This Week in Latin America: Immunity in Guatemala—the Pope Visits—Pipeline Attacks in Colombia—Debt Crisis' Wide Reach
Here’s a look at some of the stories we’ll be following this week:
Corruption Scandals in Central America: Guatemala’s legislature will vote this week on whether to strip President Otto Pérez Molina of presidential immunity. The vote may open the door to prosecution as part of an ongoing corruption investigation involving the country’s customs authority and figures in the Pérez administration. The scandal has already led to the resignation of the country’s vice president, Roxana Baldetti. Meanwhile, in Honduras, protests calling for President Juan Orlando Hernández’s resignation entered their sixth straight week. Hernández continues to resist calls to step down, despite the arrest on Thursday of the vice president of the legislature—a member of Hernández’s ruling party—in connection with a scheme to defraud the country’s public health system.
Pope Francis Returns to Latin America: Pope Francis arrived in Ecuador on Sunday to begin a three-day tour of South America that will also take him to Bolivia and Paraguay. It is the first time that Francis, an Argentine, has visited Spanish-speaking Latin America since becoming pope in 2013 (he visited Brazil shortly thereafter). Despite the lingering chatter around Francis’ papal encyclical on climate change, he is expected to focus on poverty and on the well-being of marginalized communities during this trip. He will visit indigenous groups, tour a prison in Bolivia and meet with residents of a shantytown in Paraguay. Still, should Francis choose to follow up on his comments on the environment, he couldn’t pick a better stage: Ecuador, though one of the smallest countries in South America, is among the most biologically diverse nations on the planet.
Oil and Gas Infrastructure a Target in Colombia: Colombia’s state oil company, Ecopetrol, reported bombings at two of its oil wells over the weekend—the latest in a string of attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure. Last month, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), a guerilla group, blew up a section of the country’s second-largest oil pipeline, spilling thousands of gallons of crude into local water supplies. The FARC and the smaller Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) guerilla group have also intercepted oil tankers and destroyed power transmission lines in recent weeks. The attacks have cast further doubt on ongoing peace talks in Havana between government officials and FARC representatives. Humberto de la Calle, the government’s lead negotiator, signaled that the administration’s confidence in reaching a deal may be fraying, saying in an interview with El Tiempo on Sunday that negotiations were coming to an end “for better or for worse.”
Greek Debt Affects LAC's Emerging Markets: Developing economies in Latin America and elsewhere may be affected by a debt crisis in Greece, after results of a referendum Sunday suggested the country would not accept the terms of a debt relief package from international creditors. With oil prices low and U.S. interest rates expected to rise, investors are already pulling away from high-yield bonds in favor of more secure debt from the U.S. and other low-risk economies. The Greek referendum may further that trend. Mexico’s currency, the peso, fell to a historic low in foreign exchange trading Monday morning, though the governor of the country's central bank, Agustín Carstens, expects the Greek crisis' effect on the peso to be "transitory."
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