China is on the prowl to expand its influence and carve out new friendships. In Venezuela, where civil unrest erupted following food shortages and hyper inflation, Chinese citizens and business owners in Venezuela were being targeted by looters and protesters. They appealed to their government through the Chinese embassy and the government has instructed the Venezuelan regime to ascertain that no harm comes to Chinese citizens during the revolts.
In the Philippines, the Chinese government has reportedly gifted strongman Duterte $14 million in arms and boats – no strings attached – to help Duterte fight an virulent drug crisis in his country. In exchange, Duterte’s regime will pull back a case the country lanced against China at the Hague concerning China’s shenanigans in the South China sea.
Read more here.
Numerous reports from Brazil is that Greek Ambassador to Brazil, Kyriakos Amiridis, who was found dead in a burned out car in a sketchy area of Rio De Janeiro, was actually murdered by his wife’s younger lover. The wife is Brazilian, and according to Reuters, the lover confessed that they both planned to take out her husband so that they could be together. The Brazilian government is calling the murder a “crime of passion..”
You can’t make this stuff up:
For years Venezuelans have struggled with mounting shortages of food, medicine and other consumer goods, as well as triple-digit inflation that has rendered the national currency, the bolivar, worthless. By this month the 100-bolivar bill, the largest note in circulation, was worth only 2 cents, forcing people to carry piles of them in order to make the most rudimentary purchases. Then came this coup: On Dec. 11, President Nicolás Maduro, an economically illiterate former bus driver, announced that all 6 billion 100-bolivar notes would cease to be legal tender in just 72 hours. He also closed Venezuela’s borders with Colombia and Brazil, on the theory that traders were hoarding currency in those countries.
Almost overnight, millions of Venezuelans — about 40 percent of whom do not have bank accounts in which the currency could be deposited — lost the ability to purchase even those goods still available on the market. The result was predictable: looting and riots in at least eight cities.
Added to that, a recent Chicago Tribune article reveals that millions of people in the country are on the verge of starvation, literally and the government appointed military officials are literally trafficking food – the basics such a rice and cornmeal.
Meanwhile, where is President Nicolas Manduro? He is dancing the salsa on his TV/radio show!
Speaking of political bedfellows, in Argentina, a former president was indicted by using her position as president to award construction projects to a family friend. The judge in the case also ruled that well over half a million dollars of her personal assets should be seized.
Cristina Kirchner, the former president of Argentina, was indicted Tuesday by a federal judge over allegations of corruption tied to an infrastructure project. Kirchner is accused of using her position to award government-funded public works projects to a construction company owned by a close family associate. The judge’s order also seizes $640 million of Kirchner’s assets, and indicts the country’s former planning minister, the former public works secretary, and the man who owns the construction company that profited from the contracts. Kirchner has called the allegations politically motivated, and accused current President Mauricio Macri of concocting the plot against her. In an October court appearance, she said the accounts had all been approved by both parliament and the country’s auditor general.
Freshly minted and installed president of Peru is not afraid of Donald Trump. During his run for the presidency of Peru, the Princeton educated technocrat from the IMF and World Bank vowed to take on Trump and cut off relations if the Manhattan businessman failed to give Peru and Peruvians their due respect.
Recently in Lima, the Peruvian president gave an interview to the Washington Post. In the interview, when asked about what he would say to Donald Trump if and when the two men met, he said:
The first thing I am going to try to explain to him is that the U.S. is not in the dumps because of Mexico. There is hardly any Mexican immigration into the U.S. today. . . . I am going to tell him: “You are lucky you have Latin America. Sure, there are drugs and problems, that’s true. But you have to look on the positive side. We are less uncivilized than you think. We actually make a big contribution to the U.S. We don’t give you any real trouble. Latin immigration to the U.S. — sure, it should be done legally — makes a pretty positive contribution to the U.S. economy.” Also, if you look at the actual numbers, free-trade agreements have been pretty positive for the United States. How many car part plants in the Midwest depend on the Mexican market?
One of the things President elect Trump will have to think about is how he treats and approaches and talks about Central and South America which are America’s closest contiguous neighbors and which China is courting heavily with investments and bilateral trade deals. Just recently China sent its highest ranking diplomat to Mexico to schmooze and deal.
The Peruvian president admitted that Peru is indebted to China and that China is the biggest customer of Peru. When asked about the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement a trade deal from which China is expressly excluded) Mr Kuczynski said:
I don’t love TPP so much. China is our biggest customer. So how can we support something that excludes them? …. China is our biggest market. It is about 22 percent of Peruvian exports — mostly metals but also some sophisticated agricultural products. We have no issues with China the way others may have with [its claims in the South China Sea].
If Trump follows through on his campaign promise to mass deport latinos and build a wall, he could alienate America’s neighbors to the south and create a vacuum which China seems only too willing and eager to fill. It is not hard to imagine that this could prove problematic and not just from a trade perspective.