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.
Has Michel Temer’s new “dream team” got what it takes to turn around Brazil’s flailing economy? One by one, the crisis-wracked country’s new president has been appointing respected technocrats to key positions after Dilma Rousseff was forced to quit power earlier this month. The finance ministry will be run by Henrique Meirelles, one of the most revered figures in Brazilian financial circles and the new government’s biggest hope. He will be supported in the central bank by its new president Ilan Goldfajn, formerly chief economist of Brazil’s largest non-state bank, Itaú Unibanco. Petrobras, which is mired in a corruption scandal that many see as the real reason for Dilma’s downfall, will be headed up by Pedro Parente, the former head of agribusiness group Bunge.
Many baulked at Temer’s decision to appoint an all-male, all-white cabinet for the first time since Brazil’s dictatorship, including seven ministers who have been linked to the scandal at Petrobras – three of whom are under formal investigation. But the unelected leader is performing a delicate tightrope act, balancing the contrasting demands of the various parties that brought him to power. Whether or not his new superstar economic team can come up with the goods will be crucial to him lasting the course until the 2018 presidential elections.
At least Brazil is making an effort to fix its problems. In Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro seems intent on plunging his benighted country ever deeper into crisis – despite his opponents’ best attempts to get rid of him. Continuing protests against the government have met with harsh treatment, stirring fears that Maduro will cling to power by any means available. Defying the opposition’s attempts to remove him from office via a so-called recall referendum, Maduro has declared a state of emergency to “stabilise our country and confront all the international and national threats”. In a sign of just how bad things are getting, Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the Organisation of American States who was previously foreign minister under Uruguay’s leftist former president, José Mujica, went as far as to call Maduro a “tin-pot dictator” this week.
Venezuela’s diplomatic relations with the rest of the world may be reaching rock bottom, but it is heartening to see that Argentina – which until recently was also led by one of the region’s more uncompromising leftist leaders, Cristina Fernández – is mending its relations with the rest of the world. Susana Malcorra, Argentina’s new foreign minister, told the FT this week that the Falkland Islands is no longer the defining issue in relations with the UK, as the new government of Mauricio Macri prefers to focus on more constructive issues like trade. Meanwhile, a number of officials from the former administration are facing corruption charges that are gathering force, with Férnandez herself among the most threatened of all.
Quote of the week
“For a moment, it looked like we had retrogressed to the start of the last century” - Luiza Nagib Eluf, a Brazilian columnist, reacting to the new cabinet of Michel Temer.