Friday, September 9, 2005

Surging credit card sales demonstrate growing Argentine economy

Visa International reports that it expects its credit card sales in Argentina to be up as much as 30% in the year to June 2005. Nine continuous quarters of economic growth are largely responsible for the high consumer confidence the country is experiencing. (Bloomberg)

U.S. retreats from assertion of biological weapons in Cuba

In a reversal from John Bolton's 2002 adamant claims that Cuba is a "rogue nation" with "biological weapons capabilities", the State Department released a memo last Thursday acknowledging that "split-views" exist in the intelligence departments regarding the issue. The New York Times' David Adams, referring to the government's hyped claims of weapons of mass destruction elsewhere asked, "Does the lead up to the war in Iraq ring a bell?" (The Christian Science Monitor)

Dominican Republic approves CAFTA

Becoming the fifth Central American country to approve CAFTA, the Dominican Republic left only Costa Rica and Nicaragua as holdouts to the free trade agreement. U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman congratulated the country on its passage of the agreement by a wide margin in the DR's Chamber of Deputies, in a vote of 118-4. (U.S. Government)

Mexican army aiding Katrina victims

Marking the first time the Mexican army has been on U.S. soil since 1846, a convoy led by Gen. Francisco Ortiz Valadez crossed the Rio Grande to supply water and mobile kitchens to Katrina victims. The group's final destination is San Antonio, which has served as an additional shelter for refugee spillover from the Houston Astrodome. (Guardian Unlimited)

CHA associate predicts collapse of Colombian democracy

In an editorial for The Baltimore Sun, Council on Hemispheric Affairs associate Luis Morales signals the impending collapse of Colombian democratic institutions, barring "unforseen U.S. congressional action to re-evaluate the war on drugs in Colombia". (The Baltimore Sun)

Costa Rica suffers only 1 death in dengue epidemic

Though more than 19,000 people in Costa Rica have contracted dengue, a fever primarily carried by mosquitos, the country has suffered only one death from the ailment this year, involving a case in which the victims contracted two different forms of the fever. (Reuters)

Latin American countries finish higher in human development index

Seven Latin American countries finished in the "highest human development" group in the human development index compiled by the United Nations Development Program. Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay topped the Latin American countries at numbers 34, 37, and 47 respectively. (MercoPress)

Chavez to up gas shipments to the U.S.

In addition to the $5 million of aid and 1 million barrels of gasoline he has pledged to aid Katrina victims, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has vowed to send an additional million barrels to soften the impact of high oil prices. (The Washington Post)

Thursday, September 8, 2005

IDB approves $13.5 million loan to El Salvador

The Inter-American Development Bank announced today that it has approved a $13.5 million loan to El Salvador aimed to shore up the country's statistics systems. The loan is intended to bolster the systems ahead of a housing and population census in 2006, and an agricultural census the following year. (Harold Dean & Ass.)

Chinese demand fueling Latin American exports

Demand in China has contributed to the 17% growth in Caribbean and Latin American exports, according to the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. China's insatiable demand for raw materials has led to more attention being paid to the region, and increased investment in infrastructure, mining, and energy. (People's Daily Online)

Editorial: Chile's small business sector left out of credit boom

Reuters' Lisa Yulkowski explains how Chile's impressive economic growth has been fueled partly by a credit boom, which has bypassed much of Chile's small and mid-sized business sector. (Reuters)

Ecuador to review 'unfair' oil contracts

Ecuadorian President Alfredo Palacio announced yesterday that all 'unfair' agreements with oil companies will be subject to review, citing especially those arrangements that give outside companies 80% of their earnings, as opposed to the government's take of 20%. (Forbes)

Mexico's Bolsa reaches all-time high

Led by shares of Wal-Mart de Mexico SA, Mexico's benchmark stock index rose to an all-time high yesterday on expectations that skyrocketing oil prices will provide an inflow of cash into the Mexican economy. Wal-Mart's shares in its Mexico operation rose as the Chief Executive elaborated on its expansion in the country, bolstered by one analyst's claim that the company has identified 371 Mexican cities that could sustain Wal-Mart stores. (Bloomberg)

Aristide to remain in S. Africa during Haitian elections

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has said he will remain in South Africa indefinitely, until peace and stability has returned to his country. Aristide's Lavalas party is expected to be in the running for the Nov. 20 elections, though its prospects were dampened by the incarceration of its presidential candidate, Gerard Jean-Juste, in July on suspicion of abetting the kidnapping and killing of a journalist. (Reuters)

