes, is said to cause severe birth defects such as microcephaly — a condition which results in babies being born with abnormally small heads due to incomplete brain development. Experts warn that not only does the Zika outbreak put visitors at a direct risk of being infected, it is also thought that it could result in the virus being spread throughout the world when these visitors return home.

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Can Cuba Cope with its Latest Tourist Boom?

Since US President Barack Obama announced, back in December 2014, that he planned to re-establish relations with Cuba, nearly five million tourists have travelled to the island. With tourism being Cuba’s primary source of income, this was surely a long-awaited dream come true for countless Cuban businesses. However, ongoing studies are showing that Cuba may be struggling quite considerably with this huge influx of visitors, and that long-established traditions may be under threat.

Findings from the University of Havana’s Centre for the Study of the Cuban Economy, show that although the country desperately needs the revenue generated from tourism, there is still a significant lack of infrastructure, hotels and transportation links. There is also growing concern regarding Cuba’s future, according to economist Ricardo Torres, who worries that if tourism were to slow down in the future after the ‘novelty’ of Cuba wears off, the country will be left paying for the completion of hotels and businesses which will barely get used. Furthermore, many Cubans worry that the ever-increasing number of largely North American visitors will come to expect their own chain retailers, branded hotels and fast-food outlets on the island; this will have the potential to overshadow traditional Cuban vendors and restaurants. However, this is not a sentiment shared by all. Havana native Richard Soler assures: ‘There is nobody like the Cubans. Not a McDonald’s or a Kentucky Fried Chicken is going to change Cubans!’ So it appears that many also have faith that the confident Cuban identity cannot be influenced by foreign customs.

Can Cuba's resources cope with such a sharp increase in visitors? (Photographer: Kaeko; Flickr)

Can Cuba’s resources cope with such a sharp increase in visitors? (Photographer: Kaeko; Flickr)

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