LatAm Daily Briefing: Argentina to Seek IMF Loan; Chile Creates Low-Cost Covid-19 Test; Ecuadorian Former President Arrested

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

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


Argentina aims to reach a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a new financing program before the end of March, according to local media. The government, which sealed an initial $65 billion debt agreement with its private creditors on Tuesday, will look to begin formal negotiations with the IMF after September 4th, which is the date in which the deal with bondholders will settle, according to the report. The country’s goal is to have a new program before the end of the first quarter of 2021, giving it time to renegotiate a $2-billion payment owed to the Paris Club, a group of 22 creditors, that matures in May.

Brazil’s top four listed lenders are giving months-long extensions for consumers and companies to repay 235 billion reais ($43.98 billion) in outstanding loans, a move to give financially squeezed borrowers breathing room, according to Reuters. The loans subject to forbearance programs, which range from 13% of Banco Santander Brasil SA’s portfolio to 10% of Itau Unibanco Holding SA’s, are an indicator of potential defaults. It was unclear how many borrowers, squeezed during the coronavirus crisis, will be able to pay their debts once the grace periods end. The extensions, granted between March and June, vary from 60 to 180 days.

The Andean development bank CAF has approved a $350 million loan to Colombia to help the country face the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The country recorded a 12,000 increase in Covid-19 cases on Thursday, a new record, bringing the number of infections to more than 357,710, according to the Health Ministry. The death toll from the virus is currently 11,939. The country’s capital Bogotá remains the worst affected region, with 123,875 confirmed cases, followed by the departments of Atlántico and Valle de Cauca.

Chilean scientists have created a low-cost Covid-19 test and which is being made available patent-free to the world. The test is low-cost both in its production and processing, using already existing instruments used in laboratories, according to local media. The test gathers mucous membranes via a nasal probe, and could be applied to 2,400 persons daily, costing around one US dollar each, and has a 93% rate of effectiveness, with results available in a matter of seconds, according to the report. The test method was developed by the University of Talca, located some 250km south of the capital Santiago.

Ecuador’s prosecutor office has prohibited former President Abdalá Bucaram Ortíz from leaving the country, and who is accused of possessing and trafficking goods that are part of the country’s cultural heritage. Bucaram served as president from 1996-7. His son, Jacobo Bucaram Pulley, has also been arrested on the same charges, after items were found in his home, as well as in that of his father, during a police operation carried out in June, according to local media reports. The police also found arms in the former president’s home, according to the reports.

Mexico’s inflation was 3.62% in July, and which translated in increases in gasoline and food prices, according to the country’s statistics agency INEGI. The country’s consumer price index was 0.66%, the sharpest drop since 1999. Although the monthly inflation figure was an increase over the year-to-date average, is remains within the anual target margin, which is is 3% with a 1% margin of error, according to the central bank. The inflation rate for goods and services was 1.48%, while for energy the increase was 3.9%, according to INEGI.

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