Foreign affairs

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

Francois Hollande with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on Republic Day in New Delhi

This week, François Hollande, the president of France became the latest world leader to visit Delhi and pay court to India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. He is following in the footsteps of Barack Obama, Xi Jinping and Shinzo Abe – all of whom have paid official visits to India, over the past 18 months. Hollande’s visit was particularly productive because he managed to sign a deal to sell India 36 Rafale fighters. The desire to sell weapons to India – which is the world’s second largest arms importer, after Saudi Arabia – accounts for some of the international courtship of the Modi government. More important, however, is the sense that India will be one of the big global powers of the 21st century – and needs to be cultivated.

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Welcome to White House countdown, a new daily newsletter which we hope will keep our readers on top of one of the most fascinating American elections in years. We welcome your feedback. Thanks for reading. You can sign up to receive it by email here. Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington Bureau Chief

After months of rhetoric, debates, campaign rallies, polls and old-fashioned political brawling, the centre of gravity of American politics has moved to Iowa where voters will soon have their say. The 15 presidential contenders (12 Republicans and 3 Democrats) are making their closing arguments in the midwestern state which officially starts the 2016 race for the White House when it holds its caucuses on Monday, February 1. Read more

This is the Monday edition of our new Brussels Briefing. To receive it every morning in your email in-box, sign up here.

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Vladimir Putin at a regional security summit in Tajikistan in September

It emerged this month that Tajikistan’s authorities had forcibly shaved the beards of almost 13,000 men last year as part of their grim struggle to stamp out militant Islam. But the big problem for Tajikistan and the rest of Central Asia in 2016 will not be beards. If the predictions of various western and Russian specialists are accurate, it will be the contribution of Russia’s economic troubles to religious radicalisation in the region. Read more

This is the Friday edition of our new Brussels Briefing. To receive it every morning in your email in-box, sign up here.

At the height of the eurozone crisis, it almost seemed on Brussels summit days that the EU gathering itself was not the most important meeting in town. Many focused instead on the pre-summit gathering of Europe’s centre-right political family, known as the European People’s party (EPP)Read more

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A trillion here, a trillion there, and very soon you are talking serious money. By Tuesday, the paper value of global stock market losses this year had hit $4tn – a number probably higher by Friday. China’s economic slowdown and the oil price collapse are the triggers for the market slide. The crunch is not all bad for all companies operating in emerging markets – although it has hit commodity-dependent Latin American countries particularly hard. The region has responded in ways that range from the good to the doubtful, the downright ugly and the somewhat creative. Read more


Protesters pour into the Moldovan parliament

Take a moment to consider the events that unfolded on Wednesday inside the parliament building in Chisinau, capital of Moldova, a small, deprived, appallingly governed nation of 3.5m people.

All eyes were on Pavel Filip, a former sweets factory manager who was about to be appointed as Moldova’s sixth prime minister in less than a year. “We’re forming a last-chance government for Moldova,” he told legislators, in remarks that carried only a touch of exaggeration.

What happened next? First, Mr Filip won the parliamentary vote. Then a gang of protesters forced their way into the chamber and started a brawl. One political party leader had blood dripping down his face.

Meanwhile, outside parliament, several thousand demonstrators were chanting anti-establishment slogans on the street. They were still there on Thursday. Read more

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Over the next few weeks, the international media will fixate on the New Hampshire primary – a crucial step in the race for the US presidency. It is a safe bet that the “Bulgarian primary” will not get a fraction of the same press attention. But Bulgaria’s decision about which candidate to support as the next UN Secretary-General, could have a major impact on international politics over the next five years. Read more

A Scottish terrier – favourite of presidents

When I arrived on Wednesday at Cyprus’s presidential palace to interview President Nicos Anastasiades, the first occupant I encountered wasn’t the president but Leo. He was in the car park enjoying the sunniest day of 2016 so far in Nicosia.

Leo is to Mr Anastasiades what Fala was to President Franklin D. Roosevelt – the head of state’s dog, a much-loved mascot of his administration. Like Fala, Leo is a black Scottish terrier, and like Fala at the White House in the 1940s, Leo is given pretty much a free run of the presidential grounds. Read more

Albert Rivera, Ciudadanos party leader

The political headlines in Europe this year have all been about the rise of the political extremes. The National Front surged in France, the Law and Justice Party took power in Poland, the Alternative for Deutschland saw a revival in Germany – and Britain’s Labour Party chose a new leader from its far-left fringes.

