South America has been a special part of my life for four decades. I have lived many years in Brasil and Peru. I am married to an incredible lady from Argentina. I want to share South America with you.
If there is one person in real life whom the imaginary Frank Underwood of House of Cards might respect, it is Brazilian lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha. The eagle-eyed architect of the impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff, Mr Cunha has ruled in congress with unshakeable nerve even as he has unleashed a constitutional maelstrom. But now it seems the speaker, an evangelist Christian whose other big idea was a “heterosexual pride day”, might be about to get impeached himself. The supreme court has suspended him for alleged involvement in corruption at state-owned oil company Petrobras, citing a list of alleged offences.
His removal from the political scene should make life easier for vice-president Michel Temer, who is expected to assume power if Ms Rousseff is suspended from office in a senate vote on the impeachment on Wednesday. A member of Mr Temer`s PMDB party, the scandal-tainted Mr Cunha would have been an embarrassing partner in government, particularly as he would have been next in line for the presidency under Brazil`s constitution should anything happen to Mr Temer.
Speaking of internecine politics, it seems France is the stick in the mud in trade talksbetween the European Union and Mercosur, the South American trading block. France is leading a rebellion of 13 countries concerned about the impact the deal could have on European farmers. The move comes ironically as Mercosur looks finally ready to budge on trade with a new investor-friendly government in place in Argentina and one possibly on the way in Brazil if Mr Temer gets in.
Less welcomed by investors was news that prosecutors in Brazil are seeking $44bn in damages from miners Vale and BHP over the Samarco dam disaster. The suit over the collapse of the iron ore tailings dam sent shares of both companies plunging during the week. It comes after the Brazilian government had already settled with the companies.
Mexicans are becoming equally unexcited about their president, Enrique Peña Nieto, whose ambitious reforms in energy and telecoms - much-touted by investors - have yet to unleash dynamic growth. The tepid economy, rising violence and scandals have knocked 9 percentage points off his popularity rating so far this year, bringing it down to 30 per cent.
Quotes of the week
“Argentine judges are not very brave. They know that if you go after someone more powerful than you, they can destroy you in 15 minutes” - Guillermo Jorge, a partner at Governance Latam, an anti-corruption group.
“The first films about favelas in Brazilian cinema were [made] in the 1930s ... but favela films really took off after City of God. As a physical space, the Rio favela is popular because of the views and the visual surroundings — it gives the production added value and you don’t have to spend anything” - André Gatti, a professor of cinema at Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP) university in São Paulo.