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