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Brazil in recession as Q2 GDP slides

| August 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
From AFP

Brasília (AFP) – Brazil is in recession after Latin America’s largest economy contracted during two successive quarters, the National Statistical Institute (IGBE) reported Friday.

The IGBE said the GDP shrank 0.6 percent in the second quarter, and 0.2 percent in the first quarter, which it revised down from 0.2 percent growth.

Coming just weeks before October 5 presidential and general elections, the figures are another knock to already low industrial and consumer confidence in what once was a rapidly growing, regional powerhouse.

Declining GDP in two consecutive quarters is the technical definition of a recession.

The second quarter decline was steeper than the 0.4 percent predicted by a cross-section of leading economists.

Year on year, GDP shrank 0.9 percent.

Contributing to the poor performance was a 0.3 percent drop in household spending.

It comes with leftist ... Read More

Argentine Workers in National Strike as Economic Woes Mount

| August 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Charlie Devereux

Argentine labor unions are staging a second national strike in less than five months as July’s bond default threatens to fuel inflation and undermine growth.

Truckers, train conductors, port workers and waiters walked off their jobs today in a 24-hour strike to demand higher wages and in protest at dismissals. While strikers blocked some of the main entrances to Buenos Aires, most bus and metro services worked as normal, according to TV channel TN.

“There’s a great desire to take part and show the government that people are fed up, tired and seeking answers to these demands that haven’t been met,” Hugo Moyano, secretary general of the General Workers Confederation and a former government ally, told reporters yesterday.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who has defied a U.S. court order to pay $1.5 billion to holders of defaulted bonds, faces growing social discontent as ... Read More

Argentina’s Low Foreign Reserves Hit Peso

| August 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01 By KEN PARKS

BUENOS AIRES—Argentina’s international reserves are starting to dwindle in the wake of the country’s second sovereign-debt default in almost 13 years, putting added stress on the peso and an economy believed to be in recession.

The default has hurt a country already racked by stagflation, the rare but toxic combination of weak economic growth and high inflation. Argentina’s reserves are falling due to capital flight, debt payments and currency-market intervention, spurring fears that the country eventually will run out of the cash it needs to pay creditors and buy imports, a situation that could bring the economy grinding to a halt.

The Argentine peso, traded on a tightly regulated official market, has slipped from 8.20 per dollar before the July 30 default to 8.4010 at Wednesday’s close, its biggest slide since a devaluation of the currency early this year. The decline came even as the central bank’s stockpile ... Read More

Brazil’s Silva Taps Voter Discontent

| August 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By JOHN LYONS

SÃO PAULO, Brazil—Just over a year ago, a million Brazilians took to the street to vent displeasure with political corruption and poor government services. Now, they look poised to channel that frustration into the ballot box.

A late entrant in the campaign, Socialist Party candidate Marina Silva suddenly has become the undisputed leader in the October election by transforming the protest movement’s reservoir of discontent into potential votes.

A poll released late Tuesday by the Ibope research firm showed Ms. Silva defeating the incumbent Dilma Rousseff with 45% to 36% in a runoff. She looked every bit the front-runner later that evening with a strong performance in the first televised debate between candidates leading up to October’s elections.

The 56-year-old former senator and environmental activist has tapped a demographic previously out of reach for candidates: voters so fed up with Brazilian politics they were planning to file blank ballots instead of picking a candidate. ... Read More

Brazil’s Insurgent Candidate Blows Smoke

| August 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg By Mac Margolis With seven candidates on stage, and a month to go before Brazil’s Oct. 5 presidential election, the first nationally broadcast debate of the race last night got the billings of a telenovela. It ended up more like a network rerun.

This was Socialist Party candidate Marina Silva’s chance to meet her rivals in the race for the Planalto Palace and to spin for a national audience her much touted vision for a “third way” in Brazilian politics.

Thrust into the lights when Socialist Party leader Eduardo Campos died in a plane crash on Aug. 13, she seemed poised to claim the 77 percent of voters who told a major polltaker, the National Transportation Council, that they are dissatisfied with Brazilian politics. After 2 1/2 hours of combat and sound bites, however, the many bewildered and disillusioned voters were likely none the wiser.

