South America

A federal judge ordered that Venezuela’s stake in oil refiner Citgo Petroleum Corp. be put up for sale to satisfy creditors, calling the country’s nonpayment an affront while acknowledging that no auction can occur under current U.S. sanctions, the Wall Street Journal reported. Judge Leonard Stark of the U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del., said that Venezuela’s shares in Citgo’s parent company should be positioned for sale “to the extent possible.” No such sale can occur under rules promulgated by the Trump administration that restrict transfers of Venezuelan state property.

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In the 99 years since it was founded to pump the oil fields of Patagonia, Argentine energy driller YPF SA has been whipsawed by countless booms and busts. If global oil markets weren’t collapsing, it seemed, then Argentina was mired in a debt crisis that was wreaking havoc on the whole nation’s finances. Never, though, had the company been pushed into a large-scale default of any kind, Bloomberg News reported. Until, it would appear, now. Word of this came in an odd way: Officials at state-run YPF sent a press release laying out a plan to saddle creditors with losses in a debt exchange.

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The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is joining a fund managed by Banco BTG Pactual SA to make a binding offer for the fiber unit of Brazilian telecom carrier Oi SA, Bloomberg News reported. The bid is expected Jan. 22, along with two other binding offers. Highline do Brasil, part of Digital Colony, and Ufinet, which is backed by Italy’s Enel SpA, both plan to make bids for the business. Oi is planning to sell as much as 51% of its subsidiary, known as InfraCo, with a value for the whole company of at least 20 billion reais ($3.6 billion).
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Costa Rica built Latin America’s model society, enacting universal health care and spending its way to one of the Western Hemisphere’s highest literacy rates. Now, it’s reeling from the financially crushing side effects of the coronavirus, as cratering revenue and crisis spending force a reckoning over a massive pile of government debt, the Washington Post reported. The pandemic is hurtling heavily leveraged nations into an economic danger zone, threatening to bankrupt the worst-affected.

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Severe coronavirus restrictions around the world to contain surging infection rates weighed on fuel sales, weakening the prospect of energy demand recovery in the first half of 2021, Reuters reported. Most of Europe is now under the strictest restrictions, according to the Oxford stringency index, which assesses indicators such as travel bans and the closure of schools and workplaces. The United Kingdom’s new national lockdown is expected to last until mid-February at least.

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The European Union can no longer legally recognise Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate head of state after he lost his position as head of parliament, the bloc's 27 governments said on Wednesday, Reuters reported. Guaido is still seen by the United States and Britain as Venezuela's rightful leader following the disputed 2018 re-election of President Nicolas Maduro, and two EU diplomats stressed the EU still did not recognise Maduro as president.

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The Brazilian state of Minas Gerais is hoping to win at least 28 billion reais ($5.3 billion) from a compensation deal with miner Vale SA after the 2019 Brumadinho deadly dam burst, a senior state official said on Wednesday, Reuters reported. State and Vale officials will meet on Thursday, when it is expected talks on compensation will begin, ahead of a court-mediated hearing expected in January, said state secretary general Mateus Simões. “The idea is that we end the text discussion tomorrow and start the value discussion,” he told Reuters.

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Even before Covid-19, the World Bank had lowered its projections for global growth in the 10 years that began in 2020. The pandemic is exacerbating that trend, raising the prospect of a “lost decade” ahead, the World Bank said Tuesday, as it also cut its forecasts for the coming year, the Wall Street Journal reported. The bank’s semiannual Global Economic Prospects report attributes the long-term downgrade to lower trade and investment caused by uncertainty over the pandemic, along with disruptions in education that will hamper gains in labor productivity.
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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro installed a new National Assembly filled with regime loyalists, consolidating his power over key institutions in the crisis-torn nation despite mounting U.S. sanctions, Bloomberg News reported. Lawmakers on Tuesday elected former Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez as the new president of the legislative body.

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Shunned in global financial markets, Argentina is seeking about US$5 billion for next year from multilateral organisations other than the International Monetary Fund as it negotiates a larger refinancing programme with the Washington-based lender, according to three people familiar with the plans, the Buenos Aires Times reported. Alberto Fernández’s administration is looking to institutions including the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, said the people, who asked not to be named because discussions are private.

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