Friday March 9: Latin America Daily Briefing
Lawmakers in Peru renew push to oust embattled president. Argentina Calls for Capture of Five Chinese Fishing Boat, Mexico Plan for Army Land Sale Swept Into Election Campaigns and more.
Every morning the PanAm Post gives you a briefing on the most important news from the Americas.
These are the top stories this morning:
Lawmakers in Peru renew push to oust embattled president
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski faces yet another attempt by the country’s legislators to oust him over his connections to Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant, which donated hundreds of thousands to his Presidential campaign. A total of 28 members of the legislature signed the resolution. 87 of the 103 members need to vote in favor of the motion for it to pass.
This is bound to be a close vote. The last time they tried to remove him it came down to a handful of legislators that voted against the measure in a last-minute change of heart.
Argentina Calls for Capture of Five Chinese Fishing Boats
Federal Judge Eva Parcio de Seleme approved an order to capture the Jing Yuan 626, one of five Chinese fishing boats Argentina says were illegally fishing on its waters. Just two years ago Argentina sank a Chinese trawler it claimed was illegally fishing in its waters after firing warning shots.
CPTPP – Asia-Pacific trade deal signed by 11 nations
Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam signed on the to deal on Thursday, which will slash tariffs and remove protectionist legislation that acts as a block on trade between the 11 countries. President Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in his first term.
Venezuela opposition calls for protest against presidential vote
A new coalition, calling themselves the Broad Front For A Free Venezuela, called for a demonstration to take place this March 17th. Last years protest left more than 120 dead, many of the students. This latest coalition does not include the Soy Venezuela (I Am Venezuela) party, headed by Maria Corina Machado. This omission which diminishes the credibility of Broad Front’s willingness to make these protests more than just a photo op.
Mexico says Playa del Carmen safe; president to go there
The country tried to downplay a U.S. security alert declaring one of the country’s top tourism destinations “unsafe”, as President Enrique Pena Nieto said he would attend a local conference. The “security threat” has not been specified but U.S. personnel are prohibited from going there. Despite the announcement, many U.S. companies remain bullish on Mexico vacation travel, some recently announcing they’re expanding air travel to destinations there to meet expected demand.
Complicating the situation is a statement released by the U.S.embassy in Mexico, where it says the threat is not ferry-related. This makes it more difficult for Mexican authorities to guarantee visitor’s safety given that they were already aware of the ferry threat (a bomb recently injured 2 dozen people) and would need time to assess the new danger. There have been a number of high profile attacks on Mexico’s tourism centers in recent years.
Mexico Plan for Army Land Sale Swept Into Election Campaigns
What should have been a near $1b windfall for the Mexican government quickly turned into a heated campaign issue. The property in question belonged to the Mexican military, which leftist candidate Lopez Obrador used as an excuse to claim the government was “risking national assets”. Now the rest of the electoral field, which is lagging far behind the Morena candidate, has been forced to match his skepticism of the sale.
Colombia Rebel Ends Presidential Campaign, in Blow to Peace Process
Rodrigo Lodoño, aka Timochenko, dropped out of the race Thursday. He had undergone heart surgery on Wednesday. The New York Times calls this a setback “for peace itself” in Colombia, stating that the ex-guerrilla group’s presidential campaign had been a pillar of their peace accords. The election was not going well for the FARC, encountering massive demonstrations and even mobs at many of their campaign events. The BCC states Timochenko had been polling at around 1%.
Now the question is how they will react to being shunned by the public. Their calls for “guarantees” of “political participation” sound like an ultimatum of sorts, almost as if to say ‘include us in the legislature or else’. The FARC could also put their political weight, and money, behind the leftist candidate Gustavo Petro. He currently holds a close lead against the center-right candidate Iván Duque. The ex-guerillas No. 2 leader, Ivan Marquez, is running for a seat in Congress.
Trump Signs Metals Tariffs Sparing Some Allies
“We’re going to show great flexibility”, the President said in a White House ceremony Thursday. The WH trade advisor, Peter Navarro, told the Wall Street Journal that the planned tariffs would not, at least at first, include Mexico and Canada. The President hinted this would hinge on both nations contributing more to defense spending. The tariff is said to take effect in 15 days.
Mexico’s Economy Minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, said on Thursday that “under no circumstances” would Mexico allow these tariffs to place them under pressure to appease the United States in NAFTA talks.
There was no new information on the extent of the tariffs, which had been reported to be have gone as far as 24% on steel and 10% on aluminum imports.
Latin America was not as lucky as Mexico and Canada. So far, all implications are that it will face the full force of these tariffs. Brazil’s Finance Minister criticized the measure as “trade warfare” on Thursday in New York. Brazil, he said, already experienced the pitfalls of protectionism first hand, but “does not rule out possible complementary actions”. 10% of Brazil’s exports, 6% of Argentina’s, and 42% of Colombia’s are sold to the United States.
