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UN sets principles for new debt framework

Source: Buenos Aires Herald

The establishment of a new legal framework for sovereign debt restructuring is now a step closer to becoming a reality as the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on Sovereign Debt Restructuring Processes approved yesterday a set of principles that seek to limit the actions of “vulture” funds worldwide.

After six months of meetings and summits, the UN committee agreed on nine principles that sum up the main points to be included in the framework. The points agreed upon by the body are:

- The sovereign right of states to restructure their debts.
- Sovereign immunity.
- Respect for majority decision in restructuring processes.
- Equal treatment.
- Good faith.
- Transparency.
- Impartiality.
- Legitimacy.
- Sustainability.

The document will now be put to a vote in the General Assembly in September.

“Many countries still did not attend the committee meetings, but then called to ask for the records. They care about the issue but they don’t want to discuss it,” the Argentine Foreign Ministry’s International Economic Relations Secretary Carlos Bianco said after the meeting. “We believe the best solution can be reached at the UN but that doesn’t mean we reject other alternatives. Even the IMF said there’s a loophole regarding the vultures.”

Sovereign immunity from jurisdiction and execution regarding sovereign debt restructurings is a right of states before foreign domestic courts and exceptions should be restrictively interpreted, according to the committee. Argentina has long argued that stance during its legal battle with holdout creditors and in response to the United States District Judge Thomas Griesa’s rulings.

According to the principles that were signed off on yesterday by the Ad hoc committee, sovereigns also have the right to design their macroeconomic policy, including restructuring its sovereign debt. That principle extends to restructurings, which should not be frustrated or impeded by any abusive measures, and that should take place as a last resort for the country. At the same time, there must be “good faith” by the country and by all its creditors to engage in “constructive” debt restructuring negotiations, according to the committee, with the goal of a “prompt and durable reestablishment of debt sustainability and debt servicing” as well as achieving the support of a critical mass of creditors through a constructive dialogue regarding the restructuring terms.

“The current international debt restructuring system suffers from problems of fragmentation, inefficiencies and protracted negotiations, which lead to a lack of growth oriented solutions to the debt problems of developing countries and challenges to developed countries,” the committee concluded. “The activities of non-cooperative litigating creditors continue to add to the uncertainty of post-debt restructuring outcomes.”

Read more: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/195111/un-sets-principles-for-new-debt-framework

The only real problem: vulture funds make their money by cashing in on Credit Default Swaps - which, as the name implies, only pay out if the targeted bond issuer is pushed into default, be it by hook or crook (or a bribed judge).

Mind you, this scam isn't limited to far-away countries; CDS can -and have- be used against corporate bonds right here in the U.S. (Delphi Automotive and Caesar's Entertainment went under this way). It's only a matter of time until vulture fund pirates like GOP-megadonor Paul Singer (the chief litigant in the Argentine case) use the Griesa rulings as precedent to go after municipal bonds - and ultimately U.S. bonds.

From his Cayman Islands perch, of course.

Argentina wins dispute with U.S. over beef

WTO rules in favour of Argentina, saying Washington violated trade rules with ban.

A dispute resolution panel with the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in favour of Argentina yesterday in a lawsuit filed against the United States more than 12 years ago due to a decision to ban Argentine beef imports. The ban led Argentina to lose about US$2 billion in potential exports, according to government estimates.

The report comes less than one month after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced changes to import rules regarding imports of fresh (chilled or frozen) beef from Argentina and Brazil, authorizing imports from both countries before the WTO ruling.

The WTO panel found, among other things, that the ban applied against Argentina had no “scientific excuse” as it’s not based on a risk analysis. When initially applied in 2001 during an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the country, the ban was in line with international standards; that changed when the outbreak was overcome in 2007, according to the WTO ruling. Additionally, the US arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminated between WTO members by allowing imports of fresh beef from Uruguay while prohibiting imports of the same product from Argentina.

“The panel widely agreed with the claims of Argentina, concluding that the sanitary measures applied by the US are incompatible with international trade rules,” the Foreign Ministry said in a press release. “They acknowledged that those measures aren’t based on a risk analysis, discriminate among countries with similar characteristics and are restrictive.”

The resolution was widely expected and the US stance on fresh beef produced in Argentina has changed since the complaint was filed in 2012. In August 2014, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced its intention to add Patagonia to a list of countries deemed free of FMD and rinderpest. And in June this year, USDA announced rule changes that would allow imports of fresh beef from Argentina. Once the rules go into effect, the US will allow imports from Argentina.

“This triumph of Argentina at the WTO will eliminate the access barriers to the United States. The decision will have a positive effect on other WTO members that have unjustified bans on Argentine beef such as Canada, Korea and Japan,” the Foreign Ministry said. “We expect the new US sanitary regulations to be implemented in September this year.”

