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Dealflow.la #31 - Mexico's 🇲🇽 Olympic host bid, Argentina 🇦🇷 debt default 'imminent,' & Colombia's 🇨🇴 Chief of Police used exorcism to fight crime.
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Former Argentine President Mauricio Macri said on Sunday that he will not be a presidential candidate in the country's October general elections, as the opposition coalition moves to confirm its candidates. The center-right Macri's decision to opt-out opens the door wider for other opposition coalition candidates from "Together for Change," considered the front-runner against the incumbent Peronist-led leftist party of President Alberto Fernandez. (Reuters)
Argentina ordered public sector bodies on Thursday to sell or exchange their holdings of 11 sovereign dollar bonds in a bid to reorganize its debt as inflation soared above 100% and its foreign reserves dropped. A presidential decree in Argentina's official gazette said public sector bodies would have to sell or auction five local law dollar bonds maturing between 2029 and 2041, and to swap six foreign law dollar bonds for peso debt. The order makes official plans announced earlier in the week, which had dragged down the value of Argentina's sovereign bonds. These are already in distressed debt territory after a ninth sovereign default and a major debt restructuring in 2020. Sovereign bond prices edged down further on Thursday, with some of the affected bonds dropping as much as 5%. Some analysts warned the measures could bring short-term gains for the government, but mean losses for state bodies longer-term. (Reuters)
Argentina default on foreign currency debt 'imminent,' says Fitch Ratings. Fitch downgraded Argentina's foreign currency debt on Friday by two notches, leaving it hovering one level above default. The debt downgrade from CCC- to C suggests that the rating agency believes a default is "imminent," and comes shortly after the government decree forcing domestic public sector entities to swap their foreign currency-denominated debt for debt denominated in the domestic currency, the peso. (Buenos Aires Times)
Lionel Messi has been honored by the Argentina Football Association who have renamed the national team's headquarters after him. Messi, who captained Argentina as they lifted the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, has made 173 appearances for the Albiceleste since making his debut in 2005. (ESPN)
Bolivian President Luis Arce said on Thursday he would be willing to jointly design a lithium policy with other Latin American countries to benefit their economies, echoing a similar proposal from Mexico's President. Bolivia has an estimated 21 million tonnes of untapped lithium resources, the most worldwide, in an area of sprawling salt flats delineating the so-called "lithium triangle" that includes northern Chile and Argentina. "We must be united in the market, in a sovereign manner, with prices that benefit our economies, and one of the ways, already proposed by (Mexico's) President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is to think of a kind of lithium OPEC," Arce said in a speech in La Paz. The objective is to position Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Peru "as potential promoters of new forms of energy storage that will make it possible to overcome the use of fossil fuels," said Arce. (Reuters)
On Thursday, President Luis Arce confirmed that his administration is interested in achieving access to the Pacific Ocean for his country since Bolivia's insular condition implies annual losses equivalent to 1 percent of its gross domestic product. (TeleSUR)
Brazil's Lula cancels trip to China because of pneumonia. Lula, 77, was admitted to a hospital in the capital of Brasilia with flu-like symptoms and was diagnosed with “bacterial and viral bronchopneumonia due to influenza A,” the palace said in a statement. The leftist leader’s health was reassessed on Saturday and, despite improvement, he was advised to “postpone the trip to China until the cycle of viral transmission ends,” the medical note said. His press office later confirmed that the trip had been canceled. (ABC)
Prosecutors in Brazil have agreed to a deal with US Congressman George Santos in a case in which he is accused of defrauding a Rio de Janeiro area clerk of $1,300 over clothes and shoes in 2008, documents obtained by CNN show. A petition from Santos’ attorney requesting a deal says Santos would agree to formally confess to the crime and pay damages to the victim, a Rio de Janeiro area clerk, as is required under Brazilian law. A memo from prosecutors agreeing to the deal last week asked the defense for assurances they have the ability to contact the victim to repay him before the deal is finalized. In a statement to CNN, the prosecutors’ office acknowledged the memo but stressed that the deal is not final until all conditions are met. The petition from Santos’ attorney, filed in January, requests a non-prosecutorial agreement in lieu of a trial for his client, arguing that Santos is now gainfully employed and “re-socialized.” (CNN)
