The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

With Chavez gone, what of ‘Chavismo’?

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“The End of the Chávez Era” That was the headline on Colombia’s major newspaper, El Tiempo, the day after Hugo Chávez’s death.

True, Chávez’s controversial and colorful 14-year rule has ended, and Venezuela has lost a president who evoked uncommonly intense passions among followers and detractors.   Venezuelans will not easily forget a leader who, for better or worse, was the consummate showman and left an indelible mark on a highly polarized society.

Yet Chavez also followed in a long line of caudillos, or strongmen, who have been a notable feature in Latin America’s political history. Indeed, Venezuela has had its fair share. As the acute observer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombia’s Nobel Prize-winning writer, noted soon after Chávez’s 1998 election, the new president’s seductive rhetoric recalled so many of the region’s other leading political figures -- but he could well end up as yet another Latin American despot.

The difference, of course, was that Chávez, unlike his predecessors – indeed, unlike any other Latin American leader – had a big checkbook, thanks to the immense windfall he derived from spectacular oil price increases since he took office (to more than $100 a barrel from less than $10).

from Global Investing:

Investors love those emerging markets

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No question that investors are in the throes of passion over emerging markets. The latest Reuters asset allocation polls show investors pouring money into Asian and Latin American stocks in October to the detriment of U.S. and euro zone equities. Exposure to equities in emerging Europe, Asia ex-Japan, Latin America and Africa/Middle East rose to 15.6 percent of a typical stock portfolio from 14.3 percent a month earlier. untitled

from FaithWorld:

Pope says gay marriage threat to creation

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gay marriage

Argentinans exchange rings in Ushuaia, 28 Dec 2009

Pope Benedict on Tuesday linked the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to gay marriage to concern about the environment, suggesting that laws undermining the differences between the sexes were threats to creation.

Creatures differ from one another and can be protected, or endangered, in different ways, as we know from daily experience. One such attack comes from laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes," he said at his annual meeting at the Vatican with ambassadors to the Holy See. 

U.S. sends wrong messages to Latin America

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mschultze_apr09_web- Markus Schultze-Kraft is Latin America and Caribbean Program Director at the International Crisis Group. The opinions expressed are his own. -

One cannot help being taken aback by the series of wrong messages the U.S. government has been sending to Latin America this summer. Starting with Honduras and followed by Bolivia, and now Colombia, everything seems to indicate that after a promising start President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton are having difficulties defining an effective Latin America policy that does not repeat the mistakes of the previous administration.

A bet against Castro’s immortality

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REUTERS– Neil Collins is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

LONDON, April 23 (Reuters) – “Practically everyone who follows Latin American events agrees that Castro’s end is near.” Thus one Laurence W Tuller, writing in 1994 in his manual on high-risk, high-reward investing. Defaulted Cuban government bonds had jumped on hopes of a settlement to allow the country back into the international capital markets.
Today, former leader Fidel Castro’s end is 15 years nearer, but he’s still there, albeit in semi-retirement, and holders of these pre-Castro bonds with a face value of around $200 billion are still waiting. Castro’s regime kept good records, but have paid no interest, and ignored redemption dates since his revolution half a century ago.
Few Americans can remember why their administration has been so beastly to Cuba for so long.
Those who can mostly live in Florida, a key swing state, and many risked everything to get out of Cuba. They do not want to see their investment devalued by hordes of their former compatriots simply walking off the Delta Airlines flight from Havana.
Last week U.S. President Barack Obama eased the squeeze somewhat. Americans can now visit Cuba, but only if they have relatives there.
This gesture has re-ignited the bondholders’ old hopes. Past settlements of defaulted sovereign bonds have tended to pay about half the total of accrued interest plus principal, so the buyers see plenty of upside.
Exotix, a specialist trader in “frontier markets”, says its price for a typical Cuban bond instrument has risen from around 9 cents on the dollar at the start of this month to 14 cents on April 23.
Mind you, the spread is wide, the market thin and as events crowd in on the President, he might feel there are more pressing problems than to risk upsetting those key-voting Floridian Cubans.

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