Trumpismo and the commodities wobble

The pundits would have done well to visit my dentist in Chile before they misread the jolting outcome of the US election. Outside of Mexico, Latin America’s traditional elites love Donald Trump. And so apparently do many of their voting relations in the US.

From the dentist chair yesterday, all I could see were his eyes twinkling from above his mask while he sought to reassure me about a Trump presidency. In muffled breath, he decried unbridled immigration and glowingly alluded to how Augusto Pinochet saved Chile from the ravages of the left — a common narrative here, and not just among elites.

From this local perspective, Trump is a savior. A bulwark against rampant crime and socially liberal policies that deeply offend conservative Latins. And finally someone with cojones to stand up to Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela! Trump’s promise of law and order, machismo, laissez faire economic policies — it doesn’t get better than that for the region’s business class. Never mind Mexico, it’s a nice place to spend a vacation.  Continue reading

Argentina: Back to unpredictable

A Supreme Court ruling in Argentina yesterday thrust that country back into unpredictable territory.

Ratifying a lower court decision, the justices ordered the government to repeal increases in natural gas rates for residential customers until it holds public hearings. The court said wellhead gas prices set by the government require hearings as well. The landmark ruling suggests electricity rate hikes will be subject to the same criteria.

President Mauricio Macri swept into office last December pledging to dismantle huge subsidies that blew out the fiscal deficit under his predecessor and nemesis Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Now he and his self-described technocrats are back to square one.  Continue reading