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Dealflow.la #46 - Maduro's 🇻🇪 cryptocurrency is faltering, Messi 🇦🇷 welcomed to Miami 🇺🇸, and Brazilian Startups 🇧🇷 get funded amid a slowdown in Latin American funding rounds.
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Teachy 🇧🇷 raised a $1.6 Million Pre-Seed round led by NXTP Ventures 🇦🇷 with funding from Roble Ventures 🇺🇸 to allow teachers in Latin America to save hours by leveraging AI / ML to create worksheets and assessments. The company’s AI / ML allows teachers to deliver an unprecedented level of personalization to each student’s curriculum by curating individualized worksheets for each student to focus on their specific weaknesses.
SuaQuadra 🇧🇷 raised a $4.3 Million Seed round led by Kaszek 🇧🇷 with funding from ONEVC 🇧🇷, Cyrela Brazil Reality 🇧🇷, Caravela Capital 🇧🇷, and Canary Ventures 🇧🇷 to build a commercial real estate platform intended to find the right opportunity for each business and bring tenants to each property. The company's platform offers customized properties, accredited partners to renew property, get property and business licenses, and routine maintenance, enabling businesses to get suitable tenants and save costs.
Turbi 🇧🇷 raised a $16.6 Million funding round led by EXT 🇧🇷 with funding from Solid Investimentos 🇧🇷 and Jive Investments 🇧🇷 to build a micro-mobility platform designed to provide vehicle rentals on an hourly basis. The company's platform helps users to reserve a vehicle, unlock the same with a smartphone, use it for as much time as they want, and return the vehicle in the same place as well as the cars insurance and fuel are covered, enabling users to keep cars for as long as they want and only pay for only for what they use.
Uruguayans are crossing into Argentina to shop for cheap food and fuel in their economic crisis-hit neighbor, but the trend is plunging businesses near the border into a crisis of their own. Uruguayan supermarket manager Noelia Romero said that sales were falling fast as her customers increasingly make day trips to Argentina to look for bargains. "We've been hit hard in terms of groceries and cleaning products," said Romero. She works in the town of Fray Bentos, separated by the River Uruguay from the Argentine city of Gualeguaychu, which is easily accessible by bridge. (Reuters)
Centrist Argentine presidential candidate Horacio Rodriguez Larreta would cut spending by 4% of gross domestic product as part of a plan that would help cushion the decline of the country’s currency, according to his top economic adviser. If implemented, the plan would allow the peso to weaken gradually to a level between the current official and parallel rates, former Economy Minister Hernan Lacunza said during a Tuesday speech to corporate executives, according to two people familiar with the meeting who requested anonymity to share details of it. (Bloomberg)
Google's parent company Alphabet is rolling out its artificial intelligence chatbot Bard in Europe and Brazil. It is the product's biggest expansion since its March launch in the US and the UK and heats up the rivalry with Microsoft's ChatGPT. Both are examples of generative AI that can respond to questions in a human-like way. Bard's launch in the EU had been held up after the main data regulator in the bloc raised privacy concerns. The Irish Data Protection Commission said that the tech giant had not provided enough information about how its generative AI tool protects Europeans' privacy to justify an EU launch. (BBC)
Brazil is tapping banks for advice on the nation’s first-ever sustainable bond sale, a long-awaited transaction that’s expected to hit markets by the end of the year. The Treasury said Friday it will work with Banco Itau BBA, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Banco Santander Brasil SA to sell the notes and revise its framework for debt that relates to environmental, social, or governance goals. (Bloomberg)
Less than a year after they expressed deep concerns about his appointment as Brazil’s finance minister, investors are suddenly smitten with Fernando Haddad. That star turn, illustrated by a new poll that found broad market approval of Haddad, has inspired both celebration and caution inside the Finance Ministry, according to two people close to the minister. (Bloomberg)
Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva shot down attempts from centrist lawmakers to take control of a major ministry in his cabinet, saying in a Thursday television interview that he wouldn’t be pressured into the change.
