Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Monday Memo: U.S.-Colombia Talks—Guatemala Protests—Buenos Aires Primaries—Puerto Rico Downgrade—Texas Delegation in Cuba

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This week’s likely top stories: U.S.-Colombia Fifth Annual Bilateral Meeting; Protesters denounce corruption in Guatemala; Primaries for local elections held in Buenos Aires; S&P downgrades Puerto Rico; and Texas trade delegation visits Havana.

High-level Colombia-U.S. Talks on Mutual Cooperation: The U.S. and Colombia will hold high-level bilateral talks today in Bogotá, Colombia at the office of the Ministry of Foreign Relations. In the fifth annual bilateral meeting of its kind, discussions will be led by Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs María Ángela Holguín and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken. Agenda items include security, the environment, energy, education, trade and human rights. Alongside the meeting, over 100 officials from both countries will convene for a session of the steering committee of the U.S-Colombia Action Plan for Racial and Ethnic Equality, in which they will discuss democracy, culture and economic opportunities including innovation, academic exchange and immigration.

Protesters Demand Resignation of Guatemalan President: On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters met in Guatemala City to denounce the government and demand the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti after a corruption scandal surfaced last week. An investigation into the “La Linea” case has implicated various officials from the Guatemalan Superintendencia de Administración Tributaria (Superintendency of Tax Administration—SAT) for accepting bribes for reduced customs costs. The alleged leader of the corruption scheme is Juan Carlos Monzón Rojas, a former aide to Baldetti. Demonstrators claim that President Molina and Vice President Baldetti were aware of the corruption. More demonstrations are planned for coming days.

Primary Elections Held in Buenos Aires: On Sunday, the primary for the upcoming local government elections was held in Buenos Aires. This election marks the first time that porteños can vote to select the primary candidates following a 2009 electoral reform.  According to exit polls, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta was nominated for the Propuesta Republicana (Republican Proposal—PRO) party, Mariano Recalde for the Frente Para la Victoria (Front for Victory—FPV) party, and Martin Lousteau was nominated to lead the Energía Ciudadana Organizada (Organized Citizen’s Energy Coalition—ECO). Citizens will vote for the mayor of Buenos Aires in July 2015.

S&P Further Downgrades Puerto RicoStandard & Poor’s credit agency downgraded Puerto Rico’s general obligation debt from “B” to “CCC+” late on Friday and confirmed the downgrade on Monday. The agency cited decreased market access and a lack of agreement on the 2016 budget as reasons for the change. Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis is becoming more severe as the government looks for a way to reduce its public debt, currently at $73 billion. Just over two months ago, S&P downgraded Puerto Rico’s rating to “B.” The agency stated this weekend that “the commonwealth’s market access prospects have further weakened and Puerto Rico’s ability to meet its financial commitments is increasingly tied to the business, financial, and economic conditions on the island.”

Texas Delegation Heads to Cuba: The first Texan delegation to visit Cuba after the U.S. and Cuba announced renewed ties last December arrived in Havana on Sunday. While trade can only resume with congressional approval for removal of the embargo, many states are working to lay the foundation for future trade and Texas is no exception. Delegation leader and president of consulting firm Tri Dimension Strategies Cynthia Thomas noted that several state industries have the capacity for and interest in trade with Cuba, including oil, tourism, agriculture and tech.

Tags: Maria Ángela Holguín, President Otto Pérez Molina, Roxana Baldetti, Standard & Poor's
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