From Buenos Aires to Brasilia, and Caracas to Mexico City, ULABA's Regional Analysis Committee brings you the latest headlines in news, entertainment and culture in Latin America for the month of November.
- Headlines -
Turmoil in the streets escalated this past month in Latin America, as the gap between the right and the left continues to widen in the region. Below, we cover updates on the political spectrum in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay.
In Bolivia, President Evo Morales resigned after nearly 14 years in power following his disputed October re-election. Amidst national protests and widespread condemnation from the international community, Evo was accused of overstaying his welcome as President and refusing to step down. However, the military now calling most of the shots does not do much for Bolivia's democracy either. In any case, Jeanine Añez, a Senator who assumed power as interim President, has vowed to hold new elections to quickly fill the power vacuum.
Even as Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, announced economic reforms, approved a constitutional referendum and apologized on behalf of past governments for failing to adequately address social problems, mass government protests continue to rage through the country. Protesters are angry that many Chileans have been left behind in the country's economic development, with the country’s top 10% of earners making 26.5 times the average income. Protesters have also accused the armed forces of widespread brutality, as scenes of unrest have stunned the country considered one of Latin America's most peaceful and stable democracies. Consecutive nights of curfews and long lines at the few open supermarkets have made many Chileans reminisce about the times of dictatorship.
Finally, Uruguay and Colombia expressed contrasting political trends towards the end of the month. In Colombia, students, unions and social movements called for a national strike to protests against the government’s intentions to reduce benefits for retirees and workers. The government responded to these protests with a heavy-hand and center-right President Iván Duque’s approval rating fell to its lowest at 24%. In Uruguay, right-wing Presidential candidate Luis Lacalle Pou’s victory ended 15 years of liberal rule. The President-elect will now face the challenge of keep the country united despite disparate ideologies, at a time when several countries in the region are mired in protests and economic malaise.
Sources: BBC | Washington Post
U.S. Slaps Tariffs on Brazil and Argentina
President Trump announced, on December 2nd, that the US will impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina. This decision contradicts previous agreements that exempted Brazil and Argentina from metal tariffs and widens the global trade war.
Mr. Trump claimed that Brazil and Argentina are purposefully devaluing their currencies and hurting American farmers. Economists and government officials, however, have rejected this idea.
The new round of tariffs points to developments in the large-scale trade war between US and China. As currency movements have made Brazilian and Argentinian exports relatively cheaper, China has shifted the purchase of agricultural goods from the US towards Brazil and Argentina.
The White House has not issued any formal notice regarding the new tariffs. Their implementation, however, could significantly hinder Brazil and Argentina’s efforts to recover from the recession, tackle the high unemployment rates and spur economic growth.
Following the announcement, the Brazilian real strengthened 0.4% to 4.2185 per dollar.
The reinstatement of tariffs will boost U.S. steel prices, benefiting domestic producers. AK Steel Holding Corp. rose 6.9% in New York. U.S. Steel Corp was up 3.8%, and Steel Dynamics Inc. gained 1.4%. The American depositary receipts of Brazilian steelmaker Gerdau SA, which runs plants in the U.S., rose 1.4%. Shares of Usinas Siderurgicas de Minas Gerais SA rose 0.5% in Brazil.
- Stories -
Giuliani and Los Bolichicos
Rudolph W. Giuliani is a Republican lawyer who served as New York City’s major from 1994-2001. He attended Manhattan College and New York University for his law degree. He enjoyed a career in the public sector, and in 2016 president Donald Trump appoint him as an unofficial advisor in his cybersecurity team. Later, in 2018 he was assigned as a member of the president’s legal team for the Russian interference investigation probe in the Senate.
The impeachment investigation of Ukraine and President Donald Trump in the House of Representatives has led to extensive research. It was found that Rudy Giuliani was sent to confer with a Ukrainian envoy in Spain to advocate for the president’s interests in the matter. However, it was uncovered that he stayed in a historic state which belonged to Venezuelan businessman Alejandro Betancourt López.
Alejandro Betancourt is a Venezuelan national who owned Derwick Associates, a company that was hired to renovate the country electrical infrastructure system by building electric plants. However, that did not happen. The company, operated by Betancourt and his associates which were all 24 years at the time, were accused of laundering more than 1.200 billion dollars of Venezuela’s public sector as government contractors.
It is now known that Giuliani was hired by Betancourt to advocate for his interests to the chief of the Justice Department who froze his assets in the United States and in involved in multiple court filings in Miami. His involvement with Betancourt is at odds with Trump’s administration efforts to stop corruption in Venezuela. The United States has aggressively pursued an agenda against Venezuelans who have embezzled and laundered money, claiming they are to blame for the economic collapse in the country.
After the failed mission, Lopez Obrador declared on national TV “we saved lives, which is the most important thing. We will not confront violence with violence… There is no war against drug trafficking. We will not expose civilian lives to the euphemism of collateral damage. That time is over. We want peace.”
Source: NY Times
Lula & Keiko Walk Free From Jail
Former Brazilian president, Lula, and Peruvian opposition leader, Keiko Fujimori, have both walked free from jail after being charged for bribery and money laundering.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula, was released from prison on November 8th after one year and a half behind bars. Lula was serving a 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering linked to the Car Wash investigations. More specifically, he was accused of peddling government influence for renovations to his beachfront property.
