Latin America’s big chance — ‘creative industries’

I have never thought of Shakira, Juanes and lesser-known artists as potential engines of Latin America’s economy, but newly released studies conclude that the region could grow more rapidly if it developed its so-called “creative industries.” All of a sudden, major international institutions are sounding alarm bells about the fact that despite its wealth of talent in music, films, books, handcrafts, fashion designs, video-games and other creative activities, Latin America accounts for only 1.7 per cent of the $646 billion in annual global exports of cultural goods and services,

Chile will veer to the left ‒ but not much

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is likely to win the Dec 15 runoff election by a landslide, and the conventional wisdom is that her new coalition, which includes the Communist Party, will make a sharp turn to the left.

Andres Oppenheimer: World ranking for endless litigation

There are many reasons why potentially-rich Latin American nations are growing at a slower pace than their Asian counterparts but one of the least noticed factors — and one in need of urgent attention — is that a Latin American may grow old before being able to enforce a business contract in many countries of the region.

Peru bets on pragmatism – and wins

LIMA — When I interviewed Peruvian President Ollanta Humala last week, he struck me as a less articulate leader than most of his South American colleagues —but one who may be doing a better job than his more loquacious counterparts.

U.S. badly needs a Mexico-style political pact

The U.S. government, which loves to lecture other countries on how to run their affairs, would do well in learning some lessons from other nations in order to avoid a repeat of last week’s costly — and embarrassing — government shutdown.

US may join era of local diplomacy

The US government’s recent signing of a first-of-its-kind bilateral deal with the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo makes me wonder whether Washington will start a new strategy in Latin America — by-passing not-so-friendly national governments, and signing agreements with more amicable local authorities.

Vargas Llosa’s optimism may be for real

When I interviewed Nobel Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa last week, I was most surprised by his renewed optimism about Latin America, and by his confidence that Chavismo — the region’s authoritarian populist movement — is rapidly losing ground.

Brazil’s proposal to regulate Internet is scary

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s angry denunciation of US electronic spying at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week was applauded by most in the room, but her proposal to regulate the Internet should make all of us very nervous.

Venezuela keeps rooting for Syrian dictator

Much of the world is demanding greater pressure on Syria following a United Nations inspectors’ report hinting that Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons in his country’s civil war, but — amazingly — Venezuela and some of its Latin American allies are still passionately defending Syria’s dictator.

Authoritarian leaders breed corruption

What’s most amazing about the arrest in Miami of Bolivia’s top anti-corruption police official, caught on tape extorting a bribe from a well-known businessman, was that hardly anybody was surprised by the news.

Canada joins race for global talent

While the much-needed US immigration reform bill remains stuck in Congress, Canada is not waiting — it has launched a pilot programme to attract global entrepreneurs by offering them permanent visas and a path to citizenship.

US should press harder on Payá’s death

US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power deserves credit for asking Cuba’s foreign minister to launch a credible investigation into the suspicious death of leading Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, but she should have gone a step further.

Joyous climate spoils Uruguay’s pot drive

Uruguay’s government-proposed marijuana legalization drive has been described as the world’s boldest, and could help reduce drug-related crime, but a conversation I had this week with former Uruguayan President Julio Maria Sanguinetti left me wondering whether it won’t backfire.

Does Central America need three inter-oceanic corridors?

Just when we were beginning to digest the news that Nicaragua had signed a contract with a Chinese company to build a $40 billion inter-oceanic canal that would compete with a soon-to-be expanded Panama Canal, Guatemala announced this week that it’s jumping into the fray and will build a $12 billion inter-oceanic “dry corridor.” Are the Nicaraguan and Guatemalan projects serious?

China-Latin America fiesta is over

After more than a decade of booming economic ties between China and Latin America, new headlines that China may be heading for a crisis are starting to draw anxiety in China-dependent countries in the region.

The plight of Latin America’s teachers

It’s no wonder that protesters in Brazil are holding signs reading “more education, less soccer,” or that there are constant teacher strikes in Argentina, Chile, Venezuela and Mexico — Latin American schoolteachers are among the most miserably paid in the world.

Nicaragua canal a big dig — or big scam?

Nicaragua’s $40 billion deal with a Chinese company to build a trans-oceanic waterway that will compete with the Panama Canal will either be Latin America’s most important economic project in more than a century or the biggest government scam in the region’s history.