LACI : IND | Bloomberg
Argentina central bank sells $123 million after peso hits record low
Argentina’s central bank acted after the peso took another hit, falling to a record intra-day low of 20.45 per USD. The bank said it sold $120m USD in the spot market Thursday. Our Argentina reporter, Marcelo Duclos, explains that this move was most likely an attempt to control the price of the dollar inside the country, as Argentina experiences higher prices across all industries when the market begins to rally around the dollar. Duclos added that they are unlikely to calm the demand for dollars despite the move.
Neo Lithium Announces Pioneering Discovery of High-Grade Lithium Aquifer in Argentina
The Canadian company announced they discovered a “deep aquifer with high-grade lithium” in Argentina’s Catamarca province, the most lithium rich in the country. The discovery did little to move neolithium markets, but the market trend overall is positive.
Brazil Hedge Funds Take Stake in Argentina’s BYMA on Growth Bet
Argentina’s stock exchange, Bolsas y Mercados Argentinos, had 10% of its shares bought by a conglomeration of Brazilian hedge funds. About 20% of BYMA is foreign owned, and about half of that is held by Brazilian hedge funds. The stake bought by the 8 Brazilian hedge funds is worth about $132.2m USD. This is largely seen as a sign of confidence in the prospects for the Argentinian markets, who are now exiting years of protectionism and isolation under the previous administration.
U.S space companies aim to help Brazil rocket base lift off
Brazil’s Alcantara space center catering to U.S. companies looking for more affordable satellite launches, and it’s counting on support from the United States to get them. Brazil needs to reach a technology safeguards agreement (TSA) with the U.S. for American rockets to take off from their spaceport. Should they get a TSA, SpaceX competitors like Boing Co. Vector Launch Inc. are hoping to undercut the market by launching micro-satellites from the location.
Former President Lula da Silva scuttled similar talks in 2003 (the same year 23 people died in an explosion during testing of a Brazilian made rocket at Alcantara).
US lawsuit: Venezuela cheated of billions by rigged oil bids
A trust closely tied to the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA is suing Glencore and Lukoil for what amounts to corporate espionage. They alleged they paid a middleman to keep tabs on private company documents to know about rig bids and other confidential information ahead of time. This follows a move that put dozens of ex-PDVSA employees in fail in a supposed crackdown on corruption, but critics say it’s little more than factional infighting.
Venezuela debt rallies amid acceleration, payment talk
Following reports that Euroclear had been paid for its PDVSA 6% 2022s Venezuelan debt has been rallying, reports NASDAQ. The Electricidal de Caracas 2018 bonds also rallied this week. Some players on Wall Street must know something the rest of us don’t, given that, as brokers said to Nasdaq, “US sanctions are still there so I don’t know how they will move the money out.”
PE, VC activity hits record in Latin America in 2017
Private equity and venture capital hit a new record last year, according to PEHub. The region saw a 20% increase in transaction activity of the previous year. But exit activity remained almost the same. 49% percent of the transactions took place in Brazil.
Latin America needs an infrastructure upgrade
“It’s like we’re still living in the era of Columbus”. The Economist’s column calls for infrastructure development as a priority in the region, citing the failure to complete infrastructure projects or even address basic needs like roads. “Latin America is hobbled by its inadequate infrastructure”, says the magazine, despite “bright spots” like Chile. It blames the widespread corruption, uncovered in the Odebrecht and Lavato Jato (Car Wash) scandals, for closing the “window of opportunity” of low-interest rates.
Venezuela faces a terrible new crisis: A critical shortage of blood
The Washington Post chronicles life under the unimaginable strain of hospitals without enough blood to perform surgeries or even provide basic medical care. “in a country where 87 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, most families can’t afford to pay what the clinics charge for usable blood,” it says. And that’s in the hospitals that have blood to give.
A Venezuelan politician says he can defeat Maduro. Why does the opposition hate him?
“In their view, Falcón’s candidacy provides a veneer of legitimacy to the political charade”. This is where the article should have stopped, but instead, it veers into a collection of Falcon’s talking points. It doesn’t even interview a single opposition leader that has criticized the “candidate”. The Miami Herald really should not have lent themselves to run part of this Maduro smoke screen the way the New York Times has done time, and time again.
gives readers a commendable summary of the situation in the country, and, specifically, the economic devastation being experienced by every day Venezuelans. The piece reads as something of an opportunity to vent for
El Salvador’s rising political star
“The real winner was a politician who was not running, belongs to no party and encouraged voters to spoil their ballots: Nayib Bukele” says The Economist. The magazine cites the historically low turnout (56%) in the country (which has mandatory voting) as a boon for the ex-FMLN candidate. It’s an insightful analysis of the high stakes for Salvador’s presidential elections.