Expectations couldn’t have been higher. A poll released hours before the debate showed the 56-year-old former ... Read More

Meet The Multimillionaire Banking Heir Who Is Backing Brazil’s Marina Silva Presidential Bid

| August 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Forbes

By Anderson Antunes

Brazil’s presidential elections were turned upside down two weeks ago when a fatal jet crash killed presidential candidate Eduardo Campos. Campos’ running mate Marina Silva replaced him on the ticket and is already leading in the polls. Investors from around the world are watching Silva, an environmental leader who placed third in the 2010 presidential election as a then Green Party (PV) candidate, with nearly 20% of the votes. (Silva has since left PV to found a new party, the “Sustainability Network,” but it failed to achieve the required number of signatures from new members and was ineligible to register with the Electoral Court.)

Last October, 56-year-old Silva was invited by Eduardo Campos to form a ticket to run for the presidency, and joined his Brazilian Socialist party (PSB) as Campos’ vice-president in its presidential bid. After his tragic death, Silva was the natural choice to replace him, though ... Read More

Ecuador Bonds Soar to Record as China Credit Line Renewal Sought

| August 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Andrea Jaramillo and Nathan Gill

Ecuador’s dollar bonds surged, sending yields to a record low, after the government said it’s in talks with China to renew a $1.5 billion credit line to help finance next year’s budget.

The South American nation’s dollar bonds due 2024 jumped 2.92 cents to 107.76 cents per dollar at 10:45 a.m. in New York. The yield dropped 40 basis points, or 0.4 percentage point, to 6.85 percent.

Ecuador, faced with the highest borrowing costs in South America after Venezuela and Argentina, has relied on Chinese lending to help cover swelling budget deficits since defaulting on $3.2 billion of its foreign debt almost six years ago. Finance Minister Fausto Herrera met with officials from China Development Bank Corp. on Aug. 22 in Quito to review investment projects financed by the bank and discuss the renewal of the credit line, the Finance Ministry said yesterday.

... Read More

Bolivia to Appeal Ruling Favoring India’s Jindal in El Mutún Dispute

| August 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01 By RYAN DUBE

Bolivia said Tuesday it would appeal a ruling from an international tribunal that gave India’s Jindal Steel & Power Ltd. 532286.BY -3.39% a multimillion-dollar award in a dispute over the development of the El Mutún iron ore project.

“We are going to appeal the decision in the corresponding tribunals in order to defend the interests of the Bolivian state,” Vice President Álvaro García told reporters Tuesday.

The Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce ruled earlier this month that Bolivia’s state-owned mining company Empresa Siderúrgica del Mutún should pay Jindal $22.5 million in compensation for the seizure of funds to guarantee the development of El Mutún.

Mines Minister César Navarro also criticized the judgment. “We don’t share these types of actions or decisions that think about private capital and don’t think about the well-being of the people and the state,” he said in a statement.

Empresa Siderúrgica del Mutun, or ESM, took Jindal’s $18 million guarantee in 2010, arguing ... Read More

U.S. Congressman urges Obama to block Venezuela’s Citgo sale

| August 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY ZACHARY FAGENSON

Aug 27 (Reuters) – A U.S. congressman urged the Obama administration on Wednesday to block the proposed sale by Venezuela’s state oil company of its North American refining unit Citgo, saying it would be against “vital national interests”.

Venezuela Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said earlier this month that the country aims to exit Citgo “as soon as we receive a proposal that serves our interests.”

Citgo has three U.S. refineries in Illinois, Louisiana and Texas with combined capacity of some 750,000 barrels per day, and it also has 48 terminals.

Flanked by Venezuelan opposition figures, U.S. Representative Joe Garcia said the proposed sale by Venezuela’s socialist-led government was “a huge concern.”

The value of Citgo, he said, was derived from the refiner’s links to Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA and the OPEC nation’s crude oil reserves, which are the biggest in the world.

“It ... Read More

Trapped in Venezuela: Airlines Abandon Fliers Amid Currency Dispute

| August 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01 By KEJAL VYAS CARACAS, Venezuela—When this city’s professional soccer club traveled to a key match in Peru, its tough rival wasn’t the only challenge. The team also had to endure an arduous four-day journey, including four connecting flights, a layover in neighboring Colombia and a jarring, cross-border bus ride. Like many of their compatriots, the players simply couldn’t get a flight that would take them where they wanted to go.

The 20-man team was a victim of the long-simmering dispute between international airlines and the leftist administration of President Nicolas Maduro. With the cash-strapped government holding back on releasing $3.8 billion in airline-ticket revenue because of strict currency controls, carriers have slashed service to Venezuela by half since January, adding another layer of frustration to daily life here.