The Centrao, a bloc of parties that wields significant influence in Brazil’s conservative congress, has eyed the Ministry of Social Development during ongoing talks with the president as he seeks to shore up support for his legislative agenda, people with knowledge of the discussions told Bloomberg News earlier this week. (Bloomberg)
'The Long Game.' China's online influence campaign in Latin America. Amid the frenetic world of digital diplomacy, a recent expose by cybersecurity firm Nisos reveals an undercurrent of information manipulation, potentially orchestrated by the Chinese government. The focus of this initiative is Latin America, where a trifecta of Twitter accounts are dispensing stories in Spanish that conspicuously elevate China's achievements, from their nascent civilian space exploration program to their cutting-edge 5G technology and groundbreaking near-zero energy buildings. Operated under the unassuming names of "Hoy Chile," "Hoy Costa Rica," and "Hoy Paraguay," these accounts share seemingly innocuous news stories that subtly foster a positive image of China, possibly as part of a broader effort to strengthen its diplomatic and trade relationships in the region. As the digital landscape shifts, notably under Elon Musk's Twitter management, this carefully crafted narrative avoids explicit association with Chinese state media, circumventing previously enforced identification labels and making detection of such influence operations even more challenging. (Time)
A crash in the price of coca, the chief ingredient in cocaine, is contributing to food insecurity in Colombia and causing displacement, as people leave areas that depend on the illicit crop, according to an internal United Nations presentation seen by Reuters. Historically coca crops have provided better incomes than legal alternatives for thousands of rural Colombian families, with drug-trafficking groups often footing the costs of transport, fertilizers, and other supplies. Now coca-growing farmers have no buyers for the leaves or coca base leading to economic hardship amid high inflation, according to an internal presentation from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). "There is no cash to buy food and the inflation of (food prices) is rising," the presentation, dated June, said. (Reuters/US News)
Colombian prosecutors accused a former presidential candidate Monday of receiving at least $2.8 million from Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant that has admitted paying bribes across Latin America to secure infrastructure contracts. Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, a former finance minister who came close to winning the 2014 election, was charged with fraud, illicit enrichment and falsification of documents. Charged at a public hearing that lasted four hours, Zuluaga pleaded innocent. Prosecutors said Zuluaga met with Odebrecht executives prior to the 2014 presidential campaign and agreed to a scheme through which the construction company helped pay for the services of a political strategist, using accounts in Panama. (AP)
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador, Gustavo Manrique, has said that one of the priorities of his administration and government is to achieve visa-free travel to the Schengen Area. Ecuador continues to remain one of the countries in Latin America whose citizens need a Schengen visa to enter the Schengen Area, as it still has to meet certain requirements. Ecuadorians applying for a Schengen visa need to submit several documents. They need to fill out the application form and submit their passport, two identity photographs, and a civil status certificate. In addition, all Schengen visa applicants from Ecuador also need to provide proof of accommodation in the EU, a roundtrip flight itinerary, proof of having purchased travel health insurance, proof of paid visa fee, and proof of sufficient financial means, among others. Additional documents, such as an employment contract or a bank statement, are required, too, depending on the employment status of the applicant. (SVI)
🇸🇻 El Salvador
A palpable tension permeates the atmosphere in El Salvador, as President Bukele's sweeping campaign against gang violence, dubbed the "war against gangs," takes a firm grip on the nation. A striking symbol of this effort is Cecot, a high-security prison designed to incarcerate high-ranking members of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 gangs, whose rivalries have long sown terror in the country. While Bukele's aggressive campaign, which has led to over 68,000 detentions since March 2022, causes thousands of families to anxiously search for missing relatives, it has won remarkable public approval. A recent CID Gallup poll revealed a whopping 92% approval rating, largely attributed to a substantial reduction in recorded murders. The once gang-ridden neighborhoods, previously living under the haunting motto of "See, hear, shut up", now experience a breath of relief as residents can cross erstwhile gang territories without the looming specter of harassment or retaliation. The stark duality of the situation underscores the grim realities and hopeful possibilities of Bukele's controversial crackdown. (BBC)
Guatemala's presidential elections descended into a whirlwind of chaos and controversy as the attorney general's office suspended the second-placed Seed Movement party, a decision announced right after the country's top electoral tribunal certified the results of the first-round vote on June 25. The suspension threw the fate of the scheduled run-off between conservative Sandra Torres and progressive Bernardo Arevalo, leader of the Seed Movement, into uncertain territory. This chain of events ignited the already simmering tensions and skepticism of the Guatemalan populace, leading to spontaneous protests that petered out only due to a heavy downpour. At the heart of the controversy is an alleged falsification of signatures in support of Arevalo's party, with claims of more than 5,000 illegally gathered signatures. Despite the storm of allegations and legal interventions, the electoral authorities still assert that the August 20 run-off between Torres and Arevalo will proceed as planned, setting the stage for an election fraught with uncertainty, contention, and public outrage. (Al Jazeera)