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Honduras to issue money featuring Japanese PM

Japan's Foreign Ministry announced that Honduras will soon issue a commemorative coin featuring Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, alongside Honduran President Ricardo Maduro. The coin is to celebrate the 70-year anniversary of the start of Honduran-Japanese relations. article

Telecom Argentina's Rating Upped to B-

Fitch Ratings has upgraded Telecom Argentina's international scale and foreign currency rating to 'B-' from 'DD', following the successful completion of its debt restructuring on August 31, 2005. Fitch says the company should be able to meet its debt obligations in the future owing to its enhanced financial profile. article

Brazil's inflation at 15-month low

Brazil's annual inflation rate has dropped to 6.02%, leading many analysts to believe that the Central Bank will be moved to lower interest rates next week. The drop is welcome news to President Lula da Silva, whose PT party has been mired in corruption-related controversy of late. article

Peru's Toledo hoping to finalize FTA with US

Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo announced yesterday that he intends to conclude a free trade agreement with the United States in October. Representatives from the two nations began talks with their couterparts in Colombia and Ecuador, though Toledo said a deal may be included without them. article

Venezuela to aid Katrina victims

Venezuela's Citgo has set up humanitarian aid shelters to dispense food, water, and supplies for Katrina victims in Texas and Lousiana. Hugo Chavez has announced that he will provide victims with 1 million barrels of gasoline and an additional $5 million dollars in aid. The Bush administration has insisted that it will accept all offered aid, though it has yet to comment on Fidel Castro's offer to send 1,100 doctors to help with relief efforts. article

ARENA continues to stay atop Salvadorian politics

A poll by LPG Datos shows that ARENA, or Nationalist Republican Alliance, is favored by more voters than any other party, albeit carrying only around 26.9% of the vote. As the party of the current president Antonio Saca, ARENA is expected to earn a few more years at the helm after next year's elections. article

Sunday, September 4, 2005

U.S. Intervention and Regime Change in Nicaragua

As U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua from July 1977 to February 1979, Mauricio Solaun was optimally placed to observe and influence the events that led to the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution. In this new book he sheds light on the difficulties of being a representative in disagreement with U.S. policy towards the Somoza regime, and how he feels the Carter administration's policy of financially supporting the regime while claiming a non-interventionist stance directly contributed to the ferocity of the revolution. Most notable in Solaun's writing is the detailed description of his management of relations with the Somoza regime, the opposition and its factions, and the U.S. government. He is forced to placate all sides while trying to avoid catatrophe, while the administration that appointed him tries to enforce a "non-interventionist" policy while ignoring facts on the ground. He is repeatedly undermined by career bureaucrats sent by Washington to 'fix' the situation, all who have little knowledge of Nicaraguan politics and its players. Somoza's frustrating egomaniacal personality is also showcased here, leaving little doubt as to who was ultimately responsible for the situation. He insists that Latin Americans are ill-disposed towards democracy, and need a 'firm hand' to guide them. His inappropriately-named Liberal Party throws him an extravagant birthday party in late '78, while completely ignoring the increasingly violent demonstrations against him. Solaun's U.S. Intervention and Regime Change in Nicaragua is a well-written, detailed account of the intricate political web that was spun by all the players that influenced the eventual outcome of revolution. This work gives those interested in U.S. foreign policy a very nuanced view of the hundreds of small and seemingly insignificant actions that can lead to a catastrophic and violent outcome.

Bolivia to focus on strengthening gas exports

Skyrocketing oil and gas prices have led the Bolivian government to step up efforts to create and solidify export relationships within the Southern Cone. Bolivian officials are in talks with their counterparts in Brazil, Argentina and Chile to explore options to increase gas exports. article

Polls indicate close Honduran presidential contest

Surveys taken by Ingenieria Gerencial show Porfirio Lobo Sosa (PN) and Manuel Zelaya (PL) within 2 percentages points of each other, neither carrying more than 40% of the vote. article

Brazilian government claims reduction in gun deaths

Lula's administration issued a statement through the Health Ministry yesterday that gun deaths fell 8% from 2003-2004, attributable mainly to the administration's successful disarmament campaign. The report said that more than 443,700 guns have been taken off the streets since mid-2004. article