This is the latest edition of LatAm Viva, our weekly newsletter on the continent. To receive it every Friday by email, sign up here.

This week, it has been a quarter of a century since Thelma & Louise sailed their battered convertible into the Grand Canyon, securing their place in Hollywood’s pantheon of heroes. This week is another in the saga of the Venezuelan government’s push on the gas pedal towards the approaching abyss. Read more

This is the latest edition of LatAm Viva, our weekly newsletter on the continent. To receive it every Friday by email, sign up here.

Many Latin Americans who like myself stepped into nightclubs for the first time as the generals in dark glasses were retreating from the political scene, used to listen to Mick Jones pounding “should I stay or should I go?” That is a question several leftwing leaders in the region maybe asking themselves these days. Read more

This is the latest edition of LatAm Viva, our weekly newsletter on the continent. To receive it every Friday by email, sign up here.

Officials from the financing bodies may have headed to the Caucasus late this week for a possible emergency bailout, but they are also deeply concerned about some Latin American oil-producing countries. The list includes Brazil, now mired in its worst recession in more than a century, Ecuador, which has been mending ties with the Fund as its economy shrinks, and even Venezuela, where the IMF last set foot about a decade ago. But it is Venezuela’s dire economic crisis that has spurred default fears as the government, and state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), are running out of money to pay debts as crude prices continue to crash. (The country even owes $3m in annual contributions to the United Nations.) Analysts believe Venezuela can make good on some $2.4bn due next month, which will take every cent of its oil sales for January and February, but according to Barclays a “credit event” is on the cardsunless oil prices miraculously recover. Things are not looking good. While embattled President Nicolás Maduro has been unable to lure fellow Opec members to convene an emergency meeting to ramp up prices, Venezuela’s oil basket, which trades at a discount to global benchmarks because of its higher content of heavy oil, is trading at around $20 per barrel. Experts believe a Venezuelan default may spark a nasty Argentina-style battle with holdout creditors. Read more

In the land where everything is possible – except often finding toilet paper or medicines – the politically novice daughter of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s late socialist leader, was appointed recently as deputy ambassador to the UN.

Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s embattled president (centre), made his UN debut on Wednesday, and some said the presence of María Gabriela Chávez (right) in New York may help Caracas’s efforts to lobby for a non-permanent seat in the Security Council. Others noted the pressing need to shift Ms Chávez out of the official residence of La Casona, where she has continued to live since her father’s death more than a year ago. Read more

In July 1990, a controversial late penalty by Andreas Brehme won the World Cup for Germany and snatched the title from Argentina. As a boy growing up in Buenos Aires, I can still remember vividly Diego Maradona’s inconsolable tears as the selección limped off the pitch of Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.

Those were my tears too. But 24 years later, there is a chance finally to erase that childhood trauma. On Sunday, Argentina faces Germany in a World Cup final once again.

As a fan of la albiceleste I can’t really complain. During my lifetime Argentina have won two World Cups, including beating West Germany in the 1986 final, and produced some of the finest players in recent years, from Maradona to today’s hero, Lionel Messi.

I was a year old, and living relatively close to the River Plate stadium, when Argentina beat Holland in the 1978 World Cup final. When they did it again eight years later in Mexico, I was old enough to realise what it meant and to feel the country’s intoxicated joy as Maradona raised the trophy above his head in the sunny Estadio Azteca. Read more

It was a fateful moment in Colombia’s long and troubled history of drug-fueled violence. On July 2 1994 Andrés Escobar, captain of the national football team, was shot six times in the chest in the parking lot of a bar in Medellín.

The killing was supposedly retribution for Escobar scoring an own goal days earlier, which hastened the team’s departure from the World Cup in the US. As a historian friend says, there was always a lame excuse to kill someone in Colombia in those days. Read more

 

Colombian soccer team fans sleep on Copacabana beach while waiting for the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup (Getty)

Colombians will elect a president on Sunday in an election widely seen as a plebiscite on talks with Farc rebels that could end a five-decades guerrilla insurgency.

But polls are so tight that they have failed to predict a clear winner between centrist President Juan Manuel Santos and conservative candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga, who won the first round. Some believe it will take something momentous to produce a runaway winner. Like football.

Colombians are among the world’s biggest football fans, and they will either be cheering or sobbing as they head to vote after the country’s first World Cup match the day before against Greece, its first Cup match in 16 years. Read more

At a recent show at the British Library in London showcasing pre-Columbian gold, a Colombian diplomat noted that his countrymen were “very concerned about their image and public relations.”

Until a decade ago, Colombia was mostly associated with guerrillas and drug kingpins such as Pablo Escobar. All of that has changed.

But the country still suffers from a public relations failure at the local level. As Colombia’s image abroad continues to improve, thanks in large part to the main players in the current election campaign, the view Colombians have of their own nation is growing ever more negative, partly because of those same men. Read more

In our Reporting Back series, we ask FT foreign correspondents to tell us about a recent trip.

In this dispatch, Andres Schipani, the FT’s Andes correspondent, gives his account of a visit this month to Venezuela, where protests over the past month against the socialist regime of president Nicolás Maduro have left at least 33 people dead. Read more

In our Reporting Back series, we ask FT foreign correspondents to tell us about a recent trip.

Andres Schipani, the FT’s Andes correspondent, visited Bolivia, spending time in La Paz, Colquiri (a mining village around 150 miles southwest of the capital) and the salty desert of Uyuni, close to the Chilean border.

Why now? There aren’t many countries that can match Bolivia’s record of venal rulers, coups and indigenous uprisings. But this Andean country, the landlocked heart of South America, has experienced profound transformation since Evo Morales, a former llama herder and coca leaf farmer, became the country’s first indigenous president in 2006. Over the past six years, he has granted sweeping rights to the country’s majority of Amerindians, a majority that has been neglected for centuries (to give you an idea, serfdom was only abolished in 1945, and until early 1952 indigenous people were not allowed to walk around the square by the Presidential Palace).

Evo Morales in La Paz on July 2, 2012. (Aizar Raldes/AFP/GettyImages)

Last month Morales was asked by his party to run for a third term in next year’s elections. But the president once known as the champion of Pachamama, or Mother Earth, has been digging and drilling the country. This is alienating a chunk of his political powerbase, with some indigenous protesters now voicing environmental and other concerns.

What were some of your lasting impressions? I have been to Bolivia many times in the past, but the ethnic, cultural and geographical diversity of the country always amazes me. It is also a lasting shock to fly across the Andes mountain range and then suddenly drop and land at an airport 4,000 metres above sea level. This is the case when arriving at La Paz’s airport stationed in the capital’s satellite city of El Alto – a terribly poor metropolitan area that sprawls across the altiplano, or high plains, and is Latin America’s largest indigenous city. With so much poverty, some believe the only advantage people who live here really have are the views, overlooking the rounded valley that hosts the capital. The downside, of course, is that after a hard day at work selling trinkets in the town centre, the indigenous women, or cholitas, with their bowler hats and layered skirts have to labour up the steep rutted streets back to their shacks or shanties of cinderblock bricks. To my mind, this suggests a broader truth about the country: it sits on top of a stunning wealth of natural resources but is on an uphill rocky road to development. Read more