Once the market is officially open, Argentina will be capable of exporting US$280 million of beef to the United States per year, according to estimates from the Economy Ministry. Argentina lost US$1.6 billion of beef exports to the U.S. over the last eight years, besides the US$432 million that could have been exported to Canada and Mexico as partners in NAFTA.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/194795/country-wins-dispute-with-us-over-beef

While beef itself has only a minor share of Argentina's exports and overall economy (around 1% in each), it remains a fairly symbolic product due to the importance of beef in the Argentine diet (beef today makes up only half of all meat intake in Argentina; but at 132 lbs. per person annually, it's still consumed more than anywhere else in the world).

It's good to see the subsidy-dependent (and politically medieval) U.S. beef lobby feel the bite of free trade, as the right always expects others to. It's even better to know that U.S. consumers may soon be able to enjoy Argentine beef right here at home - the way free trade, at its best, intended.

The Growing Middle Class in South America and Mexico

From a new Pew Research Center report titled A Global Middle Class Is More Promise than Reality (pp. 36-7):

In South America, booming commodity prices and income redistribution policies helped spur the growth of populations that are middle income and upper-middle income. Some countries, such as Argentina and Chile, transformed from being majority low income or poor in 2001 to being majority middle income or better in 2011. Brazil ended the decade close to this tipping point. Mexico kept pace with its neighbors to the south, joining the ranks of countries in which about a quarter (26%) of the population is middle income.

The 10 countries from South America included in this study represent nearly 100% of the region’s population. These countries and Mexico realized noticeable growth in their populations that are middle income and upper-middle income. In 2001, the middle-income share of the population was 20% or higher in only four countries. By 2011, this was true in Mexico and in nine of the 10 countries in South America.

The most notable growth in the middle-income population was in Argentina, where the share more than doubled from 15% in 2001 to 32% in 2011. Sizable growth also occurred in Ecuador (up from 8% to 21%), Colombia (11% to 21%), Peru (14% to 25%), Brazil (18% to 28%), and Venezuela (20% to 30%). The share in Mexico increased from 17% to 26% during the first decade of the 21st century. Similarly, the share of the populations that are upper-middle income climbed into the double digits in 10 of the 11 countries by 2011, compared with four countries in 2001. Argentina again led the way: those who are upper-middle income constituted 7% of the population in 2001 and 24% in 2011. Significant changes also took place in Uruguay, where the share increased from 20% to 30%, and in Chile where the share rose from 15% to 23%.

Collectively, the 11 Latin American countries highlighted in this section added 63 million people to the global middle income population from 2001 to 2011, accounting for 16% of the global increase. They also added 36 million to the global population of those who are upper-middle income, which amounted to 20% of the increase worldwide. Somewhat ironically, the share of these countries in the global middle-income population fell from 19% in 2001 to 18% in 2011, a side effect of China’s dominance in the global trend. But their global share of those who are upper-middle income did increase, rising from 9% to 13% over the course of the century’s first decade (Note: Latin America represents 9% of the world's population).

The countries in South America and Mexico are still some distance from having fully acquired middle-income status, however. Nearly two-thirds or more of the populations in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru was poor or low income in 2011. And, generally speaking, South American countries are not yet in the same place as Eastern Europe with respect to developing middle-income or more well-to-do populations.

Report: http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2015/07/Global-Middle-Class-Report_FINAL_7-8-15.pdf

Right wins Buenos Aires mayoral election by narrow margin

Source: Fox News Latino

The Buenos Aires mayoral candidate for the conservative Republican Proposal (PRO), Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, eked out a victory in the election runoff on Sunday by less than 3 percentage points, according to the official vote count.

With 91.17% of the precincts reporting, Rodríguez Larreta, who has headed the capital government's cabinet since late 2007, garnered 51.37% of the votes, to the 48.63% captured by Martín Lousteau, the candidate of the center-left ECO party.

According to the official figures, turnout was 69.57%, and 5.08% of the deposited ballots were blank.

In the first electoral round, held on July 5, Rodríguez Larreta had garnered a plurality of 44.7%; but 50% was needed to avoid a runoff.

Lousteau - who had served as economy minister in 2007-08 during President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's first term, although he is now an opponent of the administration - had received 25% of the votes in the first round.

Some 2.5 million people were registered to vote in the Argentine capital, making it the country's fourth-largest electoral district.

Read more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2015/07/19/right-wins-buenos-aires-mayoral-election-by-narrow-margin/

The closest thing in Argentina to the GOP, Rodríguez Larreta's PRO was once again able to capitalize on many Buenos Aires voters' hatred for brown-skinned immigrants - though less so than his predecessor Macri, since he appears to have squeaked by with a 3% difference over the centrist Lousteau.