The lack of flights is complicating family vacations, business trips and the evacuation plans of Venezuelans who want to leave the country, which is whipsawed by 60% inflation, ... Read More

Ecuador’s unhealthy dependence on China is about to get $1.5 billion worse

| August 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Quartz

Ecuador, the serial defaulter that had to ship half of its gold reserves to New York this year for a loan from Goldman Sachs, is asking Beijing about borrowing $1.5 billion more. According to the Andean nation’s finance minister yesterday, the government is in talks to re-open a credit line with China, a deal that adds to what critics say is the country’s unhealthy, growing dependency on its Asian partner.

Ecuador has borrowed over $11 billion from China since 2008, when the South American country defaulted on $3.2 billion of foreign debt. Last year, Chinese money helped cover as much as 61% of the government’s financing needs. In exchange, China has claimed as much as 90% of the country’s oil shipments over the next few years, most of which it thentrades around the world. (Ecuador is home to South America’s third-largest oil reserves.) China has become Ecuador’s second-largest foreign investor, investing mostly in mining and quarrying sectors: Reuters

... Read More

En libertad “Popeye”, jefe de sicarios de Pablo Escobar

| August 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
marti-noticias-logo

Ejecutó 300 asesinatos y coordinó 3.000, pero por colaboración, estudios y buena conducta cumplió 22 años de 30. Testigo excepcional de la participación de los Castro en el narcotráfico.

Jhon Jairo Velásquez Vásquez , el temible exjefe de sicarios del fallecido capo del narcotráfico Pablo Escobar recobró el martes la libertad tras permanecer encarcelado más de 22 años por cargos relacionados con homicidios, secuestros y concierto para delinquir, se informó oficialmente.

“La caravana que salió de la prisión de Cómbita (Boyacá) era la de Popeye. Ya Popeye está en libertad”, señaló a la AFP una fuente del Instituto Nacional Penitenciario y Carcelario (Inpec).

Alias Popeye, abandonó la prisión escoltado por una comitiva de varios vehículos sin que su imagen pudiera ser captada directamente por las cámaras de los medios que aguardaban su salida.

Con paradero desconocido, la caravana de vehículos estaba conformada por autos de la Defensoría del Pueblo, el ... Read More

Venezuela’s Maduro: Fingerprinting at shops is voluntary

| August 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

Venezuela’s recently announced fingerprinting system, aimed at combating food shortages and smuggling, is to be “voluntary,” President Nicolas Maduro has said.

Mr Maduro appeared to backtrack after ordering last week that fingerprinting in shops that sell food be compulsory.

He stressed the biometric system would stop people from buying too much of a single item and fight consumerism.

But the Venezuelan opposition called on all Venezuelans to boycott the scheme.

It has rejected the plan, saying it treated all Venezuelans as thieves.

However President Maduro defended his government’s policy: “We will detect where the smugglers are and we will capture them.”

He told a party meeting in the capital, Caracas, that the implementation of the system would be “voluntary” and start “in the next few days”.

Up to 40% of the goods which Venezuela subsidises for its domestic market are smuggled to Colombia, where they are sold at much higher prices, the authorities ... Read More

Rising Political Star Upends Brazil Presidential Race

| August 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

BY LUCIANA MAGALHAES & ROGERIO JELMAYER

Brazil’s newest presidential candidate, Marina Silva, has pulled ahead of incumbent Dilma Rousseff, upending a race the challenger entered as an official candidate less than a week ago, according to a new poll.

Data released Tuesday evening showed that Ms. Silva, an environmental activist and the newly minted Socialist Party candidate, would garner 45% of the likely vote in a runoff, compared with 36% for Ms. Rousseff of the Workers’ Party.

The survey, conducted by the polling institute Ibope, has a margin of error of two percentage points, giving Ms. Silva a comfortable lead at this point in the race.

Ms. Rousseff leads the survey in the first round of balloting, scheduled for Oct. 5, with 34% of the prospective vote, according to Ibope, compared with 29% for Ms. Silva and 19% for Aecio Neves, a pro-business candidate with the Brazilian Social Democracy Party. However, a runoff is ... Read More

Mexico officials pull CentAm migrants from trains

| August 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

BY MARK STEVENSON

U.S.-bound Central Americans are fleeing urban areas and hiking into the woods and low jungle for fear of being detained by Mexican officials rounding up migrants in southern Mexico.

Until recently, the streets of Arriaga bustled with migrants who would stay at cheap flophouses and shelters and hop aboard the northboundfreight trains at will. The streets of the city of about 40,000 people now look empty.

Federal official Humberto Mayans said Tuesday that immigration officials have pulled 6,000 migrants off the trains they call “The Beast” but offered no details on the roundups.

“We won’t allow in any way for them to board the trains,” Mayans told Radio Formula. He was recently appointed to head the federal government’s southern border improvement plans.