China has agreed to immediately resume imports of Brazilian beef, Brazil’s agriculture ministry said, just days before President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is set to meet his Chinese counterpart in Beijing. Sales of Brazilian beef to China were voluntarily halted by Brazilian authorities on February 23 following the discovery of an atypical case of mad cow disease. Last year, China spent $8 Billion on Brazilian beef, amounting to almost nine percent of its imports from Latin America’s largest economy. (Al Jazeera)
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has not even been in power for 100 days but has already provoked the wrath of foreign oil companies with the creation of a new tax on crude exports. Multinationals Repsol, TotalEnergies, Shell, Equinor, and Galp have petitioned a federal court to suspend the 9.2 percent tax due to run from March to July and announced by the government last month. That announcement came on the same day that Finance Minister Fernando Haddad partially restored a tax on fuel that had been suspended by Lula's predecessor Jair Bolsonaro during last year's election campaign. Mining and Energy Minister Alexandre Silveira said the new crude tax would be an "opportunity to attract (investors) interested in the internal refining" of crude to sell to the domestic market rather than to export. Brazil is the world's ninth-largest producer of crude with more than three million barrels a day, mostly drilled from offshore platforms. Lula, who began his third term on January 1, wants to boost the public purse to fund social programs. (France 24)
Some 200 protesters gathered beneath Rio de Janeiro’s world-famous Sugarloaf Mountain to protest the ongoing construction of ziplines aimed at boosting tourism, alleging it will cause unacceptable impacts. The four steel lines will run 755 meters (almost 2,500 feet) over the forest between Sugarloaf and Urca Hill, and riders will reach speeds of 100 kph (62 mph). The inauguration is scheduled for the second half of this year, and an online petition to halt work has been signed by almost 11,000 people. Sugarloaf — known in Portuguese as Pao de Açucar — juts out of the earth at the entrance to Rio’s bay. The United Nations heritage center named it a World Heritage Site in 2012 along with Rio’s other marquee mountains and, years earlier, Brazil’s heritage institute designated it a national monument. (AP)
Colombia risks losing U.S. support in its fight against drug trafficking because of rising coca output and a bill that could allow criminal gangs to surrender and be possibly pardoned, the Andean country's attorney general told Reuters in an interview. The bill, backed by leftist President Gustavo Petro, is part of the government's efforts to end the role of criminal groups in Colombia's internal conflict, which has run for almost six decades and has killed than more than 450,000 people. The bill, which is being debated in Congress, would offer reduced sentences to criminal groups if they destroy their networks, recognize their crimes, offer reparations to victims and turn over weapons, assets and information about their activities, according to the government. "A massive pardon is being presented to people who have committed crimes and would be released from prison without further measures," Attorney General Francisco Barbosa, a strong critic of the proposal, told Reuters in an interview. (US News)
Colombia's Chief of Police says exorcism and prayer used to fight crime and cartels in Colombia: "The existence of the devil is certain." Sitting in his office surrounded by crucifixes, effigies of the Virgin Mary and other Catholic symbols, General Henry Sanabria told local media on Saturday that these religious practices have helped the police throughout the last 50 years of armed conflict in the South American country. (CBS)
Colombia is proposing sending some of its growing hippopotamus population to India and Mexico. Four of the animals, which aren't native to the region, were imported from Africa in the 1980s by drug lord Pablo Escobar for his private zoo, and they have been multiplying ever since. (CBS)
🇨🇷 Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s peace is disturbed: Homicides have increased by 66% in the past decade. In the Central American country, crime is breaking records. There are more shootings in the streets and more collateral victims. Meanwhile, the Minister of Public Security has been criticized for asking the population to confront drug traffickers. Murders are no longer newsworthy in Costa Rica, as the word “shooting” becomes more and more frequent in the local media headlines. And homicides are no longer taking place just during the night. Recently, an armed attack took place at 9AM on a busy highway in the capital, San José. Costa Rica – a country internationally recognized for its peaceful atmosphere – now has a homicide rate that is inconsistent with its reputation. In the last decade, murders have increased at a rate almost unlike any country in Latin America. There have even been recent attacks inside schools, or between schoolchildren. (El País)
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic
On Saturday, Spanish President Pedro Sanchez will chair the Forum of Progressive Governments in Santo Domingo, a meeting organized by the Socialist International. This event brings together the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa and the presidents Alberto Fernandez (Argentina), Gabriel Boric (Chile), Gustavo Petro (Colombia), Luis Arce (Bolivia), Luis Abinader (Dominican Republic), and Xiomara Castro (Honduras).
