Thursday, 8 January 2009

Political Risk Bulletin: MST, Bolivia, Colombia

Here is another edition of our political risk bulletin, that you, dear reader, will get used to see from now on. And here come the headlines!

BRAZIL -- MST Militants Start Year Invading Farm in Minas State (click here for link): One thing that will be particularly relevant this year in Brazil is the stance of the MST towards agribusiness and mining amid the current global recession. Yesterday, MST militants invaded a farm located between Uberlandia and Uberaba, known as a key territory for perishables, grain and processed food wholesalers. We know that the MST is rapidly turning into one of agribusiness' main foes. President Lula, at the behest of a faction of his party, has been lenient towards the MST. So, it is likely that we see an upsurge in land invasions this year, amid the worsening of the global recession that will surely hard hit the agribusiness industry.

BOLIVIA -- Gas Exports to Brazil Dropped 30 Percent (Click here for link): Well, Morales thought that demand from Brazil would be endlessly growing. Petrobras has been slowly making some progress in diversifying its own gas sources, and finding new wells. The Argentines, on the other hand, are not good payers -- the bondholders group that sued them for years know that very well. On the other hand, Bolivia depends on natural gas export revenue, and Morales's revolution needs it more, at a time he needs to beef up spending to bolster political support and fend off separatists.

ECUADOR -- Correa Praises Cuba's Human Rights Record (Click here for link): Good God! This is like saying that Guantanamo is a corner of peace. Awful. Correa is alienating some of Ecuador's neighbouring countries and economic partners. The default was the first step towards isolating the country. Expect more harassment against foreign investors in coming months.

COLOMBIA -- Uribe Signs Decree Allowing International Courts to Try War Crimes (click here for link): It took more than six years to President Uribe to do this. The excuse for the delay was to negotiate with war lords their surrender. In the meantime, massacres continued, the president signed a law that pardoned many war crimes to right-wing paramilitary leaders and allowed for their extradition to the U.S. Victims and their families are still waiting for the state to carry out some compensation mechanism.

COLOMBIA -- CIA Knew of Illegal Links Between the Army and Paramilitaries (Click here for link): National Security Archive, an NGO, unveiled in its Web site a report that stated that the CIA knew of links between drug lords, paramilitaries and the Colombian armed forces. The report allegedly helped uncover this policy by the military and led the government to dismiss more than two dozens of army officers. Clearly, this will fuel more questioning into the government's democratic security policy and political noise.

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