Perhaps the most revealing feature of the wikileaks publication of US diplomatic cables a few years ago is that it showed that what Washington said in public to other governments is also what is said to them in private.
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 »
Lots of long faces among Colombian media executives – and doubtless other Latin American media executives too – about Carlos Slim’s latest move.
Late last month, the Mexican telecoms tycoon snapped up exclusive Latin American broadcast rights for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. In doing so, his telecoms company, América Movíl, has effectively cornered the market for sports content in a sports-crazy continent (bar Brazil, where media empire Globo bought the Olympic rights). 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 »
Too bad Barack Obama isn’t running for office in Brazil – the real Barack Obama, that is. The US president is so popular there that more than a dozen candidates at last month’s municipal elections adopted his surname to try and differentiate themselves from the rest of the field. One candidate, according to CNN, even called himself “Barata Obama”, which literally translates as “Cockroach Obama”. Continue reading »
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos’s surprise admission on Monday evening that he has prostate cancer should not be a major scare for the country. The prognosis is good – he says that because it was discovered early, he has a 97 per cent chance of being totally cured. The treatment will take place this week and he will be able to “continue to exercise my functions as president”, albeit with some travel restrictions.
Aside from its own intrinsic importance, though, the news illuminates three other fascinating trends in the region. Continue reading »
Deleveraging in Europe but booming in Latin America. That, lately, is the story of governments, consumers and companies too. Italian utility Enel is no exception.
The group, which also owns Spain’s Endesa, is shrinking its balance sheet in Europe. But it is expanding in Latam. As Fulvio Conti, the chief executive, told beyondbrics on whistle-stop tour through London: “It’s got demography on its side, democracy and development, the three D’s. Continue reading »
For much of this year, the Brazilian real has been one of the world’s worst-performing currencies. That largely served Brasilia well: it wanted a weaker real to help boost the slowing Brazilian economy. Lately, though, the real has been clawing back lost ground; during the first half of August, it even outperformed its Latin American peers.
But this week the central bank decided it had had enough. After a lengthy market absence, it intervened on Tuesday to stop the currency from strengthening further. The magic number it seemed to be defending? About 2 reals to the dollar. Continue reading »
Brazil currently deserves its initial in the Brics acronym, and not just because it lost the Olympics football final to Mexico. Its economic performance is also a “B”. Growth is limping along at less than 2 per cent. Only two years ago, Brazil was scoring A-grades with a 7.5 per cent growth rate.
Hence the much-hyped stimulus package, with its centrepiece reportedly some R$100bn ($50bn) of infrastructure concessions, to be announced later on Wednesday. President Dilma Rousseff, a technocrat to her fingertips, wants to improve her grades. As ever, though, the package’s big number spells both good and bad news. Continue reading »
Ollanta Humala is one year, two prime ministers and three cabinet re-shuffles into his presidency of Peru. The latest re-jig of his cabinet came on Monday. The most important non-changes are the finance minister, Luis Miguel Castilla, who remains the same, and the mining minister, Jorge Merino, ditto.
Peru’s liberal economic policies therefore remain in place. That’s important for Peru’s general investment climate and Latin America’s fastest-growing economy. But what about the $50bn dollar pipeline of international mining projects waiting to begin? Continue reading »
Who are Mexico’s real dinosaurs? The term usually applies to certain old-school fat cats in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), whose Enrique Peña Nieto won last Sunday’s election. A common fear is that these dinosaurs will get their claws into the 45-year old Pena Nieto when he assumes the presidency in December.
But the dinosaur label fits Mexican leaders of other political stripes too – notably Andrés Manuel López Obrador (pictured) of the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Continue reading »
It’s still a bit early to discern the aftermath of Mexico’s elections. But what is clear from the results, so far, is that Enrique Peña Nieto of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) may not be able to count on the easy glide path for his reform program that markets had priced in. (The Mexican peso is one of the world’s best-performing currencies this year; some of the country’s banking stocks, such as Banorte, are at or near all time highs.)
There are two obstacles that could give markets fright over the coming weeks and months. Continue reading »
Most other investors might be selling assets and hoarding cash, but not Carlos Slim. The Mexican telecoms tycoon and world’s richest man is on a shopping spree. This week alone he has bought a 21 per cent stake in Telekom Austria, while simultaneously pursuing a bigger stake in Dutch telecoms operator KPN. He’s also emerged as the surprise acquirer of an 8.4 per cent stake in Argentine oil company YPF. Using market prices, those two deals alone are worth around $1.3bn. What’s going on? Continue reading »
Thank God for Latin America, Spanish companies must be thinking.
That might seem counter-intuitive. On the one hand, there have been the recent nationalisations of Repsol’s operations in Argentina and of Red Electrica’s business in Bolivia. On the other hand, there is the domestic disaster that is Bankia. Continue reading »