Every morning the PanAm Post gives you a briefing on the most important news from the Americas.
These are the top stories this morning:
Trump to visit Peru and Colombia in first Latin America tour
March 10, NYT | March 12 | The Santiago Times
The President’s first visit to Latin America will take place at the Summit of the Americas. He will then also make a stop in Colombia, visiting President Juan Manuel Santos. There will be heightened tensions between the many heads of state and President Trump following his decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on most of the South American nations. Moreover, it would be altogether surprising for the president to not make a statement on the situation in Venezuela, where he has recently stated the United States is not ruling out military options to resolve the humanitarian crisis.
Colombia renews peace talks with last remaining rebel group
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santon announced Monday afternoon on state television he’d be sending his chief negotiator back to Ecuador to try and restart talks with the Marxist ELN (National Liberation Army) guerrilla group. In January, the ELN bombed a police station and killed 8 police officers and injured 47 others. Santos did not specify a start date for the renewed talks.
Mexicans torn on how much to fear ‘dangerous’ Amlo
Jude Webber, March 13 | FT ($) and Michelle Davis, March 12, 2018, 4:02 PM | Bloomberg Technology
Davis writes that a lower volume of searches in the world’s most popular search engine could be a predictor of less support for Lopez Obrador. His popularity on Google’s service has declined in the last month, amid what Citigroup analysts say could be a drop in support as a result of his name being involved in a money-laundering probe. Another reason for discontent with the candidate among voters is his plan to freeze private investments in Mexico’s oil fields and spend lavishly on developing refineries, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
She even says that Citigroup believes that searches are a more accurate predictor of electoral outcomes than polls.
The Financial Times also came out with a piece that says Mexicans are not sure what to think of the radical leftist candidate. Writing for the paper, Webber claims that his lead in the polls really indicate that his toughest challenge will be not taking the wrong step and scaring voters away, losing a sizable lead. This helps explains his dozens of promises to not roll back energy reforms, to not introduce new taxes, to roll out the internet to rural areas and work with private Mexican business on infrastructure projects.
As Venezuelans flee collapsing country, UN asks other nations to treat them as refugees
BY JIM WYSS | Miami Herald
Instead of being treated as migrants, the United Nations is asking Venezuela’s neighbors and others to treat them as refugees. This request largely flies in the face of Colombia’s recent militarization of its border and touting of a reduction by 30% of Venezuelans being accepted into the country. Colombia shares the largest, most traversable border with Venezuela and has begun taking steps to discourage refugees from coming int the country in search of food.
Venezuela opposition asks U.N. not to send observers to May vote
MARCH 12, 2018 / 3:46 PM | Reuters
In what it called a move to avoid legitimizing election polls it says President Nicolas Maduro has rigged, the Venezuelan ‘opposition’ has asked the U.N. to not send observers. The request is, as of yet, unnecessary as the United Nations has not yet committed to sending any observers. Only the Security Council or the General Assembly can issue a mandate for it to do so. The Maduro’s regime’s invitation is not enough. More than anything, this declaration should be taken as a show of force directed at the Venezuelan people ahead of a planned protest on Saturday.
The ‘opposition’ has opted not to include one of the main politicians behind the massive 2014 protests, Maria Corina Machado, and her Soy Venezuela party in the calls for Saturday’s demonstrations.
Thinking of Going to Brazil? You Will Need a Yellow Fever Vaccination
By Karen Weintraub March 12, 2018 | New York TImes
Karen explains how a combination of a historic yellow fever outbreak and a shortage of the vaccine is creating an unprecedented situation inside the country, making it necessary for travelers to plan far in advance before visiting. While not all who contract the virus get it so bad as to turn the whites of their eyes yellow and cause liver damage, the risks are still substantial she says.
Raul Castro succession process takes off; heir apparent blasts US for “resuming a Cold War rhetoric”
Monday, March 12th 2018 – 09:43 UTC | MercoPress
Cuba’s Vice President, Miguel Diaz-Canel, said the united states was mimicking its cold war rhetoric and that it considered Cuba was being “attacked” and “offended” by the Trump administration. As Raul’s hand-picked successor to the Cuban presidency, Dial-Canel is expected to stay well within party doctrine, at least until Raul Castro is set to step aside as the Communist Party head in 2021.
On the same day, Alexis Branrich Vega, Cuba’s ambassador to Tehran, was quoted as saying that Trump doesn’t know “anything of Cuba nor of the Cubans,” in an interview with a Tehran newspaper, where he also blamed “extreme right” Cuban Americans for testy relations between the two countries.
Melissa Nelson Gabriel, 3:49 p.m. CT March 12 | Pensacola News Journal
“An Islamic paramilitary organization financed by Iran has infiltrated large swaths of South America, joined forces with drug cartels and created a major threat to Florida and the rest of the U.S., experts testified at a Congressional Field Hearing in Pensacola on Monday about Hezbollah’s gains in the Western Hemisphere.”
