Ecuador

Of the generation of radical Latin American leaders that have won office in the last decade, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa – perhaps best known internationally for sheltering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at his country’s London embassy – is among those with the most successful record. He has reduced poverty, promoted faster economic growth and dramatically improved the infrastructure of Opec’s smallest member. Now, a controversial proposal that would allow him to run for office indefinitely is set to come before congress.

But as the oil price falls, can the president sustain the achievements of his “citizen’s revolution” that have underpinned his popularity? Read more

Anyone following events in Ecuador will know that Rafael Correa, the fiery president, is not one to avoid confrontation, as journalists, bankers and bondholders, among others, well know.

It seems he has found a new target: fast food, along with other threats to the nation’s health such as alcohol and cigarettes, on which he wants to raise taxes. According to the leftist president, with the proposed levy, “people will stop eating so many McDonald’s and Burger King hamburgers.” The move would also “favour the production of [Ecuadorian] food, our traditional gastronomy.” Read more

On Valentine’s Day 2011, a court in Ecuador ordered Chevron, the US oil major, to pay $19bn to indigenous peoples and villagers to compensate for pollution caused between 1964 and 1990 by Texaco, which Chevron had bought in 2001. It was the biggest award ever against a corporation outside the US and was hailed by environmental and other campaigners worldwide as a landmark victory for usually voiceless and defenceless peoples over the usually all-powerful Big Oil.

But Chevron felt it had been treated unfairly and counter-sued in the US. On March 4 this year, Judge Lewis Kaplan of the US District Court in New York found Steven Donziger, the US lawyer who represented the Ecuadorian plaintiffs, liable for leading a multifaceted racketeering conspiracy. Read more

Everyone loves the biblical story of the prodigal son. On Wednesday that tale received a touch of market realism when Standard & Poor’s, the credit ratings agency, decided to raise the rating by a notch of a serial defaulter which has been recently welcomed back by the debt markets: Ecuador.

S&P raised the Andean country’s long-term sovereign credit rating to B+ from B, with a stable outlook. While the new rating still leaves the country below investment grade Ecuador’s leftist President, Rafael Correa, is gaining some praise when it comes to economic management. Read more

Groundhog day?

In February 2013, still aglow after being elected for a third term in a landslide victory, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador told the FT this would be his final term and that, in this regard at least, his foes could “sleep in peace”.

Those foes may now be having nightmares after his ruling party, Alianza País, launched a plan to remove limits on re-election for presidents and other officials, potentially paving the way for the firebrand leftist leader to don the red, yellow and blue presidential sash for a fourth time in 2017 and, who knows, thereafter at four-yearly intervals. Read more

Ignore Argentina’s spiralling debt vortex,global investors’ appetite for higher-risk assets remains hot. On Tuesday, another “debt defaulter”, Ecuador, finally took the plunge into the global credit market with the launch of a $2bn bond issue.

The 10-year dollar-sale is the first by the Andean nation since it defaulted voluntarily on $3.2bn worth of debt in 2008, when Ecuador’s leftist President Rafael Correa bit the bullet, calling bondholders “real monsters.” It was was priced at a 7.95 per cent yield. Read more

Wasn’t it the case, about five years ago, that Ecuador’s foreign debt was “illegitimate” and its bondholders “real monsters”?

Well, it seems time cures everything. Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s leftwing president, said at the weekend his country was planning its first international bond issue since defaulting on $3.2bn of foreign debt in 2008 – and, six months later, buying most of it back at 35 cents on the dollar. Read more

A year ago Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s leftwing president, was riding high after winning a third term in a landslide election.

Some say his party, Alianza País, got too used to winning. This week, Correa was looking more subdued after the opposition won the country’s key mayoralties – Guayaquil, Cuenca and, most painfully, the capital Quito – in Sunday’s local elections. Read more

Calling all courageous bond-buyers out there! Ecuador says it is trying to re-enter the bond market, taking advantage of rising demand for emerging market debt.

Patricio Rivera, the minister for economic policy, told reporters on Wednesday the leftwing government might issue debt during the first half of this year. Read more

Casa Gangotena in Quito: The view from your suite

With snowy Christmas and New Year holidays at hand, has the luxury traveller ever thought of escaping to Ecuador for some well-deserved indulgence?

Ecuador’s government said this year it would spend some $660m over the next four years to develop the tourism industry. But the sector is almost fully in the hands of private investors – and some jewels for the demanding world traveller are already in place. Read more

Like Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder that it is sheltering in its London embassy, Ecuador and the state of its finances can be polarising subjects.

The debate is likely to be renewed again after Fitch on Friday decided to raise the Andean country’s credit rating by a notch, from B- to B. While the new rating still leaves the country – at five levels below investment grade – deep in junk territory, it is nonetheless something of a fillip for an economy that some think is on the verge of a crisis. Read more

Some say it took millions of years, others say it took seven days, for the Amazon rainforest to be shaped. But it took just ten hours for Ecuador’s government-dominated assembly to authorise on Thursday “responsible” drilling in a pristine area of the jungle that is estimated to hold some 900m barrels of crude. Read more

Will Ecuador’s long-running dispute with Chevron sour its relations with Argentina? After all, Argentina’s state-run YPF signed a $1.24bn deal with the US oil giant to develop vast shale reserves despite calls from Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s president, to boycott the company.

But friendship between leftwing leaders appears to be unconditional. Read more

Ricardo Patiño, Ecuador’s foreign minister, said on Monday from a hotel in Hanoi that his country was “considering” an asylum request from Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence analyst and whistleblower. Patiño stressed that his country was acting not on its “interests” but on its “principles.”

Fair enough. But what about the trade preferences between Ecuador and the US that are up for review next month, and which Patiño’s embassy in Washington appears to be lobbying hard to keep in placeRead more

It looked like a great idea on paper: change the law in order to attract more investments into the mining industry and diversify the economy away from a dependence on oil exports.

But that ambition was dealt a major blow on Monday after Canada’s Kinross Gold Corporation said it would scrap plans on a $1.3bn mining project in southeastern Ecuador because of a dispute with the government over a hefty windfall tax on revenues of 70 per cent. Read more