In a grim continuation of Mexico's harrowing record of violence against journalists, Nelson Matus, director of local news site Lo Real de Guerrero, was assassinated in the coastal city of Acapulco. Matus was shot in his car in broad daylight, marking yet another brutal attack on the nation's press. His death comes on the heels of the discovery of fellow journalist Luis Martin Sanchez's body, who had previously gone missing in the state of Nayarit. Matus himself had previously survived two assassination attempts, underlining the perilous environment in which Mexican journalists operate. As these incidents underscore, investigating corruption, crime, and drug cartels in Mexico remains an exceptionally hazardous task; the country was ranked as the deadliest in the world for journalists last year by Reporters Without Borders. (Reuters)
Mexico's incoming secretary of foreign affairs, Alicia Bárcena, has called out Texas' recent deployment of buoys on the Texas-Mexico border as a violation of water treaties between the U.S. and Mexico. The move, intended to prevent migrants from crossing the Rio Grande, has drawn the ire of Mexican officials who see it as infringing on a 1944 water treaty. Bárcena plans to send an inspection team to ascertain if the barrier encroaches on Mexico's side of the border or disrupts water flow. This development is part of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s controversial Operation Lone Star, which has seen the governor deploy the Texas National Guard, construct new sections of the border wall, and bus thousands of migrants from Texas to Democrat-led cities. Despite the diplomatic backlash and legal challenges from local businesses affected by these measures, Abbott maintains that such actions are crucial for preventing illegal border crossings. The dispute underscores the complex and fraught dynamics of border security, immigration, local economies, and international relations that remain major issues in both Texas and Mexico. (Texas Tribune)
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador continues his contentious attacks on the potential 2024 opposition frontrunner, Xochitl Galvez, despite an official ruling accusing him of violating equity and neutrality rules. Even after the National Electoral Institute ordered him to refrain from commenting on electoral matters, Lopez Obrador, who cannot seek re-election, claimed the authorities are trying to curtail his freedom of speech and persisted in his public criticism of Galvez. (Al Jazeera)
Former Apple employee Dan Defossey left his job in tech to open a Texas-style BBQ restaurant in Mexico City with his friend, Roberto Luna. Despite no prior restaurant management experience, their venture, Pinche Gringo, has grown into a successful business earning $9 million in sales annually. Defossey, who started his career in politics and teaching, found himself working as Head of Marketing in Education for Latin America at Apple. In 2013, he and Luna decided to start a restaurant. They bought an airstream in Texas, converted it into their first restaurant, and introduced BBQ to Mexico City where it was virtually unknown. The decision to keep their menu authentically Texan, without the addition of traditional Mexican ingredients, set Pinche Gringo apart. Despite initial hurdles, including unsavory first attempts at BBQ that even local dogs refused, a positive review from a local reporter brought them a consistent customer base. Since the airstream restaurant's launch in 2013, Defossey and Luna have expanded their business into Groupo Chilangogringo, operating seven restaurants, including a BBQ warehouse that can serve up to 2,000 people at a time. (CNBC)
Lionel Messi and his former Barcelona teammate Sergio Busquets have been officially introduced as new signings at Inter Miami. A crowd of around 20,000 waited through a weather delay to welcome Messi and Busquets in a ceremony held at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Messi and Busquets, who were teammates at Barcelona for 15 seasons, have signed contracts with the MLS club that will run through the 2025 season. Co-owner David Beckham spoke at the event, describing Messi's arrival as a "dream come true." During the unveiling, Messi thanked the crowd and expressed his eagerness to begin training and help the club grow. Busquets, who was part of Spain's 2010 World Cup-winning squad, said the move to Inter Miami was a special and exciting opportunity, and he was looking forward to representing the club. Inter Miami's recent performance in the MLS has been challenging, with the team holding the worst record in the league and being winless in their past 11 matches. The signings of Messi and Busquets are expected to boost the team's prospects significantly. (Al Jazeera)
The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations' top court, has rejected a case brought by Nicaragua in a long-standing dispute with Colombia over maritime borders and rights in the Caribbean. Nicaragua had sought economic rights over an area of the Caribbean Sea more than 200 nautical miles from its shores, a move that the ICJ dismissed. Colombia, which already claims exclusive economic rights over much of the area in question, argued there was no precedent for extending a country's 200-nautical-mile zone where it clashed with another nation. Following the ruling, Colombian President Gustavo Petro described it as a significant victory for Colombia, expressing hope that the decision would put an end to the controversy over the countries' borders. The decision upheld the existing maritime boundaries between Colombia and Nicaragua, established by the ICJ in 2012 and disputed for the past two decades. Nicaragua has said it will study the judgment but indicated it would comply with the court's decision.
