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
Every year, there is debate at Davos about what is hot – and what is decidedly not. This year, the emerging markets are definitely in the second camp.
Never mind the fact that the streets of Davos are full of cheery posters proclaiming the joys of Malaysia, India or Brazil – or that Nigerian food was being served to Davos delegates at lunch (complete with snail stew.) Also ignore the determinedly upbeat messages emanating from a host of officials from the BRICs nations.
Behind the chirpy smiles, a new mood of anxiety is stalking the emerging markets delegations, amplified by the recent dramas around Argentina. And that marks a stark contrast to recent years, when the emerging markets were regarded as the new saviours of global growth – and their leaders strutted around the Davos corridors with pride. Read more
Janet Yellen’s nomination for the Fed chairmanship is a significant mark in the history of female central bankery – mainly because there isn’t much of a history.
As Claire Jones, the FT’s economics reporter, points out: advanced economy central banks are severely lacking in female representation in their upper echelons.
In other markets, however, women have more of a presence in monetary policy. Outside of advanced economies, the list of women at the head of central banks is longer than the list of women on the ECB governing council (0).
Gill Marcus (Getty)
South Africa: Gill Marcus spent time in the UK as her parents were anti-apartheid activists in South Africa. She joined the ANC and worked for its department of information and publicity, then returned to South Africa after the ANC ban was lifted. She was appointed deputy minister of finance in 1996 and became deputy governor of the South African Reserve bank in 1999. After a few years working outside the central bank system, she was appointed governor in November 2009. In 2010 she said, “Developing countries are more conscious of women’s emancipation – we’ve all got better statistics in relation to gender than in the developed world.“ Read more
Cristina Fernández is an aggressive politician with a fragile state of health, which makes for a lousy combination. Credibly diagnosed over the weekend with blood on her brain — a possibly but not necessarily serious condition — doctors have ordered the Argentine president to rest for a month. Just three weeks before mid-term elections, this surprise development has the potential to throw Argentina, its politics and even its creditor discussions wide open. For Ms Fernández it is also a medical misfortune that could, ironically, turn out to be a political gift.
Her government faces a crescendo of problems. Its long-running battle in a New York court with a group of holdout creditors could well end in a technical default. Currency controls are strangling the economy and deterring investment while inflation is running at a privately-estimated 25 per cent (not even ministers believe the official figures.) Corruption scandals are a regular occurrence. Meanwhile, Ms Fernández has also picked a series of fights with her neighbours, most recently Chile and Uruguay, losing Argentina its few remaining international friends. As a result, her ruling coalition is expected to lose big in the mid-term elections on October 27. Read more
♦ The FT’s James Politi visits a military base struggling to cope with the effects of sequestration.
♦ One of the FT’s new readers had some questions about her first edition of the pink paper, including: “Why is George Osborne taking legal action against the EU cap on bankers’ bonuses when it says here that these chaps at ICAP were demanding bonuses in return for manipulating the Libor market?”
♦ Hassan Rouhani has raised hope among his countrymen of a solution to the crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme.
♦ The ebb in support for Argentina’s president Cristina Fernández has been matched by the rise of Sergio Massa, one of the strongest potential candidates for the 2015 elections.
♦ News reports of the US-intercepting messages between the heads of Al-Qaeda and AQIM, discussing an imminent terrorist attack, have caused more immediate damage to counterterrorism efforts than Edward Snowden’s leaks.
♦ The New York Times profiles Rosario Crocetta, the gay, Catholic leftist taking on corruption in Sicily.
♦ In Damascus, a war-weariness has settled over the city: “there is a sense that the war will continue, perhaps for years, making the country’s rifts progressively harder to heal.”
♦ When Romanian prosecutors announced that Alexandru Visinescu would be put on trial over his role in Communist-era abuses, it raised hopes that Romania may be able to shake off its national amnesia about its brutal past. Read more
While Dilma Rousseff and Cristina Fernández face rising political uncertainty in Brazil and Argentina, across the Andes plucky Chile soldiers on in time-honored fashion – that’s to say, predictably.
Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet after winning primary elections in Santiago, on June 30, 2013
Michelle Bachelet, the former president, steamed towards another presidency on Sunday with a romping win in the primaries – which pretty much guarantees her a landslide win in November’s presidential election. But then again, is everything so certain, even in stolid Chile?
Brazil’s recent protests, and student riots in Chile last week over university tuition fees, have led some to wonder if “Chile is the next Brazil?” (Although, truth be told, it would be more accurate to call “Brazil the next Chile” as Chile’s student riots, despite the country’s booming economy, pre-date Brazil’s turbulence by several years; the first were in 2006.) Read more
♦ In cities like Istanbul and Ankara, opposition to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is strong. Elsewhere, however, the AKP retains a significant amount of support and people are very suspicious of the demonstrators and their motives.
