Category Archives: News brief

Nuclear Power for Chile

Perhaps the greatest barrier to Chile’s rapid ascension to the ranks of leading small global economies is a lack of domestic energy resources. Lingering rancour over the end of the War of the Pacific (1879-1883) means that the nationalist voice in Bolivia blocks any exports of gas to heat the homes of Santiago. Argentina has repeatedly proven to be an unreliable energy integration partner, frequently shutting of trans-Andean gas supplies to meet domestic demand. Hydro projects are being developed, but demand still outstrips supply, even with the implementation of green energy sources like wind and solar.

It is thus not too much of a surprise to hear that Chile is again looking at building a nuclear power plant. According to UPI, Chilean Energy Undersecretary Sergio del Campo flagged this as a real possibility at a recent Australian-Chile Chamber of Commerce meeting. Others in government suggested that a plan for nuclear power development will not be ready until the end of the Piñera presidency, possibly in late 2014. Critics are worried about the frequent seismic activity in Chile and what this might mean for the safety of a mooted plant. Expect a rush of interest from the big international nuclear power companies seeking another contract in what is currently a rather stalled industry.



1 Comment

Filed under Chile, News brief

Jose Dirceu guilty in Brazil corruption trial

Lula’s former chief of staff and all-round superlative backroom operator Jose Dirceu has been found guilty of corruption for his involvement in the mensalão scandal. This matters because even though Dirceu fell from grace and saw his own presidential ambitions dashed when the scheme for buying legislative support for the Lula agenda was uncovered, Dirceu remained one of the most important movers and shakers not only in Brazil, but also in Latin America. Depending on the prison sentence length — if one is imposed and appeals don’t negate the whole trial process — it could more or less permanently push Dirceu from the scene. An interesting historical question will be the extent to which this causes people to reexamine Lula’s relationship to corruption during his presidency. At the moment he has a Reaganesque teflon shield that prevents the asking of awkward questions despite some questionable associations for the ex-president. While it is unlikely that anyone will suggest Lula lined his own pockets, people may start to ask how much he knew about what was going on, and if he didn’t, why not.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brazil, Corruption, News brief

Cristina Kirchner explains things in her own words

Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner gave a big speech to the students at the Georgetown University Latin American Centre. She took questions from the students, and the clips can be seen here.

Whether you agree with her or not, the answers she gives to some very pointed questions give quite a bit of insight into the world view in the Casa Rosada. I’m not going to summarize the remarks because they were given on the fly to very pointed questions and thus open to all sorts of interpretation (see the Argentine press, and frankly a good chunk of the English reports).

The clips are in Spanish. Thanks to Prof Bill Smith at the University of Miami for flagging this as something of interest.

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina, News brief

Reminder: “Regional Reactions to the Rise of Brazil” conference starts tomorrow

A quick reminder that the 2012 edition of ANCLAS’s Latin America and the Shifting Sands of Global Power conference series starts tomorrow. The title this year is Regional Reactions to the Rise of Brazil. The conference website is here. Details are as follows:


Regional Reactions to the Rise of Brazil –
Latin America and the Shifting Sands of Global Power, 2012

Wednesday 12 September and Thursday 13 September

All Day Event

9:15 am – 6:00pm

The Haydon-Allen Lecture Theatre (The Tank)

Australian National University


Brazil has risen. Whether through discussions of the BRIC emerging market countries in the international media, the succession of Brazil cover stories in magazines such as The Economist and Newsweek, or the stream of official government visits from nearly all nations to Brasília, there is a public consciousness that Brazil has arrived on the global scene. But this is often where the discussion stops. Even within Brazil and Latin America precious little attention has been given directly to what the rise of Brazil means for the region and how countries within the Americas are responding to the increasingly muscular giant in their midst. The 2012 edition of the Australian National Centre for Latin American Studies annual conference Latin America and the Shifting Sands of Global Power will take up this theme by focusing on regional reactions to the rise of Brazil.


