Friday, August 1, 2014

Judge Blasts Argentina Over Debt Default

The U.S. justice overseeing Argentina's legal battle with holdout creditors blasted the South American country's government for defaulting on its debt.

“What occurred this week did not extinguish or reduce the obligations of the Republic of Argentina,” said District Judge Thomas Griesa at a court hearing on Friday.

"I'm counting on the Republic of Argentina to take steps in order to stop spreading deceitful information," added the magistrate who was reportedly in a very "stern" mood at the hearing.

Griesa ordered the Argentine government in June to pay holdouts some $1.5 billion in unpaid debts related to the country's $100 billion default in 2001. He barred Argentina from paying bondholders who participated in prior exchanges unless it pays holdouts at the same time.

On Wednesday Argentina defaulted for a second time in twelve years after the government and creditors could not reach a last minute agreement. This action could lead bondholders to claim an amount equal to Argentina’s foreign currency reserves (about $29 billion).

Griesa also ordered at Friday's hearing that both sides in the debate continue talks with a mediator he appoined, Daniel Pollack. That might still occur but within a climate of great mistrust after Jonathan Blackman, Argentina's lead lawyer, said a statement released by Pollack on Wednesday was "harmful and prejudiced to the republic and the impact on the market."

Griesa's actions have been criticized by Argentine officials as excessive, and consider the holdouts as "vulture funds" that purchased bonds at a low price and are eagerly looking to cash in.

“We can’t hold any positive expectations because (Griesa) has always held the view of someone who is partial,” Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich told reporters in Buenos Aires prior to today's hearing.

Argentine president Cristina Fernandez said in a televised speech on Thursday, “the world keeps moving and Argentina too” yet the markets earlier that day did not seem to agree with her. The Argentine peso fell 2.6% on the black market in early afternoon trading while the Merval stock index tumbled by 8.4%.

The default comes at an inopportune time for an Argentine economy that officially slipped into recession in June. Fernandez might also suffer negative consequences as opposition politicos have blamed her administration for "lying" during talks with the holdouts.

The repercussions of a default on the global economy ld a group of more than 100 economists including Nobel laureate Robert Solow to urge the U.S. Congress to "act now and seek legislative solutions to mitigate the harmful impact of the court’s ruling."

Online Spurces - The Globe and Mail; Reuters; Diario La Nacion; Bloomberg; LAHT; MercoPress;

Daily Headlines: August 1, 2014

* Uruguay: A group of former Philip Morris workers in Uruguay have become activists supporting the country’s strict anti-tobacco measures.

* Dominican Republic: A former senior official of the Dominican Republic’s counternarcotics agency pled guilty to charges that he collaborated with drug traffickers.

* Brazil: The higher than forecast growth of the U.S. economy reportedly led to a 1.1% drop in the value of Brazil’s currency on Wednesday.

* Guatemala: An estimated 40,000 families have been affected by a drought caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon and that has also led to damages to corn crops.

Video Source – YouTube user Latest news

Online Sources – LAHT; Bloomberg; Reuters; Rappler

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Daily Headlines: July 31, 2014

* Guatemala: The remains of thirty-one indigenous people killed during Guatemala’s brutal civil war thirty-two years ago received a proper burial yesterday.

* Latin America: The Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed its “deep disappointment” at El Salvador, Peru and Chile for withdrawing their respective ambassadors due to the conflict in Gaza.

* Colombia: President Juan Manuel Santos warned the FARC that he could end peace talks as a result of several recent attacks on infrastructure allegedly by the rebels.

* Venezuela: The U.S. State Department announced that it would revoke visas held by Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses relating to political violence this year.

Video Source – YouTube user WITNESS (Video made in 2000 and 2001).

Online Sources – Yahoo News; Reuters; LAHT;

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Today's Video - Slamming the Brakes

Argentina will likely fall into default after last-minute talks between government officials and creditors failed to reach in agreement.  But will a potential default doom the Argentine government and lead to a major economic crisis in the country? Or is the pessimism misplaced and an overreaction?  Perhaps the following video on Buenos Aires car dealerships can provide us with some clues:

Video Source - Bloomberg News via YouTube

Online Sources - Reuters; The Guardian; Quartz

Paraguayan Minnows Head to Libertadores Finals

Numerous Latin American sides such as Colombia, Chile and Costa Rica shined at the recently World Cup in Brazil and performed beyond expectations.  Yet the Cinderella stories have also taken place in South America’s premier soccer club tournament: the Copa Libertadores.

Paraguayan team Nacional continued their fairy tale run by winning 2-1 in the semifinal aggregate score against Uruguay’s Defensor Sporting. 

The Asuncion-based side entered Tuesday’s semifinal second leg in Montevideo having won 2-0 in the first leg last week.  From the beginning of the match Defensor Sporting constantly pressured their rivals with the hope of at least tying up the aggregate score.  Nacional goalkeeper Ignacio Don came up big on several occasions especially in the first half when he denied a one-on-one chance by opposing forward Giorgian De Arrascaeta. Despite several good Defensor chances in the opening half Don’s teammates also stood tough yet De Arrascaeta got a measure of revenge when he assisted on Adrian Luna’s goal in the 55th minute. 

Following Luna’s tap-in, the Uruguayan team came very close to scoring the key second goal that would’ve tied the series and sent the semifinal to a penalty shootout.  Numerous Defensor attacks rang off the goalposts including a Felipe Gedoz blast that would’ve beaten Don but missed by inches and a Robert Herrera point-blank shot that hit the crossbar.  In the end, Nacional would hold on by slimmest of margins and the 110-year-old club booked their ticket to the Libertadores finals for the first time in team history.

