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Brazil Official Sees Alleged Petrobras Corruption Scheme Reaching $1.6 Billion

| November 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01


SÃO PAULO—The alleged corruption scheme said to involve kickbacks from contracts at Brazil’s state-controlled energy giant Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras , may have totaled as much as 4 billion Brazilian reais ($1.6 billion), according to the head of the country’s budget watchdog.

Brazil’s Court of Accounts, which is known by its Portugese initials TCU, is helping the country’s federal police investigate allegations of payments to politicians with money skimmed from Petrobras contracts, according to TCU President Joao Augusto Nardes.

The value calculated by Mr. Nardes includes money allegedly overcharged on contracts involving the purchase of a refinery in Texas and the construction of a petrochemical complex in Rio de Janeiro state and three refineries in other locations in Brazil.

“This case is the biggest corruption scheme evaluated in the history of the TCU, in terms of the financial amount involved and also regarding the huge number of people involved,” Mr. Nardes told The ... Read More

Brazil Inflation Pleasantly Surprises, But Economy In ‘Perilous State’

| November 20th, 2014 | No Comments »


A pleasant surprise out of Brazil Wednesday for market watchers: inflation fell to 6.4% on the year, better than anyone imagined.

The news helped provide the iShares MSCI Brazil (EWZ) with some buoyancy today, up 0.83% while the MSCI Emerging Markets Index is trading in the red. Declining inflation likely means the Central Bank will not tighten as quickly as initially thought. Consensus still has rates rising to 12% from 11.25% today.

November IPCA-15 inflation was 0.38% month over month, which returns us to the 12 month inflation rate of 6.42% from the 6.62% in the previous month. The slowdown from October, when inflation rose 0.48%, came mainly from the food and housing groups. Today’s inflation data means the Central Bank’s rate hike cycle should be a short rather than a longer one. Bruno Rovai, a Barclays Capital fixed income analyst in New York, ... Read More

Colombia, Rebels Agree on Steps to Free General

| November 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
ABC News


Countries assisting peace talks between Colombia’s government and leftist rebels said Wednesday night that an agreement has been reached to free a general whose capture jeopardized the negotiations.

A joint statement from Cuba and Norway said the two sides agreed “on the conditions for the release” of Colombian army Gen. Ruben Dario Alzate and four others taken captive by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in recent days.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos immediately celebrated the accord, saying in a statement that government peace negotiators would return to Havana as soon as all the prisoners were released.

“God bless, I’m thrilled,” Alzate’s wife, Claudia Farfan, told The Associated Press upon receiving the news. “I can’t wait for the moment to welcome my husband home.”

The brief statement by the international guarantors didn’t say when the captives would be let go or what the conditions are, saying only that the International Red Cross would play a ... Read More

Anger over missing students, corruption grows in Mexico

| November 20th, 2014 | No Comments »


MEXICO CITY — A day that’s supposed to celebrate the anniversary of a revolution is instead turning into one of mass protests against political corruption and outrage over violence that probably left 43 missing students dead.

“There’s a feeling of being fed up that’s been building for some time,” said law student Esteban Santillán, 24, who marched in Mexico City last month. The case of the missing students “is the best example of the rot that there is in the country’s political class.”

Students, parents and supporters of the missing plan protests in Mexico City and across the country Thursday, when Mexico normally marks the anniversary of the Revolution of 1910, which resulted from discontent over a lack of democracy and farmers’ desire for land and liberty.

Protest organizers promise to block access to the international airport. Revolution Day parades have been canceled in parts of Guerrero and Michoacán states for ... Read More

Russia and Venezuela to fight low oil price

| November 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
Deutsche Welle

Russia and Venezuela are discussing joint action against low oil prices, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in Moscow. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez was in Moscow for talks as part of a tour of several oil-producing nations, including Algeria, Qatar and Iran, aimed at developing a joint strategy.

Asked if he discussed joint moves to counteract the 30-percent fall in oil prices this year, Novak told reporters: “Yes, there is such an initiative. We discussed this theme and now we are working out those proposals on our side.”

Russia and Venezuela, like the other countries on Ramirez’ travel itinerary, are heavily dependent on revenues from oil exports for their national budgets. Crude oil prices are set in the context of a global market, so global geopolitical tensions and regional supply or demand surges or drops affect oil prices everywhere.