There is little I could add to this atom bomb of a story other than to remind readers that Tarek El Asami, Venezuela’s Vice President, is known to have close ties with Hezbollah. A fact that probably does not escape R Sen. Marco Rubio, who recently had to increase his security detail amid intelligence that the South American nation had put a price on his head.
Colombia Peso Rallies After Duque’s Strong Results in Presidential Primary
Reuters | March 12
Early Monday morning, the Colombian Peso strengthened 0.67% against the dollar to 2,851 and treasury bonds also saw improved returns, with yields rising 6.238% from Friday’s close. By market close the same day however prices were back to March 7 levels, at around 2845.06728 Pesos per Dollar.
Brazil stocks up; Fibria shares jump on M&A reports
Reuters | 4 min Read
Brazilian stocks rallied on news that Paper Excellence, a paper product company with over with over 2,300 employees, made a bid to acquire Fibria SA, a Brazilian wood pulp producer. Shares of Suzano Paper e Celulose dropped 4.7% as it was also making a bid on the Brazilian wood pulp producer. Food processor shares were also up thanks to “bargain hunting”, with JBS SA leading the way.
Brazil BRF plant in food safety probe puts 1,000 workers on leave
The news over at BRF SA just seems to get worse by the day. 1k of the Mineiros plant workers are now “on leave”, amid “layout changes”. This is suspicious given the company is still being investigated by Brazilian authorities over the “Weak Flesh” safety-gaming scandal in 2014 and had its former chief executive sent to jail just last week.
Japan traders, industries turn again to Brazil
Kohei Nakashima, Published 8:32 am, Monday, March 12 | The Japan News
Many in Japan are under the impression that business conditions in Brazil are set to improve, says LMTonline. Alongside rising oil prices, recent acquisition activity from the island nation in Brazil has fueled renewed interest in investments. Panasonic, Toyota, Mitsui Engineering, and others have made significant acquisitions in the country. Brazil’s economy is “on track” for recovery, the IMF said recently
BBVA hands IBM Latin American and US tech contract
BBVA Group signed an agreement with IBM Latin America to hand over the revamping of its technological infrastructure. The deal affects the ATA Servicios and ATA Operadora affiliates in Mexico and is still pending regulatory approval.
Gallup as recently as 2012 found in a poll that Latin Americans are far less likely to have an account at a financial institution than the global average. Credit is hard to come by and online banking is only recently taking off in the region.
Venezuela annual inflation exceeds 6,000 pct in Feb -National Assembly
March 12, 2018, 11:53:00 AM EDT| Reuters
” Prices in Venezuela rose 6,147 percent in the 12 months to the end of February, according to estimates by the country’s opposition-led National Assembly”
Venezuela Sold $5b in Petro Cryptocurrency, Claims President Maduro
ADAM JAMES · MARCH 12, 2018 · 9:30 AM | Bitcoinist
The Venezuelan government claims their “oil-backed” cryptocurrency received 186,000 certified purchases totaling $5b. The success also supposedly involved 83,000 buyers from 127 countries, “which is odd”, says Adam James for Bitcoinist, “since the Petro can only be used for the payment of Venezuelan taxes.”
CharacasChronicles has an excellent explanation as to why investors should be extremely wary of buying PTRs (Petros). Brookings explains that beyond being a bad value, the Petro risks debasing trust in the crypto market as a whole and undermines the effectiveness of international sanctions.
Other than using the Petro to circumvent Washington’s restrictions on their bank accounts, Venezuelan authorities have gone as far as asking India to pay them in Rupees instead of dollars for their oil. This would, in turn, make depositing their earnings harder to control under current sanctions.
Turkey, Brazil energy investments could hit $440m by 2026: Envoy
March 12 2018 15:14:4 | Hurriyet Daily News
Brazil’s ambassador to Turkey, Eduardo Neto, suggested that the two nations are close to reaching agreements that would allow for significant energy investments by 2026. The Brazilian touted an increase from $1.8b in 2016 to $2.2b in trade in 2017. The ambassador predicted that 71.4% of the windfall from Turkish investments. But it is not clear exactly how much of this investment could be made realistically by Turkey alone. Brazil’s energy sector functions primarily through lowest-bidder auctions and 0f the 17 companies that participated in the latest area-of-exploration sales only 7 were foreign.
Venezuela’s Meltdown Comes at Convenient Time for OPEC
Dan Eberhart | Forbes
A short take on why oil markets, including U.S. shale, have only reasons to celebrate when it comes to the demise of PDVSA and the oil market in Venezuela as a whole. The crux of the argument centers on the fall in the country’s output and the resulting effects on oil prices despite a U.S. shale rebound. If you want to understand how Venezuela’s demise plays into the oil markets, go give it a read.
