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Peru’s elections of mayors and regional governors on Sunday were a strange sight.

In Lima, the capital, the second place finisher – 30 points behind the winner – was feted like a victor. Meanwhile the anti-mining regional governor of mineral-rich Cajamarca – with the highest total out of 25 races – had little to celebrate. 

In less than 24 hours Peru’s economy – once feted as Latin America’s star and now struggling with a slowdown – suffered two blows. First, on Sunday evening, the surprising loss of its respected finance minister, Luis Miguel Castilla. Then, on Monday morning, the announcement that the Andean country’s gross domestic product grew below expectations in July.

Peru’s national statistics institute said the economy accelerated a meagre 1.16 per cent from the same month last year. This still means 60 months of continuous growth and an improvement from June, when Peru’s GDP growth nearly came to a halt, expanding just 0.3 per cent compared with a year earlier. 

There are two known unknowns when looking at South America’s economies: China, and everything else. Over the past decade, the Chinese-driven commodity price boom indiscriminately lifted the region’s commodity economies, however well or badly they were managed. But now that the boom is over, the “everything else” category is starting to bite. That is true of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Venezuela– all of which, to a greater or lesser degree, are now suffering the political ructions that slower growth produces. It is also true of Peru, long the continent’s economic star. Over the weekend, Luis Miguel Castilla, the country’s respected finance minister (pictured), unexpectedly resigned from his post. 

Peru’s economy is in the spotlight, going through its worst time since the global financial crisis. But Julio Velarde, Peru’s central bank chief, told beyondbrics on his way to the annual meeting of financial policymakers at Jackson Hole in the United States that this is simply, “a rough patch.”

Maybe more like a pothole, some may say, as the economy expanded just 0.3 per cent in June compared with a year earlier. Growth in Peru’s economy, once feted as a star inSouth America, slowed to 3.3 per cent in the first half of 2014.

A drop in investments and tumbling earnings from mineral exports caused by weaker prices and softer demand from Asia took a heavy toll. Lower mining output in the world’s third largest copper producer was also caused by issues at large mines. 

Jara in

The revolving doors of Peru’s cabinet are spinning out of control. Ollanta Humala, the president, this week named his sixth cabinet chief in less than three years, complicating an already difficult stretch for the government. 

Antonio Soto, Asia Manager of AJE Group posed for a photoshoot at AJE factory in Cikarang, West Java, Indonesia. June 5, 2014. Rony Zakaria for The Financial Times©Rony Zakaria

Sebastianus Hendro Kistanto, an IT technician in the Indonesian city of Semarang, always drank Coca-Cola, even after he stop­ped working for the US soft-drinks company’s operation in the country.

That was until he picked up his first bottle of Big Cola last year, attracted by the low price – just Rp3,000 (25 cents) for a 535ml serving. “Coke has the best taste but Big Cola costs much less,” he says, adding that he drinks about four bottles a week.

 

Is one of Latin America’s stars losing some of its shine? Amid worsening terms of trade and expected weaker output in mining and fisheries, Peru’s central bank appears to think so, at least for now.

In its latest quarterly report, the BCRP cut its outlook for GDP growth this year to 4.4 per cent from its previous estimate of 5.5 per cent. Next year’s outlook was also revised downwards, to 6 per cent from 6.7 per cent. 

Peru’s economy may have slowed, but here’s a vote of confidence: Moody’s Investors Service, the credit rating agency, has upped the Andean country’s sovereign rating two notches to A3 from Baa2 and raised its outlook from stable from positive. 

By Samuel George of the Bertelsmann Foundation

When the presidents of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru meet on June 19 and 20 for the ninth Pacific Alliance summit in Nayarit, Mexico, they’ll likely debate a proposal that could transform their quietly successful pact while boosting Latin American unity.

At the urging of Chile’s Michelle Bachelet, the gathering is expected to broach the potential integration of the Alliance, which was formed among the four countries in 2012, and Mercosur, an older grouping that includes the regional heavyweights of Brazil and Argentina. The issue would represent a crossroads for the Alliance, however, since Mercosur does not generally share the enthusiasm for international trade shown by its neighbours on the Pacific coast. 

Carlos Slim, Mexico’s telecoms tycoon, is both highly strategic and highly pragmatic.

Already fuming over his country’s telecoms reform, which is set to force him to offer free interconnection under new asymmetric rules, he now faces a former friend – AT&T – turning competitor as it buys DirecTV. 

The Pacific Alliance is all the rage in Latin America. As today’s FT special report shows, the members of this newly-formed free trade pact include some of the region’s best-managed and most reform-minded economies: Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. These countries do not represent some kind of Platonic ideal. They suffer problems aplenty. But their governments do pride themselves on hard-nosed business dealing rather than gassy ideology. That being the case, is there a way for portfolio investors to actually trade the idea? 

By Lucien Chauvin and Andres Schipani

Ollanta Humala, Peru’s president, is in a tough spot. The country faces its most serious constitutional crisis in more than a decade on Monday, if lawmakers reject his cabinet in a vote of no confidence.

The crisis revolves not around government policy or the performance of Humala’s cabinet, but around the role of his wife, First Lady Nadine Heredia. 

Those times of stellar annual growth rates of 6, 7 or 8 per cent that Peru experienced in recent years may be gone, and the country might now be dealing with a current account deficit.

But the Andean nation still has quite a vibrant economy, which in 2013 expanded by 5 per cent, the national statistics agency said on Friday. 

It has been a while coming but after a UN ruling on Monday it is finally time for Chile and Peru to put their maritime differences behind them.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague has given Peru a chunk of the Pacific Ocean it did not have before, while Chile has retained its rich coastal fishing grounds. So, despite smug smiles and gnashing of teeth in some corners of both countries, what looks like a split sovereignty ruling should reinforce the pledge Peru and Chile have made to remain good neighbours

When it comes to energy in Latin America, all eyes have been on Mexico’s plans to open its oil industry to private investment. But Peruvian officials stole some of that thunder at the weekend by saying the government planned to sell up to 49 per cent of state-run PetroPeru.