This, of course, assuming there was no foul play with Macri's new e-voting machines (http://www.democraticunderground.com/110841993).

Lousteau won in 9 out of 15 districts; but large margins in the upscale 2nd, 13th, and 14th districts clinched a win for Rodríguez Larreta.

Rodríguez Larreta will inherit a difficult legacy from the CIA-supported Macri (a presidential hopeful and his current boss). These include:

* A 5-fold jump in the city's formerly low debt levels (from $500 million in 2007 to $2.5 billion today)
* Record property taxes (10-fold jump since 2007, more than doubling in real terms) and fares
* Runaway spending on padded contracts for privatized services ($500 million a year, with costs typically three times what other government bodies pay for similar items or services)
* Misallocation rates of 60% on budgets for public health and 90% on public education (much of it going to padded contracts, private school subsidies, and city advertising)
* Record number of potholes despite Macri's "zero pothole" promise (doubling from 20,000 in 2007 to 40,000 today)
* And worst of all a record number of residents in shantytowns (spending on public housing -a municipal responsibility- has virtually stopped since 2007).

Torture survivors of Chad's ex-dictator Hissene Habré hope for justice as trial begins

Source: Fox News

The bodies came daily. Sometimes 10, sometimes 20 lives lost to torture, malnutrition or sickness in prison in Chad, say survivors. Clement Abaifouta, a prisoner himself, had to wrap them in sacks and bury them.

Abaifouta wants justice, like thousands of other political prisoners who were victims of torture during Chadian ex-dictator Hissene Habré's rule from 1982-1990. On Monday Habré will go on trial in Senegal, fulfilling the work of many who say they suffered abuse under his rule and setting a bold precedent for justice in Africa.

For more than a decade after his overthrow Habré lived freely in Senegal. His easy exile was a symbol of impunity in Africa until his he was taken into custody and charged in 2013. Now his trial is a warning to other African dictators that they may be held accountable in Africa for their actions, say human rights experts.

Habré will be tried by the Senegalese courts' Extraordinary African Chambers. It is the first trial in Africa of a universal jurisdiction case, in which a country's national courts can prosecute the most serious crimes committed abroad, by a foreigner and against foreign victims, said Human Rights Watch. It is also the first time the courts of one country are prosecuting the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes, it said.

"It shows that you can actually achieve justice here in Africa," said Human Rights Watch counsel Reed Brody who has been working on the case against Habré since 1999.

Habré's government was responsible for an estimated 40,000 deaths, according to report published in May 1992 by a 10-member Chadian truth commission formed by Chad's current President Idriss Deby. The commission particularly blamed Habré's political police force, the Directorate of Documentation and Security, saying it used torture methods including whipping, beating, burning and the extraction of fingernails.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/07/18/torture-survivors-chad-ex-dictator-hissene-habre-hope-for-justice-as-trial/

It's worth noting as well that Habré was installed by the Reagan administration, and arguably remained his favorite African dictator throughout the rest of his presidency - so much so that Human Rights Watch referred to the brutal and larcenous Habré as "Africa's Pinochet."

World Bank: Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay the countries with lowest poverty rates in Latin America

Info News
July 15, 2015

According to the agency Argentina has 10.8% income poverty, and that puts it in third place in Latin America.

The IADB (a unit of the World Bank) noted that Argentina, Chile and Uruguay are the Latin American countries with fewer poor and destitute, according to the social metrics the IDB published on its official website. Poverty in Argentina was measured at 10.8% and extreme poverty, 4.2%.

To reach these conclusions, information generated by the National Institute of Statistics and Census (Indec) was not taken into account; but was instead computed by the World Bank, which compared the purchasing power parity (of the dollar) in each country. Thus, for Argentina IADB recorded 10.8% poverty, ranking among the three countries in the region with the lowest indicators of this type, behind Uruguay, with 7.1%, and Chile with 7.5%.

The Bank takes as its poverty threshold spending per capita of below 4 dollars a day, i.e. 120 dollars per person a month.

According to the Bank's analysis Brazil recorded 20.4% poor and 10.8% indigent; Paraguay, 20.5% and 8.1%; Peru, 20.7% and 8.8%; Ecuador, 22.9% and 8.8%; Bolivia, 26.6% and 14.8%; Venezuela, 29.4% and 13.4%; and Colombia, 30.8% and 15.3%.

Income distribution by region

The Bank also compared this data with figures for 2013, through the Gini coefficient, where 0 indicates greater equality and 1 being the highest inequality and established that Argentina, with 0.420, is the third most egalitarian country in the region behind Venezuela, with 0.398; and Uruguay, with 0.384.