The elections in Spain on December 20th, however, offer an interesting contrast to this trend. One of the big stories of the campaign has been the rise of a centrist, liberal party called Ciudadanos. If the polls are to be believed, the ruling centre-right People’s Party (PP) is likely to emerge as the largest single group after Sunday’s vote. But the new party (“Citizens” in English) will be in a close battle for second place with the Socialists and Podemos, a radical left party. Even if Ciudadanos comes in fourth, the party’s position in the political centre-ground could mean that it holds the balance of power. Read more

Monday night’s pre-election television debate between Mariano Rajoy and Pedro Sánchez was laden with anachronisms – from the look of the studio to the moderator’s opening remarks and the overly rigid format.

Perhaps the most peculiar throwback, however, was the decision to invite only the Spanish prime minister and the leader of the Socialist opposition. As the two men engaged in their ill-tempered two-hour duel, the absence of two other party leaders – Pablo Iglesias of Podemos and Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos – was palpable. Read more

There are many moving parts in Brazil’s crisis, all of them deeply entwined, and none of them travelling in the right direction. The economy is suffering its worst recession since the 1930s. Congress is gripped by the so-called Lava Jato probe into Petrobras’s giant corruption scandal – a Senator was arrested last week. And now proceedings have opened to impeach the President, Dilma Rousseff. Can it get any worse? The short answer is: yes.

The proximate reason for Rousseff’s possible impeachment is the charge that her government fiddled the 2014 public accounts – normally a technical issue. But the reason why the proceedings have been launched now is pure politics. Read more

Kurdish Peshmerga forces detain suspected members of Isis on November 16

What should we call the world’s deadliest terrorist group? Should it be Isil, Isis, Islamic state, so-called Islamic State, or Daesh?

Like other news organisations, we at the Financial Times have debated which name to use and whether it matters. Politicians too have grappled with the question. France has settled on Daesh. David Cameron, British prime minister, now recommends the same.

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How is Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s centre-right prime minister, planning to win re-election when voters elect a new legislature on December 20? Read more

The malign side-effects of the Paris terror attacks and Europe’s migrant crisis are still emerging. But something that needs watching is the way in which the two issues are combining to isolate Germany within Europe. In particular, Germany’s vital relationships with its western and eastern EU neighbours – France and Poland – are under severe strain. Both the French and the Germans feel they are facing a national crisis – terrorism for France, migrants for Germany – and that the other side is not showing sufficient “solidarity”. Read more

Donald Trump – would not rule out the idea of a database to track Muslims in America

Watching the debate on terrorism from the US this week has been a bizarre experience. The attacks took place in France – but it seems to be the US where the political demands for ever-tougher border controls are taking hold. On November 19th (Thursday), the House of Representatives passed the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act (SAFE – get it!) which would stop resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the US indefinitely. By contrast, President Hollande has just reaffirmed that France will take 30,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years. Read more

António Costa, the Socialist leader who toppled the Portuguese government

I have a confession to make. After Portugal’s October 4 parliamentary elections, I wrote that Pedro Passos Coelho, the centre-right prime minister, had broken the mould of eurozone crisis politics. He had shown that it was possible for a European government to carry out difficult economic reforms and win re-election. This misread what was about to happen in Portugal.

Mr Passos Coelho’s ruling coalition came first in the polls. President Anibal Cavaco Silva asked him to reconstitute his government. But no sooner was Mr Passos Coelho back in Lisbon’s São Bento palace – the seat of Portugal’s government – than he was, metaphorically speaking, out again. Read more

When Narendra Modi was elected as India’s prime minister 18 months ago, my Dad cracked open a bottle of champagne at our family home in east London.

It was an odd way to celebrate the arrival of a devout Hindu leader who has an aversion to alcohol. Stranger still was that this was being done by my Dad, who has never lived in India.

Why was he, like hundreds of thousands of other people of Indian origin in the UK — particularly those from the western state of Gujarat, elated about Modi’s victory? And why are 60,000 of them going to pack Wembley Stadium in London on Friday just to see him in the flesh? Read more

Rwanda's capital city, Kigali, at night

Economic statistics for sub-Saharan Africa have been criticised for decades as unreliable, complicating efforts to measure wealth – and poverty.

But help might now be at hand, thanks to a light-bulb moment for three World Bank economists.

Tom Bundervoet; Laban Maiyo and Apurva Sanghi found a close correlation between the intensity of night-time lighting, as viewed from space, and countries’ gross domestic product over the 21 years to 2012 . Read more