The dispute dates back to a 1928 treaty between the two nations recognizing Colombia's sovereignty over the islands of San Andres and Providencia. In 2012, the ICJ sided largely with Nicaragua, redrawing the maritime borders between the countries, which led to an increase in Nicaragua's exclusive economic zone and a reduction of Colombia's territorial waters by about 80,000 square kilometers. Colombia did not recognize the ruling and withdrew from the court's jurisdiction in 2013. (AP)
The United States has barred former Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez from entering the country due to his alleged involvement in significant corruption during his time in office. The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has accused Varela of accepting bribes in return for the allocation of government contracts. This move by the U.S. is part of its broader effort to combat corruption in Panama and aims to encourage Panama's elected officials and authorities to tackle endemic corruption within the country. Varela, who served as the president of Panama from 2014 to 2019, is one of two Panamanian presidents charged with money laundering in the ongoing Odebrecht scandal, a corruption case involving the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht that has implicated politicians across Latin America. Officials are accused of receiving bribes in exchange for awarding major public works contracts to the company. While he was in office, Varela was implicated in the scandal by his former advisor and lawyer, Ramon Fonseca Mora, who accused him of accepting bribes from Odebrecht disguised as "donations". Despite these allegations, Varela has maintained his innocence. (Al Jazeera)
The Peruvian government has pledged to use only legitimate force during upcoming protests, ensuring protester safety. This follows previous abuses by security forces, including "extrajudicial killings" during violent protests between December and March. President Dina Boluarte and top officials have discussed the need to protect protester rights. Prime Minister Alberto Otarola called on authorities to ensure protester safety and act in accordance with the law. The unrest began when former President Pedro Castillo was ousted and arrested. New protests, starting on July 19, call for Boluarte's resignation, Congress' closure, early elections, and a new constitution. Thousands are expected to join these protests, prompting police to deploy 8,000 officers and extend the state of emergency in key regions. (Reuters)
A prolonged drought in Uruguay has left over half its population without clean drinking water. Underinvestment in water infrastructure and reliance on a single reservoir has exacerbated the issue, which may last for months. As a result of the drought, the state-run water supplier, OSE, has been forced to mix in brackish water from the Rio de la Plata estuary, causing sodium and chloride levels to exceed WHO recommendations. While the government claims that these elevated levels mainly affect taste and smell, several vulnerable groups have been advised not to consume the water. In response to the crisis, the government has exempted bottled water from taxes and is supplying free bottled water to over 500,000 people. Both current and previous administrations have been criticized for their lack of investment in water infrastructure. A slow recovery is anticipated, contingent on substantial rainfall. (The Guardian)
Five years after its inception, Petro, the cryptocurrency launched by Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, is faltering. Launched in 2017 with backing from over 5.3 million barrels of oil and gold reserves, Petro's introduction initially saw some success. The government reported receiving $5 billion in Petro sales, and Maduro even touted it as a key component of a recovery plan for the country, which has long been in crisis. However, today, Venezuela's experiment with Petro is failing. Corruption scandals have led to an overhaul of the National Superintendency of Crypto Assets, which was in charge of Petro oversight. Major exchanges no longer trade the Petro, and it's rarely used in daily transactions within Venezuela. Moreover, users and businesses have reported disruptions in Petro's blockchain over the past year. (FinTech Nexus)
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