Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Monday Memo: Chávez’ Health – Bolivia-Chile Standoff – Cardinals Meet in the Vatican – Argentina Offers New Debt Swap – PRI and Pemex



Top stories this week are likely to include: Venezuelans continue to await news on Chávez; Bolivian soldiers are released but tensions remain; Cardinals meet to discuss possible papal candidates; Argentina offers to issue new bonds for defaulted debt; and Mexico’s PRI ends its opposition to private investment in the state oil company.

Venezuelans continue to wait for news on Chávez’ health

Supporters and opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez demonstrated in Caracas again this weekend after Vice President Nicolás Maduro announced on Friday that Chávez was once again undergoing chemotherapy to treat his cancer. Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chávez in the 2012 presidential election, said Friday that Maduro was lying about Chávez’ true condition. Meanwhile, Venezuelan Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas denied today that the government has lied about the president’s health and said that Chávez has been experiencing “highs and lows” since returning to Venezuela on February 18.

Bolivia says Chile violated international norms

Bolivian President Evo Morales announced Sunday that he would bring Chile before international authorities for detaining three Bolivian soldiers who crossed into Chile with weapons at the end of Janaury, saying the detention violated international norms for transnational cooperation on crime. The soldiers’ case in Chile was suspended Friday after they agreed not to enter the country for a year. They returned to Bolivia but tensions between the two countries are continuing to escalate. Bolivia is also mounting a renewed effort to dispute its international borders with Chile; access to the Pacific Ocean was lost in 1879.

Cardinals meet to discuss the next pope

More than 140 Catholic cardinals are convening today to discuss possible papal candidates and conduct Church business. According to the Vatican, the cardinals have not yet set a date for the conclave that will determine whom to choose as Pope Benedict XVI’s successor. Vatican journalists say that possible successors to Pope Benedict, who officially stepped down as pope last Thursday, include Brazilians João Braz de Aviz and Odilo Scherer, and Argentine Leonardo Sandri.

Argentine government agrees to compromise offer on debt standoff

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced before Congress on Friday that the country would be willing to issue new bonds for private equity fund NML Capital Ltd., which is suing the country for $1.3 billion in defaulted debt. Fernández de Kirchner had previously refused to pay the “vulture funds,” which she has accused of profiting from Argentina’s 2002 economic crisis. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals will give Argentina until March 29 to explain the terms of a new debt swap.

PRI approves private investment in Pemex

Mexico’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI) voted unanimously on Sunday to end its opposition to constitutional changes that would permit private investment in the state oil company, Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is expected to send bills to Congress later this year that would propose constitutional changes to  permit new energy and fiscal reforms. The PRI controls 241 of the 500 seats in Mexico’s lower house, but would need additional congressional support for the reforms to pass.

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