In this category Chile, with 0.531, was among the three most unequal countries in the region, behind only Colombia, with 0.539; and Honduras, with 0.553. In the same indicator, Brazil has a coefficient of 0.527; Ecuador, 0.485; Paraguay, 0.478; and Peru, 0.447.

At: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.infonews.com/nota/234186/para-el-banco-mundial-argentina-esta-entre-los-paises-con-menor-pobreza&prev=search

The data: http://www.iadb.org/en/research-and-data//poverty,7526.html

US gymnast shares secret: drinking yerba mate

US gymnast Sam Mikulak won his second gold medal in the Pan American Games yesterday, and he’s almost certain to be in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics a year from now contending for a medal.

Not bad for starters. But he says his real passion, the secret behind his growing fame, lies with a herbal tea called “mate” (pronounced mah-tay), which is ever-present in Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil. Pope Francis is often seen drinking it, and Albert Einstein was reportedly a big fan of the beverage. “If I ever go there to the Vatican, I’ll know he (Pope Francis) drinks it,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak, who won gold medals in the team and overall competition, came close to Olympic medals three years ago in London — placing fifth in both the vault and team competition. He credits much of his success to drinking the infusion, whose complete name is “yerba mate.” The tea-like drink is traditionally brewed in a hollowed-out, dried gourd and sipped from the gourd through a metal straw, known in Spanish as a “bombilla.”

It’s ordinary to see people in Argentina or Uruguay walking the streets with a thermos of hot water and the gourd, prepared to brew the infusion almost anywhere. You can even see motorcyclists lugging around a thermos, tucked under an arm or hanging from a shoulder strap.

“I think it helps your mind and brain mellow and focus a bit more than normal,” Mikulak explained. “That’s why I drink it as an athlete.”

Mikulak said he was introduced to it by chance by friends in high school in southern California.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/193889/us-gymnast-shares-secret-drinking-mate-

Argentine Supreme Court recognizes the right of every patient to a dignified death.

Source: Télam

The Supreme Court of Argentina ensured that a patient's will be respected so that measures that have artificially prolonged his life 20 years can be suspended - a "unique case" in national law, judicial sources emphasized.

Regarding the implementation of the resolution, the Court stressed the importance that, in enforcing the patient's will and proceeding in the withdrawal of life support, "all the precautions necessary for adequate control and relief of the patient's suffering shall be adopted."

The Court confirmed the decision of the Superior Court of the Province of Neuquén, in the application filed by the sister of the patient. As a result of a car accident, the patient has been bedridden since 1995, with a serious and severe frontal lobe lesions in the temporal and occipital lobes. To resolve the issue, the Court commissioned studies to the Favaloro Foundation (Buenos Aires), which corroborated the "irreversible" and "incurable" condition of the patient.

"It is indisputable that the patient is a person in the sense that their fundamental rights must be protected without discrimination and, therefore, has the right to full self-determination to decide to both receive the necessary services as well as to cease medical treatment," said the Court.

"No other branch of government, institution, or person other than the patient can decide whether his life as it is today, is worth living," the Court added.

The court, however, clarified that this is not a case of euthanasia.

"In cases of euthanasia one must act to disrupt life, whereas in this case there is therapeutic abstention," said the Court. With its characteristics, this is "a unique case" in national jurisprudence and with but a single precedent worldwide, "Lambert vs. France."

Read more: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.telam.com.ar/notas/201507/111840-corte-suprema-muerte-digna.html&prev=search

Researcher Who Reported E-voting Vulnerability Targeted by Police Raid in Argentina

Trend Inside
July 4, 2015

Police have raided the home of an Argentine security professional (Joaquín Sorianello) who discovered and reported several vulnerabilities in the electronic ballot system to be used Sunday for elections in the City of Buenos Aires.

The vulnerabilities (exposed SSL keys and ways to forge ballots with multiple votes) had been reported to the manufacturer of the voting machines ("Magic Software Argentina", the media, and the public about a week ago. There has been no arrest; but his computers and electronic devices have been impounded.

Meanwhile, the information security community in Argentina is trying to get the media to report this notorious attempt to "kill the messenger."

At: http://www.trendinside.com/researcher-who-reported-e-voting-vulnerability-targeted-by-police-raid-in-argentina/

Please note that these black box voting machines are being used by the City of Buenos Aires - not the Argentine government. It's worth noting as well that the right-wing Mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, is the darling of the Wall Street and neocon press here in the U.S., and employs a dirty tricks adviser (Jaime Durán Barba) who previously did work for the CIA in Ecuador, Paraguay, and elsewhere in the region.
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