Author Archive

AT&T Signals Interest in Mexico as Carlos Slim Unloads Assets

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

By Thomas Gryta

A top AT&T Inc. executive said the company is open to acquisitions in Mexico, where the telephone giant controlled by former partner Carlos Slim is planning to sell assets.

América Móvil has said it would sell off parts of its sprawling operations to cut its market share to below 50% from about 70% to avoid a regulatory crackdown, creating a rare opening for an acquirer to get a foothold in the country.

AT&T’s attention is focused on closing a $49 billion deal for satellite broadcasterDirecTV. But Chief Strategy Officer John Stankey said Mexico is a fast-growing market of interest to the company and that AT&T has the management depth and balance sheet to do other deals if opportunities ... Read More

Argentina Warns of ‘Severe Measures’ Over U.S. Diplomat’s Remarks

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

By Taos Turner

BUENOS AIRES–Argentina’s government scolded a U.S. diplomat on Tuesday for remarks he made about the country’s recent default, implying he could be expelled if he makes similar comments again.

Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman called for a meeting with the U.S. Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires, Kevin Sullivan, after Mr. Sullivan told the local newspaper Clarin that “it is important for Argentina to emerge from default as soon as possible to return to the path of sustainable economic growth and attract the investment it needs.”

In a statement, Mr. Timerman said he told Mr. Sullivan, a career diplomat who has ... Read More

Philip Morris Fuming About Uruguay’s Graphic Cigarette Packaging To The Tune Of $25M

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

A pack of cigarettes in Uruguay is not a pretty sight.

Whether you’re a Marlboro man or a Benson & Hedges smoker, if you pick up a pack in the South American nation you will be greeted by an image of decaying teeth, premature babies, horrific hospital scenes or some other terrifying scenario.

These scary snapshots were meant to reduce smoking – and it appears to be working, especially with pregnant women – but they have also drawn the ire of cigarette giant Philip Morris International.

The Richmond, Virginia-based company believes that Uruguay’s requirement to cover around 80 percent of the cigarette packaging with medical warnings and graphic images is a violation of a treaty law and is suing the country for $25 million.

“Philip Morris is saying that the percentage of warning labels that are required on cigarette packs in Uruguay goes beyond what is reasonable to protect people from the harmful effects ... Read More

Did Narco-Linked El Salvador Congressman Plan Hit on Top Prosecutor?

| September 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
From In Sight

By Marguerite Cawley

El Salvador’s attorney general has accused a congressman of plotting his murder, adding a new twist to an ongoing case that has exposed alleged close ties between the legislator and a major drug trafficking network. Salvadoran Attorney General Luis Martinez said on September 15 that his office was investigating alternate representative Wilver Alexander Rivera Monge for conspiring to murder him, reported Diario El Mundo.

The accusation came three days after the Attorney General’s Office ordered Rivera Monge’s arrest for allegedly laundering some $10 million for the drug trafficking network formerly led by Jorge Ernesto Ulloa Sibrian, alias “El Repollo,” who was captured last year, reported El Diario de Hoy. He is one of 31 people accused of laundering money for the network, according to El Faro.

Rivera Monge, who owns a car import and sales company, is also believed to have provided Repollo’s organization with the vehicles used in their operations. According to ... Read More

Rousseff Support Ebbs in Brazil Poll Showing No Clear Winner

| September 17th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Anna Edgerton

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff lost voter support in an Ibope poll that shows a runoff against Marina Silva is too close to call ahead of October elections. Third-place candidate Aecio Neves’s backing increased.

Rousseff would win 36 percent of voter support in the first round, with 30 percent for Silva and 19 percent for Neves, according to the poll, published last night. The incumbent doesn’t has enough backing to avoid a runoff, which occurs when the leader in the Oct. 5 first round fails to garner more votes than all other candidates combined. The results compare with 39 percent for Rousseff, 31 percent for Silva and 15 percent for Neves in a Sept. 12 Ibope poll.

Rousseff in the past three weeks has stepped up attacks against Silva, saying the former environment minister’s doesn’t have the experience to lead and would reduce investments in offshore oil and gas reserves known ... Read More

Colombia’s ELN Accused of Killing Two Oil Workers

| September 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
Latin America News Dispatch

Suspected members of Colombia’s second-largest rebel group have killed two oil workers in a sniper attack, the military said Monday. The workers, contractors with the state-owned Ecopetrol oil company, were allegedly shot by a group of National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas in Teorama, a rural municipality in northeastern Norte de Santander department, Reuters reported.

