John Paul Rathbone is the FT's Latin American editor, having previously edited the Lex column. He is the author of "The Sugar King of Havana: the rise and fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba's last tycoon" (The Penguin Press, 2010).
President Nicolás Maduro is a fraud, his government is incompetent and corrupt, most ministers should be sacked, the ruling Socialist Party’s ideological discourse is sterile, the national “Bolivarian” project is on a suicide path, and there is a growing risk of a coup from within the administration.
But don’t believe the FT on any of this. These are the words of Heinz Dieterich, a Marxist professor and former mentor of Hugo Chávez, writing in the leftist website Aporrea. Having cleared our throats before Sunday’s municipal elections, what actually is at stake at the vote — in concrete terms? Continue reading »
A bold young president with a technocratic team promises a new world of prosperity for Mexico, and many believe him. But then comes a crushing devaluation that brings much of his country to its knees. Such were the inauspicious events that surrounded Nafta’s beginnings 20 years ago. Today, Nafta continues to shape the Mexican economy. Indeed, in some ways, it is the country’s most enduring institutional arrangement. For one, it has turned the country into a manufacturing powerhouse that exports more manufactured goods than the rest of Latin America combined. Nafta’s 20th anniversary, and its next 20 years, are explored in an FT special report from the Mexican, US and Canadian perspectives. Continue reading »
Mexico may be all the rage among investors. But praise the country in polite Mexican society and you risk running a gauntlet of abuse. John Authers, the FT’s investment columnist and a former Mexico bureau chief, describes the situation very well.
Certainly, President Pena Nieto’s reform agenda gets high marks for concept but low marks for delivery. Of his four biggest initiatives, the detail of telecom reform is still being worked out; ditto education; the fiscal reform was disappointing; and we don’t yet know the full shape of the energy reform. No wonder the understandable scepticism, then, of much local conversation – even if the intensity of that conversation has meant missing another problem that has not won the discussion it deserves. Continue reading »
It was inevitable. Some 60 years ago began one of the largest migrations in history, when millions of people moved from the Latin American countryside and into cities. Then, some 10 years ago, began a consumer credit boom that saw car sales explode in the world’s most urbanised continent.
And today? To cope with the growing congestion of their megalopolises, Latin Americans are increasingly turning to bicycles to get around. Traffic jams are no longer a privilege of just the rich world. Continue reading »
Did Enrique Peña Nieto’s proposed fiscal reform, unveiled on Sunday, deliver what Mexico needs to boost its woefully low tax take? One way of assessing that is to gauge what the reform aims to provide against the bills that Mexico has to pay. On that basis, the answer is “Partly” – even though the economic slowdown prompted Peña Nieto to hold back from a widely expected sales tax increase on medicines and food. Continue reading »
Take two of Latin America’s most reform-minded governments, throw in a fractured political system, and what do you get? The answer is Mexico – where thousands of protesting teachers fanned out across the capital on Sunday – and Colombia, where 50,000 troops had to be shipped in over the weekend to calm down Bogotá after a rally in support of striking farmers got out of control. Continue reading »
Want to understand why Brazil protests happened? The main points are summarized in this in six minute video by a young Brazilian filmmaker, Carla Dauden. Entitled “No, I’m not going to the World Cup.”
It was posted on YouTube on Monday, before the protests really took off, and had more than 500,000 views in its first 24 hours. By Saturday morning, it had had 2.6m hits and climbing.
A moving moment comes about a minute into the video when a harassed doctor in one of Rio’s understaffed, and underfunded hospitals rages: “I am a doctor. I am revolted. I am alone in this crap here! There is nothing I can do for the excess of sick patients…the secretariat, the governor, they don’t do anything!”
“It’s time we started thinking about our priorities and what’s important,” Dauden says at the end of the clip.
Colombia has long been atypical in Latin America. During the second half of the 20thcentury, it never suffered an economic meltdown or populist binge, let alone the hyperinflation or the coup d’états for which the region was often then known. It has the region’s oldest democratic tradition, and has never defaulted on its foreign debt since the early part of the last century.
But the country has been called “an almost-failed state” – during the worst of the drug wars in the 1990s and the peak, only a decade ago, in the country’s half-century internal conflict with Marxist guerrillas. More recently, it has developed into one of the world’s emerging economic powers. A new FT special report examines this “New Colombia”. Continue reading »
By contrast, many other governments, especially in the Gulf but also in Latin America, were often revealed as two-faced hypocrites that praised each other publicly in elaborate shows of regional unity while privately stabbing each other in the back. That remains as true as ever today when it comes to Venezuela’s contested presidential election, which Nicolás Maduro, heir of Hugo Chávez, won by a whisker. Continue reading »
Borders are always weird places and few are stranger than the US-Mexico border, the busiest in the world. More than $1bn’s worth of goods cross it every day. Indeed, last year bilateral US-Mexico trade topped $500bn, about the same as total US-European trade – which puts the much vaunted US-European Union free trade deal that Barack Obama has mooted in context. Continue reading »
Latin America has just got three more reasons to beat its chest. Unemployment has fallen to new or near-record lows in Brazil (4.6 per cent), Chile (6 per cent) and Colombia (10 per cent). No wonder the region’s domestic economies are powering along: have job, will spend. No wonder, also, that so many Europeans are beating a path to the new world in search of a job. Unemployment levels in Spain and Portugal are 26 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. Eat your heart out former “colonial masters”! Continue reading »