By Conchita Sarnoff of ARVT

On an ordinary Monday in May, Ellen Gonzales woke up to find a handwritten note nailed to the front door of her home in La Palma, El Salvador. Her 11-year-old son Bryan, it said, had been tocado: “selected” as a recruit for La Mara, one of the most violent of the Hispanic organised crime gangs operating across Central America and the US. She decided it was time to run. Read more

Colombian banks’ steady march into Central America continued this week with Grupo Aval, the country’s largest bank, closing a deal to buy Grupo Financiero Reformador of Guatemala for $411m, through its Central America wing, BAC-Credomatic. Read more

By Verónica Taracena, Guatemala’s Presidential Commissioner of Transparency and E Government

Infrastructure investment in Latin America is expected to total $450bn for the period 2011-2015. The OECD has estimated that, globally, 10-30 per cent of investment in infrastructure is lost from mismanagement, inefficiency and corruption. Unsurprisingly, many Latin American countries are calling for greater transparency and accountability in public infrastructure. Read more

Starbucks is launching its first espresso branded with a place of origin – undeterred by the fact that Guatemala, home of the new “cocoa and baked spices” brew has declared a state of agricultural emergency because of rampant coffee tree fungus.

Guatemala’s blighted crops and 275,000 coffee farmers stand in sharp contrast to the pomp surrounding Monday’s launch of the Guatemala Antigua, the first time Starbuck’s customers anywhere will have a choice of bean for their drink. Read more

Mother Nature has dealt Central America a lousy hand. Earthquakes, floods and hurricanes of biblical proportions have battered the isthmus over the years, but the latest natural disaster is a botanical one.

A plague known as “coffee rust” has hit the region’s top-quality arabica crop. Premium blends from coffee grown in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama are much loved by aficionados. Read more

Photo: Bloomberg

Bancolombia, the Andean country’s biggest individual bank, is still thinking big.

Its Panamanian affiliate has reached a deal to buy a 40 per cent stake in Grupo Financiero Agromercantil, or GFA, owner several banking and financial institutions in Guatemala.

“The negotiation of the Grupo Financiero Agromercantil is essential to continue our international growth plan. The Central American financial sector has evolved significantly in recent years,” said Carlos Raúl Yepes, Bancolombia’s presidentRead more

cardamom war appears to be brewing. Producers in the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu claim that they face unfair competition from illegal imports of the spice from the world’s biggest exporter, which is – wait for it! – Guatemala, in Central America.

Cardamom smugglers are bringing the spice into northern India through Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, say the Tamil Nadu and Kerala producers. Now the producers have sent missives to the Indian ministries of trade and agriculture in defense of what they describe as a “heritage crop” of the nation. Read more

Indigenous Panamanians protest recent changes to the country's mining lawThere’s gold in them thar Central American hills. Gold and several other valuable minerals. Mining companies, especially Canadian, are courting the region yet most of the governments are playing hard to get, if not being openly hostile.

All of which must be pretty perplexing to at least some of the companies. World prices of metals remain high while Central American economies are some of the world’s most vulnerable. Surely a slam-dunk for the miners? Read more

Among the hardscrabble nations of Central America, renewable energy involves no high-falutin’ principles. It is an essential weapon in a battle for survival as well as a hope for prosperity in some of the frailest economies of the Americas. Read more

By Ronald Buchanan and Pan Kwan Yuk

Guatemala, a Central American country with a population of 13m, is not exactly a hotbed of private equity activities.

So news that Actis, a London-based emerging markets private equity firm, has struck a multimillion-dollar deal to acquire Guatemalan energy assets, had beyondbrics sit up and take notice. Read more