All of them are already present in the Dominican Republic to attend the Ibero-American Summit. (TeleSUR)
At least 16 people were killed and 16 others injured when a massive landslide buried dozens of homes in an Andean community in central Ecuador, the country’s emergency response agency reported Monday. Ecuador’s Risk Management Secretariat said seven people remain missing hours after the landslide Sunday in Alausí, about 137 miles (220 kilometers) south of the capital, Quito. The agency estimated that 500 people and 163 homes were affected by the disaster, which also destroyed a portion of the Pan-American Highway. (ABC)
Organized crime, illegal mining, and illicit gold trade between Ecuador and China have increased substantially in recent years, the Organization of American States (OAS) indicated in a report. These problems have led Ecuador to declare illegal mining a national security threat on January 26. The report highlights a notable and growing discrepancy in reported value of gold trade flows between the Andean country and China. Officially, Ecuador recorded exporting gold valued at $76.6 million to China in 2019, but Beijing reported $339.2 million, an amount that suggests the commercialization of illegal gold. (Dialogo Americas)
🇸🇻 El Salvador
The president of El Salvador wants you to move to his country, promoting his nation as “the new land of the free.” President Nayib Bukele posted an ad on Twitter Sunday, encouraging folks to move to El Salvador. The ad itself reflected the traditional “American family” watching their mid-1900s television. The ad represented the entire family: the grandparents, parents and children. It also listed out the reasons why people should relocate to the country. The ad claimed there was no fentanyl crisis, no shootings or lootings. It claimed the nation has the lowest crime rate in the Americas and that Americans wouldn’t have to change their currency because the United States dollar was in circulation. (NNN)
El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele said on Thursday he will send to the country's Congress next week a bill to eliminate all taxes on technology innovations as well as computing and communications hardware manufacturing. "Next week, I'll be sending a bill to congress to eliminate all taxes (income, property, capital gains and import tariffs) on technology innovations, such as software programming, coding, apps and AI development," he said on Twitter. The tax cut would also encompass computing and communications hardware manufacturing, Bukele added.(Reuters)
A government prosecutor in Guatemala has asked a court to lift the immunity of one of the candidates in the country's June presidential elections, because the candidate asked about a judge's motive in prosecuting journalists. Candidates in Guatemala normally have immunity from being prosecuted while they are running, to ensure free elections. But on Monday government prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche asked the country’s Supreme Court to lift the immunity of candidate Edmond Mulet, because Mulet had asked for an investigation into a judge. (ABC)
Mario Lopez Estrada, Guatemala’s first billionaire, has died at 84. His family said he passed of natural causes in a statement on the website of Grupo Onyx, a conglomerate established by the billionaire with ventures in areas from real estate to energy. (Bloomberg)
Honduras formed diplomatic ties with China on Sunday after breaking off relations with Taiwan, which is increasingly isolated and now recognized by only 13 sovereign states, including Vatican City. Foreign ministers from China and Honduras signed a joint communique in Beijing — a decision the Chinese Foreign Ministry hailed as “the right choice.” The new ties come amid rising tensions between Beijing and the United States, including over China’s increasing assertiveness toward self-ruled Taiwan, and signal growing Chinese influence in Latin America. The new China-Honduras relationship was announced after the Honduran and Taiwanese governments made separate announcements that they were severing ties. (NBC)
China says there were no conditions attached to a recent decision by Honduras to end its decades-long diplomatic relationship with Taiwan and establish formal ties with Beijing. (Al Jazeera)
