MEXICO CITY – For a glimpse of the average American’s understanding of the relationship between the United States and Mexico, one only has to watch the critically acclaimed television series Breaking Bad. Set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a few hundred miles from the border, the series chronicles the rise and fall of Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who becomes a methamphetamine tycoon.
Last month, Jorge Botti, the head of Fedecámaras, Venezuela's business federation, explained that unless the government supplies more dollars to pay for imports, shortages -- from food to medicine -- would be inevitable. "What we will give Fedecámaras is not more dollars but more headaches," replied acting president Nicolas Maduro, the heir apparent to the Chavista regime (and Hugo Chávez's vice president).
On the heels of the U.S. Federal Reserve's announcement last month that it would launch a new round of quantitative easing--so-called QE3--by purchasing an additional $40 billion in mortgage bonds per month, Brazil accused the Fed of inciting a global "currency war" by adopting "protectionist" policies. Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega suggested that an expansionary U.S. monetary policy would trigger volatile capital inflows into emerging markets like Brazil, causing currencies to appreciate and damaging trade. Mantega is "correct by saying that in the short run QE3 leads to pressures for the appreciation of currencies across the emerging markets space, which is stronger than the benefits that these countries are going to get from stronger U.S. growth," says Bernardo Wjuniski, a visiting professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation and a senior analyst for Latin America at Medley Global Advisors. However, Wjuniski says, Mantega is "definitely exaggerating the impact that not only QE3 has on the Brazilian currency, but also the impact that the Brazilian currency has on the local manufacturing sector and on local growth."
DRUGS, extortion, kidnapping, people-smuggling: Mexico’s organised-crime multinationals have a keen eye for diversification. A growing sideline is stolen oil. In 2011 outlaws made off with 3.35m barrels of fuel belonging to Pemex, the state-run oil monopoly, up from 2.16m in 2010. The thefts are reckoned to deprive the company of more than $1 billion per year. Pemex’s profits pay for a third of the federal government’s budget.
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