US wins rare diplomatic battle in Latin America

Something very unusual happened at the 34-country Organization of American States (OAS) annual foreign ministers’ meeting recently: the United States and Mexico won a diplomatic victory over authoritarian populist governments that wanted a free hand to suppress human rights monitors and critical media.

Xi’s Latin America tour a tit-for-tat message to Obama

The most interesting thing about China’s new President Xi Jinping’s first official trip to Latin America was that he did not set foot in Cuba, Venezuela or any other of China’s political allies in the region — which would have received a huge propaganda boost from such a visit.

OAS report breaks ground on marijuana

Latin American presidents who support the decriminalization of marijuana won a big diplomatic victory in recent days when the 34-country Organization of American States issued a report that considers that option as one of several policies that might help reduce the region’s drug-related violence.

World science map grim for Latin America

The highly respected Nature Scientific Reports journal has just published a map of the world’s leading science cities, and it looks pretty bad for emerging countries: It shows the planet’s northern hemisphere full of lights, and the south almost solidly dark.

Obama should think North America

Despite a lot of upbeat talk about upgrading US-Mexican economic relations, there will be one big issue that will be off the table during President Barack Obama’s visit to Mexico starting Thursday — Mexico’s request to be part of ongoing US-European free trade talks.

Venezuela lags behind in social gains

Latin View

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s endorsement of Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro in last Sunday’s elections has perpetuated one of the biggest myths in Latin American politics — that the Venezuelan government, despite its mistakes, has done more than others to help the poor.

Five scenarios for Venezuela — most of them bad

Latin View

Most polls show that Venezuela’s government candidate Nicolás Maduro is likely to win today’s elections thanks to an unfair election process in which the government controls an overwhelming share of TV time, but — even if he wins — Maduro’s future is gloomy.

Surprise! Mexico backs human rights cause!

Latin View

What a pleasant surprise! Mexico, whose government routinely supports human rights violators throughout the region, played a key role in thwarting an effort by a group of countries to weaken the region’s most important human rights commission.

Ecuador: Dictatorship of the 21st Century?

Latin View

Many people are surprised by Rafael Correa’s sweeping victory in last Sunday’s Ecuadorean presidential election, despite his government’s massive corruption scandals and his record of repression against the media and political opponents.

Latin America’s corruption starts at top

Latin View

A new study on corruption in Latin America contains some alarming figures — an average of about 20 per cent of the region’s people say they have been asked to pay a bribe by a policeman or another public official in the past year, compared with 5 per cent in the United States and 3 per cent in Canada.

US shouldn’t create underclass of immigrants

Latin View

House Republicans don’t seem to get it. After getting pummelled by Hispanic voters in the 2012 election, they now want to create an underclass of 11 million people — mostly Latinos — by denying undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

Argentina-Iran deal makes a mockery of justice

Latin View

Argentina has crossed a line by making a sweet deal with Iran to jointly investigate a 1994 terrorist attack against the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which according to Argentine prosecutors and Interpol was masterminded by top Iranian officials.

Let’s put gun violence in focus

Latin View

When President Barack Obama made a brief reference to gun violence in his second-term inauguration speech, he should have mentioned a new map of gun violence — it shows that Washington, DC’s murder rate is almost twice as high as that of violence-ridden Mexico.

Latin America’s new leader: Raúl Castro

Latin View

It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t: At the end of this month, the 33-country Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) — a two-year-old organization that lists promoting democracy among its top goals — will swear-in Cuban dictator General Raúl Castro as its new chairman.

Argentina’s leader populist, but no longer popular

Latin View

BUENOS AIRES — Things are not going well for Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner — only fourteen months after winning re-election by a landslide, barely a week goes by in which she doesn’t do something that raises questions about her political wisdom and emotional stability.

US, Venezuela may be exploring post-Chávez thaw

Latin View

While Venezuela’s announcement that President Hugo Chávez’s bout with cancer has taken a turn for the worse is making big headlines, there is another development in the Venezuelan drama that has gone almost unnoticed: high-level US-Venezuelan talks preparing for a post-Chávez future may have already started.

The really important news of 2012

Latin View

Most media lists of the most important events of 2012 are led by headlines such as the re-election of President Barack Obama, the appointment of China’s new leader Xi Jinping, the revolt in Syria, the return to power of Mexico’s ruling PRI party and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s battle with cancer.

South American bloc increasingly anti-Israel

While both the European Union and South America’s Mercosur bloc had condemned the latest round of violence in Gaza before Wednesday’s cease-fire, there was a big difference in their respective statements: One was reasonably balanced; the other was shamefully biased against Israel.