Benedict Mander

Benedict Mander is the FT's Southern Cone correspondent, based in Buenos Aires. He previously covered Venezuela and the Caribbean for the FT, having joined the paper in Mexico in 2005.

When the Pope met Queen Elizabeth on Thursday, there was one thing – doubtless to Argentine President Cristina Fernández’s great dismay – which was not on the agenda: the Falkland Islands (or, as the Argentine Pope might have called them, Las Malvinas).

As if to make up for that omission, Fernández ensured the disputed territory’s continued presence in Argentines’ minds by printing a map of the archipelago on a new 50 peso note (worth just over $6), with a stirring image of a gaucho who rose up against British rule in 1833 on the other side. Continue reading »

Confused about what’s going on in Argentina? If so, don’t fret – you’re not the only one.

In the space of a day, Argentine debt was upgraded by Bank of America and downgraded by Moody’s. More baffling still, they cited much the same reasons – the level of reserves at the central bank. Continue reading »

What a headache debts can cause. No one knows this better than Cristina Fernández, who after receiving mixed messages related to Argentina’s debt in recent days will have plenty to chew over on her transatlantic flight before she meets the Pope on Monday.

There was good news today when the Paris Club, a group of countries which Argentina owes about $10bn, invited their debtor to begin formal negotiations in May, after economy minister Axel Kicillof presented a repayment plan in January. Resolution of the Paris Club problem is not only a prerequisite for Argentina’s return to the international capital markets, but it could also help to get much-needed foreign investment flowing back into the country. Continue reading »

Miguel Galuccio has three principal objectives for 2014: “to produce, produce and produce.”

To help achieve that aim, Galuccio, who has run the Argentine energy company YPF since the government expropriated a 51 per cent share from Spain’s Repsol in 2012, is looking for partners. Continue reading »

With little more than a week left of his presidency, Sebastián Piñera is fighting on to the last.

On the anniversary of one of the most powerful earthquakes on record wreaking havoc in Chile just days before he came to power four years ago, Piñera trumpeted his government’s record in cleaning up the mess yesterday.

However much opponents may accuse him of massaging the numbers, with 97 per cent of the infrastructure destroyed now rebuilt according to official figures, it seems fair to say that Piñera did a decent job in keeping his promise to fix the problems by the end of his term. Continue reading »

Is it the beginning of the end for what enthusiasts like to call “the trial of the century” in the world of sovereign debt restructuring?

Well, perhaps, but there could still be an painfully slow ending to a trial that has dragged on for the best part of a decade, after Argentina filed a petition on Tuesday – right on deadline – seeking a US Supreme Court review of an order to pay $1.33bn to “holdout” bondholders who refused to accept restructured debt after Argentina’s 2001 debt default.

There are now three possible scenarios as to how things could go for Argentina at the Supreme Court. Continue reading »

It had all been going so well for Uruguay’s president, José “Pepe” Mujica. The passing of a groundbreaking law this month that will legalise and regulate the production and consumption of marijuana has earned him praise around the world.

This even helped Uruguay earn its status as The Economist’s first ever ‘country of the year’. So the resignation on Saturday of Mujica’s finance minister, Fernando Lorenzo, was a bit of a dampener as the year comes to an end. He will be replaced by the president of the central bank, Mario Bergara it was announced on Monday. Continue reading »

It’s hot in Buenos Aires. So hot, that there has been a wave of blackouts this week as melting porteños, as residents of Argentina’s capital are known, jam the electric grid by cranking their air-conditioners up to full blast.

This has become an annual occurrence during heat waves in the southern summer, as continuous underinvestment in the electricity system – since utility rates were frozen over a decade ago – takes its toll. But tempers as well as temperatures have been rising – both on the streets where sporadic protests are disrupting daily life, and in the government, which has decided that the fault lies with the private companies providing the electricity, Edesur and Edenor. Continue reading »

In almost the only Argentine province not to be affected in recent days by damaging police strikes, which triggered a wave of opportunistic looting, a very different headache has emerged for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

A series of articles published in the respected broadsheet La Nación this week which suggest that the president and her late husband, Néstor Kirchner, are linked to a series of murky property deals in Santa Cruz province have breathed new life into corruption allegations that Fernández would doubtless rather avoid. Continue reading »

Pot smokers all over the world may be lighting up joints to celebrate the fact that Uruguay on Tuesday became the first country in the world to legalise cannabis completely – from planting the seed to getting high.

But is what President José “Pepe” Mujica openly admits is an experiment going to work? Will Uruguay succeed in reversing rising crime rates, which were the initial impetus and justification for the new law? Continue reading »

When the oppressive heat in Buenos Aires becomes just too much to bear at the height of the austral summer, those who can afford it prefer to jet off to cooler climes to see in the New Year.

But some may have been forced to rethink their holiday plans after the Argentine government moved to stem an alarming decline of foreign currency reserves by bumping up the price at which it sells dollars to Argentines travelling abroad, in what amounts to a stealth devaluation. Continue reading »

It is the end of an era for businesses in Argentina. Might executives even start to miss Guillermo Moreno, the man that everyone loved to hate, in some perverse kind of version of the Stockholm syndrome?

Maybe that’s going too far, but the resignation of Argentina’s trade secretary – who since his rise to power in 2005 became so much more than just a trade secretary – leaves a gaping hole in the implementation of economic policy.

This vacuum of power will be filled by Axel Kicillof, a Marxist economics professor who sports Elvis sideburns, as the new economy minister. Continue reading »

Something had to give. Argentina’s gravity-defying stock market has been heading for the skies this year, with some shares as much as quadrupling in value.

On Tuesday though, the Merval bourse was slapped in the face with a sobering dose of reality when the supreme court ruled that Grupo Clarín, the country’s largest media group, will effectively have to sell off many of its lucrative cable TV licenses. Continue reading »

Who in their right mind would want to invest in Argentina? Surely its capricious government that delights in changing the rules of the game (or just stopping the game altogether), and its troubled economy warped by price and exchange controls make it a potential disaster zone for investors – right?

Wrong. Investors have been piling into Argentine stocks all year long, with its Merval equity index very nearly doubling this year. Some stocks have quadrupled in value in 2013. Continue reading »

China's VP Li Yuanchao and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in May

Ask the governments of Ecuador or Venezuela: good relations with China can be really handy when you’re in a financial fix. This is something that Argentina seems to be cottoning onto, if a proposed $10bn loan materialises.

According to reports in local media this week, Argentina’s central bank is negotiating a deal with the Chinese that it hopes might help stem an alarming decline in its foreign exchange reserves. Continue reading »