The killings, which reportedly took place as the contractors worked on the Caño Limón Coveñas oil pipeline, came amid an uptick in attacks on oil infrastructure by both the ELN and the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Both groups are seeking to show off their military clout despite an aggressive offensive by the Colombian miilitary. These attacks have forced oil production below the government’s target of one million barrels per day.

The administration of President Juan Manuel Santos announced in June that it was negotiating with the ELN to set up a formal peace process. Critics said ... Read More

Ecuador’s Dollarization Architect Doubts Correa’s Pledge

| September 16th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Nathan Gill

Ecuador President Rafael Correa, a critic of his nation’s use of the U.S. dollar as its official currency, is now creating a government-backed digital tender. One of the intellectual architects of the nation’s switch to the greenback 14 years ago sees a red flag.

With the country facing a record budget shortfall, a new currency may undermine confidence in the monetary system, said Steve Hanke, a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University, who advised Ecuador on adopting the dollar in the late 1990s and early 2000s. His concerns were echoed by Ruth Arregui, a former general manager at the central bank, and the University of Georgia’s Myriam Quispe-Agnoli, who wrote about dollarization as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

While government officials say there’s no plan to replace the dollar as the official tender and the virtual currency will help expand mobile-banking services in rural ... Read More

Willing to Wait 15 Months? There’s Good News: Argentina Credit

| September 16th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Camila Russo and Charlie Devereux

For holders of Argentina’s defaulted bonds who are willing to wait 15 months for the chance to get paid, Mauricio Macri’s surge in presidential polls provides a measure of consolation.

The 55-year-old mayor of Buenos Aires, who said last month Argentina’s refusal to comply with a U.S. court order requiring the nation to settle decade-old unpaid debts held by billionaire Paul Singer would be like “bread today, hunger tomorrow,” has seen his support among voters more than double to 23.2 percent since April, the latest survey results showed. After languishing in third place for much of the year, Macri has now vaulted to a virtual tie with the two leading contenders.

Less than eight weeks after the legal standoff with holdout creditors led to Argentina’s second default in 13 years, voters are throwing their support behind the candidate who’s been the most outspoken about the need for ... Read More

Why are the Sinaloa Cartel the World’s Most Powerful Gangsters?

| September 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
International Business Times

By Lewis Dean

The FBI landed a blow to the world’s most powerful gang last week when it seized $100m (£62m) from the feared Sinaloa drugs cartel.

Nearly 1,000 officers took part in the major Los Angeles takedown in an attempt to destabilise the Mexican racket.

At one location during the operation on Wednesday 10 September, FBI agents seized nearly $3m in cash and searched dozens of businesses in the city’s trendy fashion district alleged to have laundered money for Mexican drug cartels.

Crimes the cartel are accused of – including drugs trafficking, hostage taking, and money laundering in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the US and Mexico – built former gang leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman a $1bn fortune and in 2012 a berth at number 63 in Forbes magazine’s The World’s Most Powerful People list (in 2013, he dropped to 67).

But, despite his vast empire, the net was closing in on the man dubbed Chicago’s Public Enemy ... Read More

Default Sees Macri Gain on Massa and Scioli in Argentina Poll

| September 15th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Charlie Devereux

Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri is gaining the most in polls as the fallout from Argentina’s second default in 13 years begins to impinge on candidates with ties to the government ahead of the 2015 presidential election.

A poll by Management & Fit shows 23.2 percent would vote for Macri to become president of South America’s second-biggest economy. That compares with 19.1 percent in a July 23-29 survey, according to the Mar del Plata-based polling firm.

Sergio Massa, former chief of staff of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner would get 23.5 percent of the votes, while Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli still leads with 24.3 percent support. The 2,400-person nationwide survey was taken Sept. 2-9 with a 2 percent margin of error.

