LatAm Daily Briefing: Argentina’s Debt Talks Stall; Chile’s Economy Seen Shrinking by Up to 7.5%; Mexican Federal Judge Slain

18 June: Find out what's been happening in Latin America with our latest news update.

18 June: Find out what's been happening in Latin America with our latest news update.

Argentina’s talks with its creditors to renegotiate its $65 billion debt have stalled. The government’s latest proposal to its bondholders was rejected, with one group of creditors saying the talks had failed and that it was considering “all available remedies,” according to Reuters. The Argentine government has also bemoaned the demands of the creditors, which it described as inconsistent, leading the so-called ad hoc bondholder group, which includes private equity firms Fidelity, AllianceBernstein and BlackRock, as saying Argentina had walked away from the talks. Argentine bonds fell nearly 2% on Thursday on the news that the talks had stalled. Argentina defaulted on its debt in late May for the ninth time.

Brazilian police have arrested a former aide to President Jair Bolsonaro’s eldest son in a corruption investigation, and which deals a blow to Bolsonaro’s campaign pledge to crack down on corruption. The detained former aide, Fabricio Queiroz, worked with senator Flavio Bolsonaro when he was a Rio de Janeiro state lawmaker, was arrested outside the home of a Bolsonaro family lawyer, Reuters reported. Queiroz is being investigated concerning more than 1.2 million reais ($230,000) in bank transactions in a suspected scheme to embezzle the salaries of phantom employees in the Rio state assembly. The senator has denied any wrongdoing and called the investigation a political attack on his family.

Chile’s central bank said on Wednesday that the country’s economy will likely contract between 5.5- 7.5% in 2020, which would be the country’s sharpest economic slump since the 1980s. The bank attributed the anticipated slowdown to the drop in domestic demand, evidenced by economic activity figures for March and April, which dropped by 3.5% and 14.1% respectively, amid the lockdown imposed to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. The bank predicts a drop in domestic demand of 10.4% for the year, with inflation at 2%. However, the price of copper, which is key to the country’s economy as the world’s largest copper exporter, would rally slightly to $2.50 per pound in 2020.

Colombia’s government has said it expects Covid-19 to claim more than 41,500 lives in the country by the end of the year, a much higher figure than the current death toll of 1,864. The country has so far recorded more than 57,000 confirmed cases of the virus, but the Health Ministry has said it believes the real number of cases and deaths to be much higher. However, the latest prediction is well below the figures of up to 300,000 the National Health Institute predicted would die in March when the country’s lockdown was enforced by President Iván Duque, and which the INS has credited with reducing the death toll and the number of infections. The INS believes the pandemic will reach its peak in the country in mid- August.

A federal judge in Mexico’s western state of Colima has been murdered by an armed gang, along with his wife. The judge, Uriel Villegas Ortiz, and his spouse Verónica Barajas, were gunned down in their home. Press reports speculate that the murder of Villegas Ortiz was a revenge killing, possibly carried out by the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel that operates out of the neighboring state of Jalisco, where Villegas Ortiz was previously based, in the state capital Guadalajara, and where he presided over cases involving cartel figures. Among his rulings were the transfer of the son of one of the cartel’s leaders, Rubén Oseguera González, known as ‘El Menchito,’ to a prison in the northern border state of Sonora in 2018, from where he was extradited to the US to face drug trafficking charges.

Peru’s shopping malls will reopen on June 22nd, one week earlier than planned, according to the Labor Ministry. Stores will be limited to 50% capacity for shoppers in a bid to maintain social distancing measures, they must provide antibacterial gel to customers, and shoppers must wear face masks, while stores are currently adapting their spaces to accommodate fewer people and avoid overcrowding, Labor Minister Sylvia Cáceres was quoted by local media as saying. Peru entered lockdown on March 16th with the declaration of a national health emergency, and which had been extended until June 30th. The country’s death toll from the virus currently stands at 7,257, with more than 241,000 confirmed cases.


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