As a result, any drive ... Read More

Obama administration would back sanctions against Venezuela: official

| November 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration would like to work with the U.S. Congress to impose sanctions on Venezuela in response to a crackdown on anti-government protests, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Tony Blinken, who is Obama’s choice to be deputy secretary of state, said Washington had refrained from pushing for sanctions in the past few months to allow diplomatic efforts by some Latin American countries to secure the release of opposition leaders from jail and nudge Caracas toward electoral reform.

But those efforts have failed, Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his nomination hearing. “We would not oppose moving forward with additional sanctions,” he said.

In July, Washington barred a group of Venezuelan officials, including government ministers and presidential advisers, from the United States after accusing them of abuses in the crackdown on protests against President Nicolas Maduro this spring.

But the State Department did not ... Read More

Venezuela’s Maduro Raises Taxes, Reserves to Help Growth

| November 20th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Anatoly Kurmanaev and Jose Orozco

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro raised taxes on goods ranging from yachts to rum and increased international reserves as the government responds to the lowest oil prices in four years. Bonds rallied by the most in almost six years.

The president said in a four-hour televised address late yesterday that the 28 laws he signed using decree powers will restore growth in an economy suffering the world’s fastest inflation and shortages of basic goods. He ordered that a $4 billion loan from China be added to international reserves.

“Maduro is at last recognizing there’s a need for a fiscal adjustment and stronger reserves,” Orlando Ochoa, economics professor at Andres Bello Catholic University in Caracas, said by telephone. “The measures in themselves are a drop in the ocean given the magnitude of the problem. Rather, this is a signal of bigger steps to ... Read More

Thousands March in Ecuador to Protest Government Policies

| November 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01


QUITO, Ecuador—Thousands of people marched in the capital and other cities Wednesday to protest against President Rafael Correa ’s administration and some of its policies, including proposed labor reforms and constitutional amendments.

Members of Ecuador’s labor unions and civic organizations and indigenous peoples took part in the march, which was organized by the United Workers Front, to demand changes to what they call “authoritarian attitudes” of the government.

“This is a strong mobilization showing the government there is a need for dialogue, reflection and changes,” said Mesias Tatamuez, one of the union leaders. “We are asking for a change in the direction of the government.”

Mr. Correa has said the marchers are looking to destabilize his government and that labor reforms seek to ensure job security and stop layoffs, among other things.

But union leaders said the government is looking to divide them by creating new government-dependent organizations and undermine their rights, especially ... Read More

Las FARC reconocen que el general Alzate está en su poder

| November 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
ABC Madrid-01


La confesión de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) de que habían hecho «prisionero de guerra» al general Rubén Darío Alzate, a un soldado y una funcionaria que lo acompañaba, cayó como un jarro de agua fría entre los negociadores que desde hace dos años intentan firmar la paz con esta guerrilla en Cuba.

Aunque el secuestro se ha usado desde hace más de 50 años como método de financiación y presión política, en febrero de 2012, cuando se inició la fase exploratoria de los diálogos de La Habana, las FARC anunciaron la entrega de todos los secuestrados políticos que todavía tenía en su poder y, simultáneamente, la abolición del secuestro con fines financieros.

Reducción del 80%

Consciente de que el secuestro ha disminuido un 80%, el presidente Juan Manuel Santos fue enfático: los diálogos con las FARC se descongelan, siempre y cuando liberen al general de 55 años y a dos soldados que fueron ... Read More

La casa de los Peña, ¿qué está esperando el Presidente?

| November 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
Milenio Diario


Se cumplió una semana del sólido reportaje de Carmen Aristegui y su equipo sobre la casa de la familia Peña en Las Lomas. Me cuesta entender que el Presidente siga dejando correr los días para asumir la realidad como todo parece indicar que es en este asunto que huele tan mal: hay un ostensible conflicto de interés comprador-vendedor; agente inmobiliario-jefe de Estado.

El Presidente se comprometió el sábado a aportar información para contrarrestar las “aseveraciones imprecisas y carentes de sustento”. Es martes. ¿Qué es impreciso? ¿El domicilio? ¿El valor de la casa? ¿En vez de 7 millones de dólares fueron 6.5? ¿Los detalles técnicos del crédito directo del vendedor al cliente? ¿El bono de actuación a la esposa del Presidente?