♦ China’s government and Chinese activists were even more active than usual on the Tiananmen anniversary.
♦ Susan Glasser, Foreign Policy’s editor-in-chief, interviews Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister.
♦ When Xi Jinping meets Barack Obama on Friday, look out for Wang Huning, head of the Communist party’s central policy research office. The former university professor is one of the most influential figures in China today.
♦ Venice is drowning in conflicting interests.
♦ Cristina Fernández has a crazy plan to save Argentina’s economy.
♦Want to know what it’s like to be in Taksim Square now? Take a look at Paul Mason’s montage. Read more
Stunned, then overjoyed (Getty)
By Guy Dinmore and Giulia Segreti
The first pope from the Americas, the first from the Jesuit order, the first to name himself Francis … the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio signals a break with the past on many fronts for a Roman Catholic Church in desperate need of renewal. Yet he is also regarded as a theological conservative in the mold of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, and at the relatively advanced age of 76 he will have to overcome fears that he too will be a transitional pope.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s normally unflappable spokesman and a fellow Jesuit, was just as stunned at the choice as the crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square. “Personally I am shocked that I have a Jesuit pope,” he told reporters, noting that Jesuits usually eschew positions of authority. He added: “He had the courage to pick a name that has never been chosen. It expresses simplicity and evangelical testimony.”
Rebecca Rist, an expert in papal history at Reading University, said the choice of Francis – echoing both the 13th-century St Francis of Assisi and Francis Xavier, one of the first followers of the Jesuits – signalled that the new pope would emphasise poverty and reform. Furthermore, by choosing a name never used before he was indicating “something new – that he would not emulate a predecessor”. Read more
Buenos Aires is basking in the balmy mid-20s. But it’s not just because the southern hemisphere summer is on its way that the temperature is rising for President Cristina Fernández, says JP Rathbone. Read more
Should Argentina, with its cavalier approach to economic policy, still have a place in the G20?
The debate is starting to generate heat, if not yet light. On May 11, Richard Lugar, the most senior Republican member of the US Senate foreign relations committee, introduced a non-binding “sense of Congress” resolution that calls on the US to suspend Argentina given its “outlaw behaviour”. This behaviour includes, most recently, Buenos Aires’ nationalisation of Spanish oil company Repsol’s stake in YPF, manipulation of inflation statistics, refusal to submit to an IMF review, and failure to comply with dozens of World Bank international settlement disputes. Read more
President Evo Morales of Bolivia – following in Argentina's nationalisation footsteps? Reuters
There seems to be a domino effect in Latin America. Two weeks after President Cristina Fernández nationalised Spanish oil company Repsol’s stake in Argentina’s YPF, President Evo Morales has nationalised Spanish electricity grid operator Red Eléctrica’s business in neighbouring Bolivia.
In both cases, troops were sent in to underline the glorious nationalism of the occasion. But does this mark a new wave of populism and nationalisations in the region? Almost certainly not. Read more
Cristina Fernández holds a sample of the first petroleum extraction in Argentina as she makes the YPF announcement (Getty)
On Monday Cristina Fernández, Argentina’s president, announced the renationalisation of the oil company YPF, ousting the Spanish group Repsol as majority owner and prompting a furious response from Madrid. With Spain and the European Union pondering how best to respond, we cast an eye back at ten of the most momentous nationalisations of resource/commodity institutions. (We are omitting the across-the-board, everything-must-go nationalisations of Russia and China after their respective Communist revolutions, for reasons of space). Read more
Josefina Vázquez Mota. Photo AP
Women currently govern some 40 per cent of Latin America’s population. If Josefina Vázquez Mota wins Mexico’s presidential elections in July, that figure will rise to 60 per cent. “I will be Mexico’s first presidenta (female president),” Ms Vázquez said this month after she won the primary of the conservative National Action Party. Read more
“Bring out your dead,” intones a raggedy man as he pushes a wheelbarrow through London’s medieval streets. “I’m not dead,” insists a corpse as he is tossed on top of other bodies in the celebrated spoof, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. There was something of that macabre spirit in Argentina’s elections yesterday. The Perónist dead were repeatedly invoked, and it transpired they were not so dead after all. For one, Cristina Fernández won a second term with a sweeping 54 per cent of the vote – the biggest electoral lead since Juan Domingo Perón, the patron saint of Argentine politics, returned to power in 1973. Read more
Image by AP
More tragic news from the frontline of Latin America’s “drugs war”: the murder of Argentine singer Facundo Cabral last weekend, at the hand of drugs gangs in Guatemala.
The death of the balladeer has not created much of a stir in the Anglo-Saxon world. In Latin America, however, it remains front page news. The closest equivalent is perhaps John Lennon’s murder in 1980: a man, with malice in his heart, shoots a singer known for advocating peace. Read more