Argentine hospitality, from popcorn trucks to prayer rooms

Updated 01 December 2018
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Argentine hospitality, from popcorn trucks to prayer rooms

  • What the signs say in English is a “quiet room” is translated into Spanish as a “sale de oracion,” and turns out to be a prayer room for local and visiting Muslim journalists

I have the feeling that, whether there are geopolitical fireworks at the G20 summit or not, the event is in for a pretty good press. The Argentine organizers have made the best of an unpromising situation and gone out of their way to keep the media happy.
Planners were faced with a big logistical problem in the early stages of preparing for the event. The chosen site for the actual summit — the Costa Seguero Center on the shores of the Rio de la Plata — was not big enough to hold both the summit leaders, with their enormous entourages and teams of “sherpa” assistants, as well as the 2,500 or so journalists attending from around the world.
They decided to split the media from the summiteers, and move the journalists to Parque Norte, a sports complex about 5 km farther upriver. Maybe there was a security element in the decision, too, with no pesky journalists to contend with on the main site in a city that has gone into lockdown for the summit.
When we were first shown the arrangements, I must admit I was disappointed. From a journalist’s point of view, these kinds of events always work best when you can mingle with the stars, grab a few words on the sidelines, and generally rub shoulders with the movers and shakers.
This is why Davos works so well: You never know who you will bump into in the rabbit runs of the Kongresshalle. So when I heard that the media in Buenos Aires were to be “banished” to Parque Norte, my heart sank. Two days of watching a big screen with one eye on a “live” feed from the center? Ho hum. It would have been much better to be at the thick of a media scrum in the summit center. But there are many compensations at Parque Norte. The facilities are mind-boggling. The main press room is about the biggest I have ever seen, an aircraft hangar of a chamber oozing the latest in bling gadgetry.
And, something not to be taken for granted in Argentina, as I have learned since I arrived a couple of days ago: The Internet works much better than it does outside the media enclave.
The organizers have promised to make leaders and their officials available at Parque by driving them up to the media hub for interviews, or by driving media down the road to the center.
Let’s see how that one works in practice, but there was a steady stream of senior Argentine politicians on parade yesterday.
What will probably go a long way to winning over the hearts and minds of the assembled scribblers are the incidental facilities at Parque Norte. You want cool VR displays in a fake jungle setting with books dangling artistically from the ceiling? You want a cafeteria serving splendid Argentine produce around the clock? You want a drinks dispenser providing local specialities on tap? How about a bright red popcorn truck?
And, this being football-crazy Argentina, you want your own dedicated media football pitch? You’ve got all these and more at Parque Norte.
It is not just the fripperies, either. Some serious thought has gone into making visiting journalists, from many different countries and cultures, as welcome and comfortable as possible. What the signs say in English is a “quiet room” is translated into Spanish as a “sale de oracion,” and turns out to be a prayer room for local and visiting Muslim journalists.
Will the world’s hard-nosed hacks be swayed by such little acts of kindness? That remains to be seen. But they will probably be less inclined to put the boot into the host nation as a result. I’m going to gauge the mood of the international media about their temporary home in Buenos Aires at an evening welcome reception, complete with tango display, and will report back.


Bulgaria seizes 288 kilos of heroin in truck from Iran

Updated 18 April 2019
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Bulgaria seizes 288 kilos of heroin in truck from Iran

  • Two men — the Iranian truck driver and a Turkish man, who was allegedly to receive the drugs in Bulgaria — were detained and indicted for drug trafficking

SOFIA: Bulgarian customs officials confiscated more than 288 kilo (635 pounds) of heroin hidden on a truck from Iran, prosecutors announced Thursday.

The haul is the biggest amount of heroin seized at Bulgaria’s borders this year, the customs agency said.

Two men — the Iranian truck driver and a Turkish man, who was allegedly to receive the drugs in Bulgaria — were detained and indicted for drug trafficking, the Haskovo regional prosecution said in a statement. They risk jail terms from 15 to 20 years, it added.

The drugs were placed in 144 packages hidden inside the floor and ceiling of a spray painting machine transported inside the truck.

It was found when the vehicle was X-rayed upon entering Bulgaria from Turkey at the southeastern Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint on Sunday, but the seizure was only announced on Thursday.

Bulgaria, which lies on the so-called Balkan drugs route from the Middle East to Western Europe, has seen a several-fold increase in heroin seizures over the past three years.

In 2018, the customs agency confiscated a total of 994 kilos of heroin at the country’s borders, a rise of 13 percent from 2017.