A Supreme Court Decision determined, on November 7th, that defendants can remain free until they have exhausted all possibilities of appeals. The appeal process in Brazil, however, may take years to finalize. This ruling gave prosecutors of the Car Wash investigation leverage to negotiate plea deals, possibly benefiting 5,000 non-violent offenders.
Lula is ineligible to run for office, but his release has energized the leftwing Workers Party and will likely increase political polarization against the rightwing President Bolsonaro.
The rightwing Popular Force Party leader, Keiko Fujimori, has also walked free from jail in November 29th pending trial for charges. Fujimori was accused of accepting illegal campaign contributions from Odebrecht and served over a year in jail. Her release was made possible by Peru’s constitutional tribunal.
Prosecutors claim Fujimori led a criminal organization and received millions from the Brazilian construction company. She denies all allegations. Fujimori is the daughter of Peru’s ex-president Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year sentence for human rights crimes and graft.
Keiko Fujimori’s release comes as Peru prepares for legislative elections in January after President Vizcarra dissolved Congress amid a battle with opposition lawmakers over his anti-corruption campaign. Keiko Fujimori’s party had held a majority in Congress before its dissolution. The Popular Force will participate in the January elections, but Fujimori is not expected to take part.
The conviction of Lula, Keiko Fujimoto and dozens of other politicians in Latin America marked the end of an era where corruption and bribery were perceived as common business practices. Through the Car Wash investigations, accountability was enforced by the judicial system, and politicians and businessmen were faced with legal the consequences of their crimes.
The release of these prominent figures gave rise to dividing opinions. Supporters of Keiko and Lula celebrated their release and saw this event as a symbol of hope for the future of the country’s democracy. On the other hand, opponents saw the judicial rulings as a blow to the corruption-busting investigations and now demand the reversal of such decisions.
Sources: The Guardian | Washington Post
The War on Drugs
Cartel violence has been a major issue in Mexico for the past decade. Before assuming his presidency, Mexican President Obrador had promised to reduce organize crime but has been unsuccessful so far as the number of violent crimes are projected to be higher than last year. President Obrador has struggled to keep things under control and has been criticized for how he handled the escape of El Chapo’s son which led to the military pulling back and letting him get away. Some Mexican security analysts have stated that this failure to stop the capture of El Chapos sons demonstrated that the administration of Lopez Obrador lacks a coherent and decisive strategy on cartel violence in the country. Obrador however, has criticized previous administrations' policies of using heavy military force to crack down on gang activity, saying it killed too many people and has failed to end criminal violence in the country.
The violence has also taken the lives of a Mormon family in early November and recently the lives of 14 people in northeast Mexico. The recent violence has led Donald Trump to propose listing the cartels as terrorist organizations and plans on intervening without the cooperation of the Mexican military. Obrador has rejected these proposals because such policies would undermine the sovereignty of Mexico. Obrador and his foreign secretary Marcelo Edbard will continue to push for cooperation between the US and Mexico.
Obrador’s failure to quell the cartel violence has been one of the major criticisms of his first year in office. Although an opinion poll showed Obrador still had a popularity rating of 68 per cent, 41 per cent of respondents named security as his biggest failure. This year is expected to end with some 36,000 murders, a new record, compared with about 34,000 last year.
Source: NY Times
- Entertainment -
New Music by Emi
Nibiru: Ozuna released his newest album, Nibiru, on November 29th. He claimed the meaning of the title refers to a planet in which he creates his music and later brings it back to Earth with the help of his team.
Remix season: many of our favorites songs of 2019 have come back in remixes. These are the ones you should definitely not miss:
Mi Error - Remix: by Eladio Calderon, Zion & Lennox, Wisin & Yandel and Lunay
Bellaquita - Remix: Dalex, Lenny Tavarez, Anitta, Natti Natasha, Farruko and Justin Quiles
Badwine - Remix: Feid, Farruko, Lenny Tavarez and El Alfa
Que Le De - Remix: Nicky Jam, Rauw Alejandro, Brytiago, Justin Quiles, Myke Towers
Easy - Remix: Jay Cortez and Ozuna
- Culture -
Rosalia Makes Grammy History
Rosalia received two Grammy nominations, one for Best New Artist, a first for a Spanish speaking artist and one for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album. She also won four Grammys at the Latin Grammys for Best Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Pop Album of the Year. Her song Con Altura also won best Urban Song and her Album El Mal Querer won three Latin Grammys.
- Sports -
In the Latin soccer world, Flamengo won the Copa Libertadores for the first time in 38 years with an amazing comeback. Gabriel Barbosa (Gabigol) scored two goals in the last three minutes, beating the defending champions, River Plate, 2-1.
Lionel Messi also won his sixth Ballon d'Or as the world's best male player.
- Travel -
Check out Iguazu Falls in Misiones Province, Argentina.
Markets: October Performance
Latin America Market Indices
Latin America Exchange Rates
U.S. Market Indices
S&P 500: 2.42%
U.S. Treasury Bond Yields