Mexico’s Interior Department said in a statement later Tuesday that the migrants were from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and had been returned to their countries.

Mexican officials say the raids seek ... Read More

Dollar shortage crimps Venezuela

| August 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

Daniela Toledo knew exactly what to ask for as a gift when her boss went on vacation to the Caribbean.

Instead of a carton of duty free cigarettes or a bottle of whisky, the Venezuelan wanted a stick of her favorite deodorant, which she’d been unable to find at home. A complex system of official and unofficial exchange rates, a legacy of the late former President Hugo Chavez’s 14-year rule, has left Venezuela with a shortage of dollars and stores empty of basics from toilet paper to medicine.

“I went to five shops in Caracas and couldn’t find it,” the 27-year-old factory worker said in an Aug. 14 interview in Venezuela’s capital. “The only deodorant I can find here doesn’t work for me. So my boss went abroad and he brought me back the deodorant I’ve always used.”

A decade and a half of increasing government control over the economy and official policy ... Read More

Silva surges in Brazil election race, threatens Rousseff

| August 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA (Reuters) – A surging Marina Silva has narrowed President Dilma Rousseff’s lead in Brazil’s presidential race, a new opinion poll showed on Tuesday, paving the way for a likely second-round runoff in which the popular environmentalist looks well-positioned to win.

Silva, who was thrust into the presidential race last week following the death of her party’s candidate, has 29 percent of voter support heading into the Oct. 5 vote, according to the survey by polling institute Ibope.

The poll showed Rousseff with 34 percent, down from 38 percent in the previous Ibope survey in early August. The other main opposition candidate, Senator Aecio Neves, has also dropped four percentage points to 19 percent since the last Ibope poll.

In a likely second-round runoff on Oct. 26 between the top two vote-getters, Silva would defeat Rousseff by a margin of nine ... Read More

Brazil candidates engage in verbal sparring in TV debate

| August 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

BY WYRE DAVIES

The first of Brazil’s televised presidential debates has taken place just two weeks after the death of one of the leading candidates in October’s election, Eduardo Campos.His replacement, internationally renowned environmentalist Marina Silva, is already challenging incumbent Dilma Rousseff according to opinion polls.

Just two weeks ago, Ms Rousseff seemed to be coasting, almost sleepwalking towards another four-year term as president of Brazil.

Sure, economic growth has all but ground to a halt and crime levels have again started to creep up in many urban areas but Ms Rousseff’s pragmatic and popular social policies have helped to elevate as many as 40 million of her countrymen and women out of poverty.

Surprise turn

Moreover, despite international business concerns about her protectionist economic policies, none of Ms Rousseff’s main opponents for the presidency were able to get close enough to her to really challenge her bid for a second term.

So Tuesday’s first televised ... Read More

Venezuela’s Maduro more authoritarian than Chávez, analysts warn

| August 25th, 2014 | No Comments »
Baltimore-01

BY LARRY LUXNER

Beset with annual inflation of 62 percent, one of the world’s highest homicide rates and shortages of just about everything, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro is struggling to save his endangered presidency — even as relations with the United States get worse.

Earlier this summer, the Obama administration announced it was suspending the U.S. visas of “a number of Venezuelan government officials who have been responsible for or complicit in human rights abuses.” That follows “street mobilizations” organized by the Maduro government last February in which 43 people died, hundreds were injured and between 2,000 and 3,000 were thrown in prison.

It also came three days after the State Department failed to secure the extradition of Gen. Hugo Carvajal, Venezuela’s former intelligence chief, who was wanted in the U.S. on drug charges and had been detained on the Dutch-speaking island of Aruba.

Those affected by the visa revocation include high-ranking Venezuelan military, National Guard ... Read More

Latin America is key to our national security

| August 25th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Tampa Tribune

BY DOUG MACKINNON

For the most part, The Washington Post is a reliable supporter of President Obama and the Democratic Party in general. But earlier this week, the paper criticized the president while warning of the consequences of his administration’s dropping the ball with regard to U.S. foreign policy and fighting terrorism.

“For three years the United States stood aside as the Islamist extremists built up their strength inside Syria. Washington was surprised in June when they burst into Iraq, captured Mosul and threatened Baghdad and surprised again this month when they threatened Kurdistan. Now … they are training hundreds of foreign terrorists, including from Europe and the United States, who could easily slip back into their home countries with malign intent,” the Post said.

It can be argued there is no greater short-term foreign policy issue than the eradication of this perverse and growing threat. It is so dire that the left-of-center ... Read More

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