Es martes. ¿Qué carece de sustento? ¿El señalamiento de que la casa no está referida en la declaración patrimonial del Presidente de la República? ¿Las huellas gigantescas de que ... Read More

Reformas y corrupción en México

| November 18th, 2014 | No Comments »


Hace unos meses, antes de la crisis de Tlatlaya, la primera en una larga cadena de eventos desfavorables para el gobierno de Peña, argumentaba que estaba optimista por el futuro del país, pero tenía algunas preocupaciones que me llevaban a ser, también, escéptico. Una de esas inquietudes era la posible corrupción que deslegitimara las reformas que tanto me gustaban. Yo era de los que desde hace muchísimo tiempo ansiaban un gobierno con una agenda modernizadora capaz de aprobarla en el Congreso. Pues bien, Peña Nieto, contra todo pronóstico, lo logró. En su momento, lo reconocí y celebré. Hoy, sin embargo, ese proyecto peligra precisamente por la preocupación que tenía.

Como miembro de una generación que vivió su juventud marcada por las crisis de los ochenta y noventa, nunca me olvidaré de la tragedia del sexenio de Carlos Salinas. A muchos nos animó un joven Presidente que prometió llevar ... Read More

Brazil’s Petrobras vows overhaul amid graft allegations

| November 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

The head of Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras, Graca Foster, promised to improve the way it is is run as it struggles to deal with a huge corruption scandal.

Ms Foster said the company would create a compliance division to track internal processes.

On Friday 23 people were arrested on suspicion of money-laundering and corruption.

Among them were executives of Brazil’s biggest construction companies.

“We are going through a very difficult moment in the company, but we are convinced that we will have better management after we structure and implement all of these managerial processes,” said Graca Foster.

The scandal was a sensitive issue for Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff in last month’s presidential election.

She was challenged several times over the issue and has said she had no knowledge of the kickback scheme which allegedly paid out to several political parties, including her own ruling Workers Party.

She was forced to admit there was evidence of wrongdoing ... Read More

Chile’s Economy Grows 0.8% in Third Quarter

| November 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01


Chile’s economy grew at its slowest pace in several years in the third quarter, as investments and domestic demand continued to decline.

The country’s central bank said on Tuesday that gross domestic product expanded 0.8% in the quarter compared with same period a year earlier, bringing accumulated growth in the first nine months to 1.8%.

Chile’s economic growth has weakened sharply from last year, when it expanded by 4.1%. Investments in Chile’s important copper mining industry have eased, especially for machinery and equipment.

The central bank said that fixed investments fell 9.9% in the third quarter, while domestic demand weakened 1.9%.

”Annual GDP growth in Chile dropped to a five-year low in the third quarter, but on a quarterly basis growth edged up a little. We expect a further, albeit gradual, recovery over the coming quarters,” Capital Economics said in a research note.

In seasonally adjusted terms, the economy expanded 0.4% in the ... Read More

Fate of peace talks in FARC hands: Colombian president

| November 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
From AFP

By Alina Dieste

Bogota (AFP) – The fate of Colombia’s peace talks is in the hands of the FARC rebels, the president has warned, after halting negotiations designed to end Latin America’s longest-running conflict.

The Marxist guerrillas are under increasing pressure at home and abroad to free a general whose kidnapping prompted President Juan Manuel Santos to stop the talks, throwing the most promising effort yet to end Colombia’s 50-year-old conflict into fresh crisis.

The two-year-old negotiations were derailed Sunday when General Ruben Alzate disappeared in a remote region on the Pacific coast in what the government denounced as a kidnapping by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

After an emergency meeting with top army brass, Santos called off the talks — which had been due to resume Monday in Cuba — and sent his defense minister to the isolated department of Choco to ... Read More

Ibovespa Declines on Speculation Petrobras Will Face Penalties

| November 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Denyse Godoy

The Ibovespa fell for a third day as oil producer Petroleo Brasileiro SA said it may face penalties for not releasing financial results on the scheduled date.

Power utility Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras SA, known as Eletrobras, slid to a two-year low after reporting a loss. Banco do Brasil SA, Latin America’s largest bank by assets, rose after Cielo SA said it’s negotiating to manage the lender’s card business.

The Ibovespa retreated 1 percent to 51,256.99 today in Sao Paulo. Petrobras, as state-run Petroleo Brasileiro is known, was the biggest contributor to the decline after Chief Financial Officer Almir Barbassa said the company may be investigated by Brazil’s securities regulator for not publishing its third-quarter results on Nov. 14.