Argentina, which defaulted July 30 after a U.S. judge blocked a debt payment until the government settles with holdouts from ... Read More

Venezuela Heads to a Default Reckoning

| September 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01


Venezuelan bond prices swooned last week on renewed speculation that the government of President Nicolás Maduro might soon default on as much as $80 billion of foreign debt. The yield on the government bond due in 2022 hit a six-month high of 15.8% on Sept. 9. David Rees of London-based Capital Economics, who last year warned of the risks of falling oil prices to Venezuelan solvency, told Bloomberg News by telephone that “the bond market is finally beginning to wake up.”

That may be true. It’s clear that the foreign exchange that Venezuela earns from oil exports cannot pay its import bills along with debt service. There are dire shortages of industrial and consumer goods as well as services. Something has to give and odds are that allowing the required adjustment to the economy won’t be the government’s first choice.

Yet it is also in the interest of Wall Street ... Read More

Colombians Object to Deals That Take Criminals Out of the Country

| September 15th, 2014 | No Comments »

By James Bargent

Better a tomb in Colombia than a cell in the United States.” That was the battle cry of the first generation of Colombian drug lords when they declared war against extradition in the 1980s.

“A trip to the United States is often the first request of captured narcos.”

How the world has changed. Thirty years on, a trip to the United States is often the first request of captured narcos, angling for extradition, a light sentence and early retirement.

The deals get bad guys off the streets. Yet they’ve created a growing backlash in Colombia, where outraged headlines denounce the kingpins’ “American Dream” of seeking retirement in a “narcos’ judicial paradise.” It’s a complicated issue. The U.S. is happy to be nabbing hundreds of drug traffickers, seriously degrading the cartels, and Colombia is also happy to see narcos out of business. But increasingly, Colombians figure they are getting the short end ... Read More

Here Comes Mexico’s Energy Revolution

| September 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
The National Interest

By David Goldwyn

Over the past year, the eyes of the energy world have been on Mexico. Energy companies, investors, and other stakeholders have been waiting for the liberalization of Mexico’s energy industry, which has been closed to private investment since 1938. With the landmark passage of Mexican energy reform in August, that wait is finally over. Mexico is now on a path toward energy transformation.

The twenty-one laws signed by President Enrique Peña Nieto on August 11 do more than just turn last year’s constitutional reforms into groundbreaking legislation that will open up new energy frontiers for Mexico and its people. Much has been written about the fact that, for the first time in seventy-six years, private companies will be able to participate in oil and gas exploration and production. The legislative infrastructure of the reforms is robust and should make Mexico a competitive destination for upstream investment. Larger investment flows ... Read More

Fallen Brazilian Mogul Eike Batista Accused of Insider Trading

| September 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By Dan Horch

The fortunes of Brazilian businessman Eike Batista took another hit over the weekend, as the Rio de Janeiro public prosecutor’s office accused him of manipulating the share price of his now-bankrupt petroleum company, OGX, and engaging in insider trading.

The public prosecutor’s office began investigating Mr. Batista in April. Under Brazil’s legal system, a judge still has to decide to accept the charges before the case can move to a trial, but judges in Brazil almost always do so.

If a trial takes place and Mr. Batista is convicted, he could in theory go to prison for as long as 13 years, but no one in Brazil, where the justice system is seen as lenient on white-collar crime, has ever gone to jail for insider trading.

The prosecutors also requested that a court freeze up to 1.5 billion reais ($645 million) in assets belonging to Mr. ... Read More

Peru’s Humala abruptly replaces his finance minister with key adviser

| September 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

By Marco Aquino

LIMA (Reuters) – Peru’s President Ollanta Humala replaced his influential finance minister with the ministry’s chief adviser late on Sunday in a surprise shake-up that comes amid the worst economic slowdown in five years.

Incoming Finance Minister Alonso Segura said his priority would be to consolidate reforms already underway in Humala’s government, with an eye toward jump-starting economic growth.

Segura said the global minerals exporter’s economy would likely expand by less than 4 percent this year – lower than the government’s last official forecast of 4.2 percent and far below the annual average of 6.4 percent in the past decade.

However, Segura, who previously worked as an economist with the International Monetary Fund and with Banco de Credito, Peru’s biggest bank, called the economic lull “transitory” and said he would evaluate new measures to stimulate growth.

“It is very important that we do all we can to reactivate expectations,” Segura said in ... Read More

Honduran city’s violence adding to immigration surge

| September 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
Philly Inquirer Logo

By Michael Matza

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – Shot twice in the face by two men on bicycles as he changed a car tire, Omar Gabaretta, 34, died Sunday and was brought to the morgue in this steamy city, which has the world’s highest homicide rate.