Mexico has declared its desire to host the Summer Olympics in 2036 or 2040 and says it already has most of the sports infrastructure required. Interest in hosting the 2036 Olympics had earlier been expressed by officials in countries including Egypt, England, India, Indonesia, Qatar and South Korea. Mexico City hosted the Summer Games in 1968. (AP)
Nearly 8% of the record $58 billion that Mexicans mainly living in the US sent home last year appear to be linked to illegal activities, including money laundering, according to a new report by a Mexico-based data think tank. Remittances to Mexico have been booming in recent years due to new migration to its northern neighbor but at least $4.4 billion of such transfers could be linked to criminal activity, Signos Vitales, a think tank that groups researchers who analyze public data in Mexico, said in a report on Monday. (Bloomberg Law)
Recently, President López Obrador tried to convince Elon Musk to place his new Mexican Tesla factory in the south of the country instead of the north — without success. Why was Musk so adamant about locating Tesla in Monterrey? The simple answer is that Mexico’s second-largest city has advantages in geography and infrastructure, but also in culture, that are difficult to reproduce in other parts of Mexico. Monterrey is the country’s industrial capital; the wide variety of products made here are found all over Mexico and in many parts of the world. There are an estimated 10,000 industrial enterprises in the metro area; more than 2,200 of them are foreign-owned. With the rise of “nearshoring” (moving industry closer to the U.S.), these numbers are expected to grow. (MND)
Mexico’s president on Friday angrily rejected comments by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the Mexican government has lost control over parts of the country. However, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador acknowledged that Mexican cartels had placed people inside Mexico's drug regulatory agency to approve imports of fentanyl precursor chemicals from China. Earlier this week, Blinken said “I think it's fair to say yes” when asked at a Senate hearing whether drug cartels control parts of Mexico. The Mexican president responded to those comments at his morning press briefing Friday, saying, "That is false, it's not true. ... There is nowhere in the nation's territory where authorities are not present.” (ABC)
The Mexican government will not ban the popular video sharing social media application TikTok, the country's president said on Monday, even as the United States moves closer to a possible prohibition on the Chinese-owned app due to security concerns. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador vowed "complete freedom" when asked about the platform during his regular morning news conference, after TikTok's chief executive faced a grilling by U.S. lawmakers last week. (Reuters)
Ticketmaster Mexico is not paying any fines after more than 2,000 fans who bought tickets to attend Bad Bunny’s concert in Estadio Azteca in December were denied entrance. The company was able to avoid the fines after it provided full refunds and additional compensation to 2,155 people affected by the tickets screwup, according to Mexico's Federal Consumer Attorney’s office. The compensations were 20% of the price consumers paid to purchase their tickets. (NBC)
The U.S. is preparing to announce a deal with Mexico to counter fentanyl coming across the southern border, with Mexico cracking down on labs and smuggling while the U.S. does more to stop the flow of U.S. guns into Mexico, two sources familiar with the strategy told NBC News. Mexican military and police, with the help of U.S. law enforcement, will focus on tracking raw materials for fentanyl being shipped to Mexico, finding and shutting down labs that make the deadly synthetic opioid and going after key players in the illicit fentanyl trade, the sources said. In return, the Biden administration has agreed to more tightly control and track firearms crossing from the U.S. into Mexico. (NBC)
Last Monday, a cargo container from South Florida arrived in Colombia. It was supposed to be full of cellphones. Instead, it was full of sandbags. That led to a Miami-Dade police investigation and led detectives to arrest a cargo handler working out of a company based at the Miami International Airport.