Day 1 – Country Cases

Session 1 – Setting the stage – Brazil’s rise and ambitions (9:15-10:45)

a. The Rise of Brazil in Latin America
Dr. Sean Burges – ANU

b. Brazilian aims and ambitions in Latin America
Prof. Carlos Pio – UnB, Brazil

BREAK (10:45-11:15)

Session 2 – The Mercosur Neighbourhood (11:15-12:45)

a. Socio-environmental conflicts in South American regionalism
Dr. Marcelo Saguier – FLACSO, Argentina

b. Paraguay: A Brazilian Satellite?
Assoc Prof. Miguel Carter – American University, USA

LUNCH (12:45-14:15)

Session 3 – Contesting leaders Regional Middle Powers (14:15-15:45)

a. Inter-connection versus integration: Venezuela-Brazil cooperation and the Abreu e Lima refinery
Mr. Guy Emerson – ANU, Australia

b. Beware the Awakening Giant of Latin America: Mexico’s Reaction to the Emergence of Brazil as a Regional Superpower
Dr. Daniella di Piramo – Griffith University, Australia

BREAK (15:45- 16:15)

Session 4 – The Latin Jaguar (16:15-17:00)
a. Some implications of new international status of Brazil: National interest versus regional compromise?
Prof. Roberto Durán – Universidad de Chile, Chile

RECEPTION (17:00-18:00)

Day 2 – Regional and thematic issues

Session 5 (9:00-9:45)
a. Juan Jose Garcia, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador

BREAK (9:45-10:00)

Session 6 – Integration & Security (10:00-11:30)

a. Brazil’s Rise and its Neighbours: Balancing Global Ambitions and Regional Constraints.
Dr. Mahrukh Doctor, University of Hull, UK

b. Colombia’s reactions to the Rise of Brazil
Prof. Sandra Borda – Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

LUNCH (11:30- 13:00)

Session 7 – People & Resources (13:00-14:30)

a. Physical integration between Brazil and Peru: Balance of a decade and impact on regional development and bilateral relations
Dr. Rosario Santa Gadea – Universidad del Pacifico and Peruvian Center for International Studies, Peru

b. The social foundations of economic expansion: Migration, labour and inequality in Brazil and Latin America
Prof. Nicola Phillips – University of Manchester, UK

BREAK (14:30-15:00)

Session 7 – Brazilian implications of the regional reactions (15:00-15:45)
a. Dr. Tim Power – University of Oxford, UK)

Session 8 – Round Table discussion (15:45-16:45)

RECEPTION (16:45-18:00)

Leave a comment

Filed under News brief

Judicial reform in Brazil

A useful piece by Reuters on Eliana Calmon and her efforts to bring anti-corruption reform to the judiciary in Brazil. This is not to say that the entire judicial system in Brazil is corrupt. Rather, the issue is one of the challenges of what Guillermo O’Donnell called ‘horizontal accountability’ — the effective implementation and action of mutual oversight and checks and balances in a fully functional democracy. It looks different in each country, and Brazil is diligently and very publicly strengthening its horizontal accountability frameworks.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brazil, Corruption, News brief

Argentina in another trade spat, now with Mexico

The trade policies put in place by the Kirchner government in Argentina have ruffled quite a few feathers. Earlier in 2012 ongoing tit-for-tat trade squabbles with Brazil caused former Brazilian Ambassador Rubens Barbosa to break with his long tradition of supportive comments on Mercosur to quip that Argentina’s behaviour could well kill the bloc. With bald trade restrictions ruled out by Mercosur regulations, both Argentina and Brazil degenerated into a hyper-orthodox approach to border inspections and adjudications on import licenses that were all but guaranteed to take the maximum period permissible. This barking definitely had bite, with some firms such as potato chip maker McCains choosing to simply close their export-directed plants rather than deal with the sustained disruptions.

Mexico has now jumped into the fray, taking Argentina to the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body on the charge that the Kirchner government’s measures applied to the importation of goods “restrict the imports of goods and discriminate between national and imported goods” and “don’t seem to be related with the implementation of any measure justified under the WTO Agreement”.

This now brings to four the countries questioning Argentina’s current import policies. Mexico joins the EU, USA and Japan with measures before the WTO DSB. Brazil is making its own noises bilaterally.

Leave a comment

Filed under Argentina, Mexico, News brief, Trade

Industrial policy, Bolivian style

Bolivia has a long history of producing the commodities that the world wants, but not gaining much from their export. (For a sense of the problem, take a look at the book “From Silver to Cocaine. Latin American Commodity Chains and the Building of the World Economy, 1500-2000“). The latest twist in this pattern is the Bolivian government’s decision to not so much nationalize vast swathes of the country’s resource extraction industry as change the contract terms so that Bolivia becomes a more important partner and more processing of the resources takes place in Bolivia. Is it working? To some extent, according to an interesting blog entry from the Financial Times. Bolivia is growing well and investment is still flowing in. It is a very interesting new public policy experiment that seems to have antecedents in Brazil’s (non)privatized major resource companies.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bolivia, Development, Foreign investment, News brief