“There is a lot of concern regarding a possible punishment and what the company will do to recover from the losses,” Raphael Figueredo, an analyst at brokerage firm ... Read More

Protests over 43 missing students in Mexico spread across the country

| November 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

By Nathaniel Parish Flannery

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO –  The 43 students from a teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa in the Mexican state of Guerrero went missing in the town of Iguala on Sept. 26.

The demonstrations began in Guerrero soon afterward under the leadership of student associations – who are referred to as “normalistas,” because they attend a teachers’ or “normal” college – and protesters torched the offices of the state government in Guerrero’s capital, Chilpancingo.

On October 22, they set the mayor’s office in Iguala on fire.

In November, protesters marched through Mexico City, setting the doors to the Palacio Nacional, a buiding that houses murals by Diego Rivera, ablaze.

This month, protesters have vandalized the airport in Acapulco, burned cars and political offices in Chilpancingo and also vandalized buildings in the neighboring state of Michoacán.

Mexico’s attorney general has claimed that the charred remains ... Read More

Former mayor charged in Mexico student deaths

| November 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
From CNN

By Michael Pearson

(CNN) – Prosecutors in the Mexican state of Guerrero said Friday they have formally charged former Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca in the disappearance of 43 students.

Abarca is described as the “probable mastermind” in the September 26 disappearance of the students. He is charged with six counts of aggravated homicide and one count of attempted homicide, the state attorney’s office said.

Authorities said the students — mostly men in their 20s studying to be teachers — were abducted by police in September at Abarca’s direction. Police killed some students, and the rest are believed to have been turned over to gang members to be executed, Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam has said.

The men’s bodies were burned, and some remains were thrown in a river.

The students were traveling to Iguala to protest a lack of funding for their school.

... Read More

Mexico’s Rule of Law Crisis

| November 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01


What do the September disappearance of 43 university students from the custody of local police in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, and new allegations of federal corruption in the awarding of public infrastructure contracts have in common? Answer: They both show that Mexico still has a huge problem enforcing the rule of law.

The two developments have sparked a political crisis that could sink Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) President Enrique Peña Nieto ’s ambitious reform agenda if he doesn’t take quick and decisive action to restore confidence.

Until now the president has been able to ignore Mexico’s legendary lawlessness. He has been riding an international wave of excitement around the opening of the energy sector, with few questions asked. But unless he wants to make common cause with the hard left—which thinks it has him on the ropes because of the missing students—he needs to admit his mistakes, purge his ... Read More

Dilma’s doldrums

| November 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

AS SHE hobnobs with the other G20 heads of state in Brisbane this weekend, Dilma Rousseff, re-elected last month to a second four-year term as Brazil’s president, will have precious little besides her (narrow) victory to boast about. Every day seems to bring more evidence of just how big a mess she has left herself. Official data released in the past three weeks have shown a bulging budget deficit, falling industrial production and rising poverty. Even the job market, until recently a rare bright spot, with unemployment near historic lows of around 5%, is beginning to falter. This week payroll numbers showed a net loss of 30,000 jobs in October, the worst result for the month since 1999 and well below the average market expectations of a gain of 56,000.

Days before a kerfuffle broke out over a bill sent to Congress that would let Ms Rousseff ... Read More

Gas boom in Bolivia brings new wealth — and regrets for a lost opportunity

| November 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Nick Miroff

CARAPARICITO, Bolivia — For most of his life, Oscar Robles worked for an American landowner as a lowly ranch hand, “a peon,” he says, tending cattle and corn for a light-skinned patrón as generations of Guarani laborers did before him.

Then Bolivia elected its first indigenous president, Evo Morales, who took office in 2006 pledging to right the historic wrongs committed against the country’s ethnic minorities. Morales seized the American’s land and other nearby properties, giving the Guarani their ancestral home back.

The American rancher fled. Robles became capitán, the new leader of Caraparicito.

Then he watched from the roadside as the drilling crews and construction equipment came roaring in, part of Morales’s all-out push to develop Bolivia’s gas fields and cash in on soaring energy demands in South America.

The Guarani had recovered their land, but the huge deposits of natural gas beneath it belonged to the government of Morales and its main ... Read More

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