This is unique, unbelievable. I hope Paraguayan people can be altogether in the name of the country,” said Don following the final whistle.

“I've always dreamed of playing in professional football and then the Copa Libertadores. Now, I'm playing the finals because we've been warriors on the field,” he added about the unfashionable team that normally plays at a stadium with maximum seating for 4000 spectators.

Daily Headlines: July 30, 2014

* Brazil: A Human Rights Watch report released this week documented some sixty-four cases of torture in Brazil since 2010 and noted, “impunity in cases of serious abuses by police and prison guards is the norm.”

* Venezuela: One of the numerous proposals by the U.S. Congress to sanction the Venezuelan government for human rights abuses could soon come to a vote in the Senate.

* Colombia: The Colombian government blamed the FARC guerillas for causing a blackout that left 500,000 people in the key port city of Buenaventura without power.

* U.S.: A new study found that “women and minorities who promote diversity from corporate leadership positions tend to get lower evaluations from their bosses and colleagues.”

Video Source – Sky News via YouTube (“An investigation was launched in Brazil (in 2013) after video emerged of a police helicopter machine gunning the car of a suspected drug dealer in a built up area of Rio de Janeiro”.)

Online Sources – The Huffington Post; Colombia Reports; Miami Herald; The Latin Americanist; ABC News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Argentina on the Edge of Massive Debt Default (Updated)

Argentina is very close to defaulting on its debt to foreign creditors unless a deal is reached some time today.
Representatives for the Argentine government and creditors are currently meeting in New York City in the hope of averting what would be the country’s second default in 13 years. The envoys are together with a mediator assigned by Thomas Griesa, a U.S. judge who ordered that the Argentine government pay holdouts some $1.5 billion in unpaid debts including interest.  The purchased Argentine bonds for a low price and rejected the government's restructuring offers after its record $100 billion default in 2001.

Up until today, negotiations between both sides have been sporadic and yielded very little progress. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez is at the Mercosur trading bloc summit in Venezuela trying to gain support against the creditors that she deemed as “vulture funds” for spending years litigating for payment in full.  Fernandez and at least one of the holdouts have separately pushed for a delay on the repayment but Griesa has so far refused.

Update (July 30, 2014): Despite hours of last-minute negotiations on Tuesday between creditors and the Argentine government, the country will likely fall into default.  

"There was a frank exchange of views and concerns," said appointed mediator Daniel A. Pollack though he admitted that it was unclear if both sides will meet again on Wednesday.

Daily Headlines: July 29, 2014

* Brazil: “I don't think it's genocide, but I think it's a massacre,” said Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff regarding the conflict in Gaza and days after an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman deemed the South American country as a “diplomatic dwarf.

* Dominican Republic: Dominican authorities destroyed some 2000 confiscated firearms for use as part of a planned peace memorial.

* Venezuela: Representatives of the International Air Transport Association want to meet with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in order to free up over $4 billion owed to several air carriers.

* Uruguay: A Uruguayan church reportedly dismissed Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity, an Argentine priest who has been accused of sexually abusing young men in the U.S.

Video Source – Reuters via YouTube (Argentine-born “Pope Francis makes an impromptu emotional plea for peace, during his weekly Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican.”)

Online Sources – Miami Herald; The Washington Post; ABC News; Reuters; GlobalPost

Monday, July 28, 2014

Telethon Held for Deported Honduran Migrants

Organizers of a telethon held over the weekend for Honduran migrants deported from the U.S. deemed the event as a success.

The telethon, which was transmitted nationwide on TV and radio, was organized in Tegucigalpa under the theme “Open your arms to the returning children and families.” Monetary donations were not accepted; instead, individuals were asked to bring food, clothes and other items to be used in shelters in Honduras for deportees. 

The goal of one month’s worth of donations for hundreds of families was surpassed as people from around Honduras reportedly donated three months worth of supplies. Among the items donated were some 600 bags of clothing, 1200 bags of food, 900 mattresses and even wheelchairs for migrants disabled from riding the Mexican freight train network known as “La Bestia.”

The forty-eight hour event was pushed by first lady Ana García de Hernández along with different entities that received the donations including the Honduran Red Cross, UNICEF and local catholic charities.

“The deported migrants return only with the clothes they have on, many doubts with their communities and a great deal of sadness and pain in their hearts,” said Garcia.

“This is why it’s critical that we unify as a country that knows how to help those that need it” via events like the telethon, added Garcia who in recent weeks has helped welcome back deported children and mothers from the U.S.
“Nobody is too poor not to help their brother in their time of need,” said President Juan Orlando Hernández in solidarity with the telethon.

Daily Headlines: July 28, 2014

* Chile: A series of “violent attacks” this month in southern Chile have increased tensions between the government and the indigenous Mapuche community.

* Nicaragua: Did a bus driver plan recent deadly attacks against Nicaraguan political activists or is he being used as a “scapegoat”?

* Bolivia: Workers at a construction site in the Bolivian mountain city of Potosi uncovered a mass grave with the remains of some 400 people.

* Mexico: Thirty-two police officers including the former top public safety chief of a town in Michoacán were arrested over alleged ties to drug gangs.

Video Source – YouTube user canaltvu tvu (At least two Chilean police officers were injured during a confrontation with members of the Mapuche community.)

Online Sources – New Zealand Herald; VICE News; NDTV; BBC News