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).
When 1m protesting Brazilians took to the streets last year, Dilma Rousseff, the president, sought to defuse their complaints by promising to fix ailing services and make changes to the political system. In contrast, as Venezuelan students and opposition activists have taken to the streets this month, president Nicolás Maduro has responded by calling them “fascists” and “coup-mongers” who want to bring back neo-liberalism and kill off the country’s vaunted social services.
Eat humble pie? Not a crumb. After lying about inflation for seven years, Buenos Aires last night revealed a new and more credible statistical series. This, said Axel Kicillof, the economy minister (pictured), was not because the old inflation numbers were wrong. Rather, it was because they needed to be updated. Why? Because Argentine consumption habits had changed, he explained. The government’s new inflation numbers, he added, provide “an X-ray of another country.” Continue reading »
Far be it from Latin countries to indulge in some pre-World Cup schadenfreude. Nonetheless, different emerging markets have clearly been affected very differently by the recent bout of market turbulence. Take those distant neighbours, Colombia and Argentina. Two years ago, finance ministry officials in Bogotá threw a cat among the pigeons when they declared that the Colombian economy was larger than Argentina’s, making it the third biggest in the region (after Brazil and Mexico). Buenos Aires quickly harrumphed back: “Not so!” For one, that might only be the case if you converted Argentine nominal GDP into US dollars using black market (and thus illegal) exchange rates, rather than the “true” official one. Continue reading »
Monetary reform rarely gets the pulse racing. But on the colonial streets of old Havana, Cuba’s pending monetary reform is one of the hottest topics around.
“My parishioners talk about it all the time,” says one local priest. Even World Bank officials are excited. Augusto de la Torre, the bank’s chief Latin America economist, has just penned a learned article on the subject. There are two reasons why everyone is getting worked up. Continue reading »
There are two ways to read the IMF’s call on Monday night for Argentina to sort out its dodgy inflation and economic statistics by next March – or, uniquely, face expulsion from the international lender.
The first way is that the country will never comply. After all, railing against the IMF has been a rhetorical hallmark of the presidencies of Cristina Fernandez (pictured) and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner. Continue reading »
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.