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Could Uruguay’s groundbreaking marijuana law lead to more than just legal spliffs? Politicians, government officials and legalisation activists all say: yes.

Producing marijuana legally to supply domestic recreational demand could be Uruguay’s first step to becoming a cannabis exporter and an R&D centre brimming with foreign investment. Continue reading »

It had all been going so well for Uruguay’s president, José “Pepe” Mujica. The passing of a groundbreaking law this month that will legalise and regulate the production and consumption of marijuana has earned him praise around the world.

This even helped Uruguay earn its status as The Economist’s first ever ‘country of the year’. So the resignation on Saturday of Mujica’s finance minister, Fernando Lorenzo, was a bit of a dampener as the year comes to an end. He will be replaced by the president of the central bank, Mario Bergara it was announced on Monday. Continue reading »

Pot smokers all over the world may be lighting up joints to celebrate the fact that Uruguay on Tuesday became the first country in the world to legalise cannabis completely – from planting the seed to getting high.

But is what President José “Pepe” Mujica openly admits is an experiment going to work? Will Uruguay succeed in reversing rising crime rates, which were the initial impetus and justification for the new law? Continue reading »

China’s interest in Latin America is clear: the region supplies the raw materials it craves and handily also provides markets for its manufactured goods. But Latin America, understandably, doesn’t want that to be a one-way street.

Enter José Mujica, possibly Latin America’s bluntest-talking president, and current chair of the South American Mercosur trade bloc. What Mercosur needs, he reckons, is a common external tariff on Chinese goods because otherwise, the bloc has no hope of competing. Continue reading »

Philip Morris International, the makers of Marlboro, the world’s best-selling cigarette brand, has won the right to take its case against marketing restrictions and graphic health warnings in the South American country to the World Bank’s arbitration tribunal, ICSID. Continue reading »

Uruguay’s leftist former guerrilla president, José Mujica, is renowned for telling it like it is. Which is why he doesn’t mince his words, in an interview with the Financial Times, highlighting why he is working on port and rail plans with one of his big neighbours, Brazil and, er, nothing with the other, Argentina. Continue reading »

Montevideo’s stock market – get ready. Union Agriculture Group, one of Uruguay’s top landowners and Latin America’s biggest farm firms, is finally ready for its long-awaited IPO.

There have been a couple of changes of plan along the way. The agricultural powerhouse scrubbed a $287.5m New York launch in 2011 because of poor market conditions. Now it plans to make its market debut through a $50m to $100m domestic listing, probably in late April. Continue reading »

Don’t export to Argentina; trade relations are at their worst ever.

That, anyway, appears to be the stark view of Uruguay’s vice president and economy minister. Continue reading »

It looks like being a good year for Union Agriculture Group. While the name may not ring too many bells internationally, the Uruguayan agricultural powerhouse is one of the country’s top landowners, with sales posed to more than triple this year.

The company had planned to become the first Uruguayan group to list in New York, but had to scrub its $287.5m IPO in 2011 because of poor market conditions. However, it has now raised $110m to fund its development plans, and is positioning itself as a key company for investors in an attractive sector in Latin America: farming. Continue reading »

Uruguay provides many things to many Argentines but perhaps they can be summed up as follows: beaches, banks and business.

This relationship has long been mutually beneficial – Argentines get access to the dollar and holidays that are this year cheaper than usual as Uruguayans seek to lure Argentines despite foreign exchange controls, while Uruguay gets money flowing in and investment.

But are the ties that bind getting too close for comfort? Continue reading »

If you’re ever in any doubt about which countries Brazilian companies are looking to for expansion, just follow the money, or rather the banks.

After buying a US lender last year to cater for the growing number of Brazilians setting up home in Florida, state-controlled Banco do Brasil is now targeting the rest of Latin America and China. Continue reading »

Place your bets … Chilean casino operator Enjoy is staking $140m on the purchase of a casino in Uruguay’s ritzy Punta del Este resort.

Announcing the deal, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, which is selling the controlling stake in Uruguayan hotel and casino operator, Conrad, to Enjoy, called Latin America “one of the fastest growing casino gaming markets in the world”. Continue reading »

We all like a little praise now and then. Uruguay must be beaming.

The International Monetary Fund wrapped up its annual Article IV review of the country’s accounts last week with lavish praiseContinue reading »

Uruguay has announced price controls on a host of supermarket staples to try to rein in inflation. That’s the kind of thing neighbouring Argentina often does.

But spot the difference. Uruguay is actually concerned about inflation, for one thing. Continue reading »

It’s a tough time to be a pulp producer – something at which South America excels: the eurozone crisis sent demand for paper plummeting in the second half of 2011 and things look set to remain bleak for a while with three major new projects due to come onstream in Brazil and Uruguay in the next year boosting supply further.

So Latin American companies – Brazil’s Fibria is the world’s biggest pulp producer and Chile’s Arauco and CMPC are also in the top five, with Brazil’s Suzano about seventh – would have to be mad to think of unleashing yet more capacity on a depressed market, wouldn’t they? Maybe not. Continue reading »