Thirty-seven-year-old Eduardo Miguel Rivera-Paz of Miramar is accused of committing the crime. He faced three grand theft charges. According to a Miami-Dade Police Department arrest report, a corporate security official at DHL Express reported the theft to police Friday after the sandbag-filled container arrived in Bogota. Roughly $1.2 million worth of Samsung phones were gone, he told police. (Local 10)
The U.S. State Department cited credible reports of killings, arrests and torture in Nicaragua, as well as harsh and life-threatening conditions in the country's prisons, in an annual human rights report released on Monday. President Daniel Ortega's administration has been increasingly isolated internationally since his government began cracking down heavily on dissent following street protests that erupted in 2018. Ortega has called the protests an attempted coup against his government. (Reuters)
Panama is warning of a big surge in irregular migration through the deadly jungle of the Darién Gap; the number of people using the route to reach the US is expected to almost double this year to 400,000, according to the country’s foreign minister. Last year according to official Panama government figures, 248,284 migrants crossed the swamp-filled, roadless region, which is plagued by bandits and poisonous snakes, seeking to escape poverty and repression in Latin America and from as far afield as China, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Janaina Tewaney said in an interview that on current trends, “we expect 400,000 people” this year to traverse the region. Almost 2.4mn migrants were apprehended at the US southern border in the fiscal year to September 30 2022. Officials have described the flow as the biggest migration crisis faced by the Americas in modern times. (Financial Times)
Paraguay’s attorney general has launched a criminal investigation into the United States government’s allegations that the country’s former president and the current vice president were involved in corruption and had ties to a violent group. Attorney General Emiliano Rolón Fernández said on Thursday that a team would look into the allegations that former President Horacio Cartes and Vice President Hugo Velázquez engaged “in systemic corruption that has undermined democratic institutions in Paraguay”. The US, meanwhile, added three people to a list of Paraguayan officials it suspects of “significant corruption” and who would be barred from entry into the US, along with their family members. That list, started in 2019, now numbers nine officials. The US has long said the porous tri-border region that connects Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay is a hub for financing “terrorism” through money laundering and illicit activity. The US has identified what it has described as members of Hezbollah who use front companies in the region to finance violence in the Middle East. (Al Jazeera)
🇵🇷 Puerto Rico
Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, but their access to several federal programs is restricted. For example, they haven't been eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) since the U.S. government cut the territory off from the program in the early 1980s in an effort to reduce federal spending. A U.S. Senate bill introduced on Wednesday seeks to help residents of Puerto Rico access the same food aid benefits that other U.S. citizens receive. (Axios)
The bill increasing the retirement age from 60 to 65 was approved by the Senate in 2022. It must now pass through the Lower House. On Thursday, members of the Inter-union Plenary of Workers & National Convention of Workers gathered in front of the Legislative Palace to protest against the pension reform being debated in a commission of the Uruguayan Parliament. (TeleSUR)
A U.S. judge has granted four companies the right to seize shares in the parent of refiner Citgo Petroleum Corp to collect on debts owed by Venezuela, in the event U.S. sanctions on that country are modified. The decision on Thursday is the latest blow to Venezuela's efforts to avoid a breakup of Citgo, which is owned by state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela and controlled by political opponents of the South American country's socialist government. (Reuters)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro will attend an Ibero-American summit this weekend hosted by the Dominican Republic, a summit official said on Friday, marking one of the embattled leader's few trips abroad. "We welcome President Nicolas Maduro, who is on his way to the Dominican Republic," said Marian Cruz, the master of ceremonies for the event, which provides a forum for leaders from across Latin America as well as Spain and Portugal. (Reuters)
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