On Monday, his cousin Claudia, 28 and pregnant, went there in a red pickup with a simple, black-painted coffin to claim his body. Distraught and not eager to talk, she said she did not know why her cousin, a machinist, was killed. He was the first in his family to die violently, she said, and he now is part of a familiar story.

Violence, corruption, unemployment, grinding poverty, and a crop-destroying drought are among the factors that fueled this summer’s surge of illegal immigration to the United States by Central Americans. The largest group – including thousands of unaccompanied minors – came from Honduras.

It is not hard ... Read More

US Targets Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, Seizing $100 Million in Cash

| September 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
Latin American Herald Tribune

LOS ANGELES — In a major takedown in Los Angeles, nearly 1,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers seized approximately $100 million in cash, arrested nine subjects, and searched dozen of businesses in the city’s downtown fashion district alleged to have laundered money for Mexican drug cartels.

The ongoing investigation—three indictments have been unsealed — is specifically aimed at the Sinaloa Cartel and its activities, including narcotics trafficking, hostage taking, and money laundering in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the U.S. and Mexico.

In one case, the cartel used a fashion district business to funnel ransom payments related to a kidnapped U.S. citizen who was held hostage and tortured by cartel members in Mexico.

“The victim, who worked as a distributor for the Sinaloa Cartel, was kidnapped after 100 kilograms of cocaine he was supposed to distribute were seized by U.S. law enforcement,” said Bill Lewis, assistant director in charge of our ... Read More

Colombia Does Venezuela’s Dirty Work

| September 12th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Mac Margolis

Diplomacy is a coded business, where every tonic syllable counts. So here’s one for Latin American semioticians: How to parse Colombia’s decision to hand over two young Venezuelan fugitive dissidents to the Bolivarian thought police?

One theory: To seal a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s president, is again pandering to the autocrat next door.

It’s no secret that Venezuela has long been in the corner of the Colombian insurgents, who have been waging terror and mayhem against Colombia’s government for the last half-century, often with a wink and a nod from their Venezuelan patrons. That toxic bond had estranged Colombia and Venezuela for most of the previous decade, with the hawkish Alvaro Uribe pitted against the chief Andean tub-thumper, Hugo Chavez.

Since Santos was first elected in 2010, he has gone out of his way to end the Andean Cold War, infuriating ... Read More

A Nuclear Bolivia? Why Not?

| September 12th, 2014 | No Comments »

By James Conca

The renaissance in nuclear power is in full swing around the world, just not so much in the West.

Last month, Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera declared his country will go nuclear as part of a “platform for his nation’s technological development for the next 400 to 500 years” (TELESUR).

In a speech closing the 7th International Congress on Oil and Gas in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Linera stated that humanity can, and must, master this “sacred fire.”

This may shock Americans, who have trouble pointing to Bolivia on a map, but the country’s President, Evo Morales, had already announced Bolivia’s plan to go nuclear last year, and is establishing a nuclear advisory council to implement this technological future.

Russian President Vladimir Putin practically tore his shirt off to offer Bolivia help in achieving “their rightful role as a Promethean nation.”

The push to expand nuclear energy around the world is coming from a league ... Read More

Marina Silva, Former Illiterate Rubber Tapper, Reshapes Brazil’s Presidential Race

| September 12th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Lucy Jordan

Brazil barely had time to mourn.

Almost as soon as the news broke in mid-August that Brazilian Socialist Party presidential candidate Eduardo Campos had been killed in a plane crash, fevered speculation focused on the prospects of his running mate, the former environment minister and 2010 presidential candidate Marina Silva. Party leaders quickly named her Campos’s successor.

Though widely admired, Campos was trailing in third place before his death. A month later, Silva has transformed what was one of Brazil’s duller campaigns into an extraordinary scramble for power between incumbent President Dilma Rousseff and a poor rubber-tapper who taught herself to read at the age of 16.

The latest polls, released Wednesday night, show a statistical dead heat between the two in a prospective second round.

Silva cut her political teeth as an activist in the Amazon, where standing up to illegal loggers or powerful farmers can be dangerous.

Silva has presented herself ... Read More

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