Kenyan president to visit Cuba to boost trade, economic ties
According to XinhuaNet, President Uhura Kenyatta is visiting Cuba on Tuesday. He’s looking to encourage the Castro-dictatorship to create farmaceutical companies in the country and exchange what he claims are significant medical advances made by the two nations, such as Cuba’s supposed lung cancer vaccine, which has yet to be independently tested.
“While Argentina’s salted-snack consumption is low at one kilo per person compared with the nine kilos in the US in 2017, the market has plenty of potential, says Pablo García, general manager for foods at PepsiCo Argentina.”
Latin America And The Caribbean: Back On Track
MARCH 12, 2018 Author: TIZIANA BARGHINI | GlobalFinance
The periodical quotes a handful of regional bank professionals and investors who are bullish on the region, but is quick to ask “Can the region maintain this positive momentum?” At the same time, it pours praise on Brazil’s economic recovery, calling it the reborn “darling” on international investors, celebrates the return of Piñera to Chile alongside rising copper prices, and says it has reason to be optimistic for Mexico to avoid a Lopez Obrador victory in July.
Five Takeaways from Colombia’s March 11 Elections
BY MAT YOUKEE | MARCH 12, 2018
This is a must-read analysis by Mat. His analysis explains the ramifications of ex-President Uribe still being a player in the elections, candidate, and ex-Mayor of Bogota, Gustavo Petro’s resilience, ex-Vice President Vargas Lleras Cambio Radical’s polling strength, and the FARC’s failure at the polls.
Richard Emblin, March 12 | The City Paper
Emblin gives us a heartfelt yet pragmatic take on how the Venezuelan refugee crisis is playing into Colombian politics this election cycle. Among little details, like young Venezuelan kids trying to trade 100 Bolivares for a few pesos on the TransMilenium, and poignant border tales, the editorial hits all the right notes. Ominously he says “Recent events, from Brexit to Donald Trump, have shown us that we cannot underestimate political risk” when he refers to Petro’s election chances.
Leopoldo Lopez, Venezuelan Opposition Leader, Speaks Out to the New York Times
Tuesday’s episode will become available after this briefing is published. We will update this post with the episode as soon as it is available. For now, enjoy’s Monday’s excelent episode below:
GUSTAVO OCANDO ALEX, March 12, 2018 06:20 PM | Miami Herald
I will leave you with this two quotes from Gustavo’s powerful and must-read article:
“Chávez made the bold promise to solve the problem on the night he won his first election in 1998: “I shall not allow a single street kid in Venezuela or I shall stop calling myself Hugo Chávez.”
“Almost 90 percent of Venezuelans polled consider their income insufficient to buy food and 61 percent admitted they have gone to bed at night feeling hungry.”
BY PATRICIO NAVIA | MARCH 12, 2018 | Americas Quarterly
Navia rightfully lauds the Latin American nation for its successful return to democracy after decades of unrest and dictatorship. Three alternations of power in and surrounded by neighbors in crisis after crisis, Chile should be very proud indeed.
“On March 11, 2018, Chile underwent its third alternation in power since the restoration of democracy. Pinochet died 12 years ago, and the right-wing coalition put to rest all concerns about its democratic values under the first Piñera government.”
By Robbie Whelan March 12, 2018 7:00 a.m. ET | WSJ
“Andres Manuel López Obrador, a leftist nationalist with a comfortable lead in the polls, has rattled investors by calling for a temporary freeze in new private investment in exploration and production of oil. But it is his plan to shift federal spending to refining from exploration and production that critics say could have the most dramatic consequences for the Mexican economy and U.S. refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.”
By REIF LARSEN MARCH 12, 2018 | New York Times
In predictably beautiful prose, the New York Times manages to once again perpetuate Cuban state propaganda for its readers. Masked by its masterful description of carefully tourist-tailored delicacies, scenery and, of course, healthcare, the unfortunate account of Reif Larsen’s trip to Cuba leaves one thing of note to be desired: substance.
Where is the mention of jailed Cuban dissidents, of the thousands traveling by raft to the United States that die every year, of the sham elections that are taking place? The paper of record is anything but neutral when it says “For the brief time I was there, I would have much more robust (and much cheaper) insurance than I currently have in the United States.” So why can’t it be equally “honest” in calling out the nation’s appalling repression behind the Potemkin village it so carefully constructs for this American tourist?
Chris Moss, March 12 | The Telegraph
Among having the world’s longest street and some of the best food, Moss makes the case for your next vacation in this delightful column on Argentina. The last time I was in Buenos Aires I found it to be one of the most beautiful cities on earth, The Telegraph’s column made me want to go back.
I’m not entirely convinced that, given the security situation and the likely tumultuous election taking place July 1st, Mexico is the best vacationing spot at this time. But, if it suits your fancy this resort might very well be the place to book. Ann Abel for Forbes claims the Mukan resort’s unique location, situated inside a UNESCO World Heritage Site gives it a unique feeling of “being at the end of the world” while still achieving lavish luxury.