Mauricio Macri backtracks from his "magical" vision for Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela's "ironclad coupling" is crumbling, and despite the general damper over Latin America, the region's markets are beating the odds.
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Argentine President Mauricio Macri has readily admitted that he set impractical expectations for a "magical" economic recovery when he was elected, Benedict Mander reports for the Financial Times. "If you want to see a magician, go and see [David] Copperfield," the president told the press following a spiritual retreat during which he reflected on his one year in office. Despite recurring promises of an economic revival in the second half of this year, industrial production and construction both declined annually in October, putting the president in a difficult position ahead of midterm elections in 2017. Some analysts believe that pressure to deliver on promises is resulting in policy blunders, such as the central bank's decision to slash interest rates amid persistently high inflation. Although economists are confident that the economy will spring back to life in 2017, some skepticism still lingers. "Is this a government of transition, or transformation?" one investment banker asked. "At this point no one can say."
The "ironclad coupling" of ideological comrades Cuba and Venezuela is becoming rusty as the flow of subsidized Venezuelan oil, "the lifeblood of Cuba's economy," begins to wither, The Wall Street Journal's Anatoly Kurmanaev writes. Due to Venezuela's plunging output, Cuba was recently forced to purchase oil on the open market for the first time in more than a decade. At the same time, Cuban doctors who labored in Venezuelan slums as payment for the oil transfers are coming back home. Cuba garnered billions of dollars by reselling subsidized Venezuelan oil, helping the island country regain its footing after the fall of the Soviet Union. But now, "the oil is gone," said a Cuban taxi driver. "We are very grateful to Chávez, but we have to fend for ourselves now."
Despite the general pessimism surrounding Latin America nowadays, markets in the region are actually performing better than expected, a Bloomberg News article shows. Five of the 10 best-performing stock indexes for the year come from the region, with analysts expecting this trend to continue in 2017 due to recovery in terms of GDP and more structural reforms. Many are betting on Brazil to remain as a top performer due to President Michel Temer's key policy revamp to revive the economy, while Peru and Argentina are bright spots due to business-friendly presidents and recovering commodity prices. Projections for Mexico are mixed, due to the uncertainty surrounding U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's looming policy plans for the country. However, Venezuela remains the riskiest market with its crumbling economy and increasing political tensions.
The whole of Venezuela was scrambling in panic as its government recalled the country's 100-bolivar bill from circulation this week, but along with it comes "outlandish" conspiracy theories regarding the repeal perpetrated by government officials themselves, Francisco Toro pens for The Washington Post. One comes from the country's interior minister, Nestor Reverol, who said the U.S. is keeping huge stacks of the said bills in warehouses throughout Europe in an effort to overthrow Nicolás Maduro's reign. "Reverol's story is so far-fetched, so plain weird, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that it doesn't make the least bit of sense in its own fantastical terms," Toro bemoans, noting that the explanation provided by Maduro and other officials does not make sense either. Clearly flustered with the absurdity, Toro goes on to say that "maybe the Maduro administration has just lost the capacity for making even the most minimally logical of economic decisions for the country."