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.
Remember the media speculation about how US President Donald Trump would moderate his seemingly outrageous campaign promises? That was, as he would say, “fake news”.
Mexico is discovering to its horror that Trump is a man of his word - and a man of action, for better or for worse. In his first days in office, he signed off his plans to build a wall along part of the 3145-kilometre border between the US and Mexico. Even more outrageously from the Mexican point of view, he is fulfilling his campaign promise to force his smaller and poorer southern neighbor to pay for it. Proposals include a 20 per cent import tax on imports from Mexico.
Mexican president Enrique Penã Neto cancelled a planned meeting with Mr Trump at the White House and Vincente Fox, the former president of Mexico, put the US president straight by tweeting: “Mexico is not going to pay for that f*****g wall.”
Mr Trump also cancelled the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would have united the US, Mexico, Peru and Chile with countries in Asia and Oceania in a free trade agreement. While Mexico tried to keep the spirit of the deal alive by beginning negotiations with other member countries excluding the US, the rest of the continent was keeping its head down rather than risk catching the notice of the rampaging Trump administration.
In Brazil, there were some other distractions. After a long Christmas and New Year break, the Petrobras investigation roared back to life with federal police seeking the arrest of Eike Batista, formerly Brazil’s richest man, on accusations of corruption. Police drove into the former oil and logistics magnate’s mansion in Rio de Janeiro in the wee hours of Thursday morning only to find he was not home. He apparently left earlier in the week for New York. He is now considered a fugitive from justice, although his lawyers say he plans to return home soon and give himself in to police.
Quote of the week
“Simply put, any policy proposal which drives up costs of Corona, tequila, or margaritas is a big-time bad idea. Mucho Sad” – Tweet from Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator and frequent critic of Mr Trump