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Latin GDP Outlook, Internet and More

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GDP forecasts revised down, record Internet usage, Juan Valdez, economic and political freedom and more.

BY CHRONICLE STAFF

Latin America GDP Revised Down

Latin America's economies will grow by 1.1 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund predicts. That's lower than the 2.5 percent the fund had originally predicted in November. Brazil's economy should expand by 1.8 percent, while Mexico's will likely fall by 0.3 percent, the fund said in a statement today. Previously, the IMF had predicted Brazil's economy would increase by 3.0 percent this year, while that of Mexico would grow by 0.9 percent. The Mexico forecast is actually more optimistic than the country's own predictions, acknowledged by central bank governor Guillermo Ortiz yesterday. The central bank forecasts a GDP decline of 0.8 percent to 1.8 percent this year. Meanwhile, JP Morgan is even more pessimistic on Latin America. It forecasts Latin America will see a 0.3 percent decline, with all major economies except Peru and Colombia suffering from recession. Peru's economy will likely grow by 4.0 percent, JP Morgan's chief Latin America economist Luis Oganes told CNN en Espanol.

Latino Focus on Argentina Debt

The Latino Coalition (TLC) has joined the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), an alliance of organizations promoting a settled solution with outstanding debtors. Argentina announced it would default on its foreign debt in 2001 and renegotiated terms with 76.2 percent of debt holders in 2005 at a loss to bondholders, taxpayers, and investors worldwide of an estimated $155 billion, according to the ATFA. “All Americans are affected by Argentina's debt default, but the Latino community is directly impacted because of the significant progress we've made in business and government," The Latino Coalition Executive Director Allen Gutierrez said in a statement today. "Our partnership with ATFA will assist us in our mission to achieve full economic and social potential for our members in the United States and champion policies in the best interest of the Latino community."

75 Million Internet Users

The number of Internet users in Latin America now stands at almost 75 million, according to ComScore. The firm reports that the number of unique visitors on the Internet reached 74.9 million in December. That excludes traffic from public computers such as Internet cafes or access from mobile phones or PDAs. Brazil is the ninth-largest Internet market in the worldwide, with 27.7 million users, while Mexico ranks 14th, with 12.5 million users. That means that Brazil ranks ahead of such countries as South Korea, Canada, Italy and Spain, while Mexico ranks ahead of The Netherlands. In Brazil, some 31 percent of households now have a computer, according to an Ipsos poll on behalf of Intel.  The country is expected to become the third-largest PC market worldwide in 2010.

Reduced Fortune

Mexican mogul Carlos Slim, Latin America’s wealthiest man, saw his fortune reduced fortune by 38 percent between November 2007 and November last year, CNNExpansion reports. However, he gained $930 million thanks to various investments, which totaled $321 million.

Juan Valdez Expands

Colombian coffee chain Juan Valdez now boasts 170 outlets worldwide and plans to have a total of 300 in 2010, according to Colombian newspaper Portafolio. This year, plans call for opening an outlet in Sweden. Last year the chain opened 70 outlets.  Meanwhile, its finances are improving, with growth in revenues and reduced losses.

Economic Freedom: Chile Best, Cuba Worst

Chile is still the Latin American champion when it comes to economic freedom, according to the 2009 Index of Economic Freedom from the Heritage Foundation. Chile’s economy is freer than those of countries like the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Finland. Meanwhile, Cuba remains the most repressed economy in Latin America and the third-worst worldwide (only Zimbabwe and North Korea are worse). Costa Rica improved its score more than any other country in Latin America and replaced Panama as the region’s fourth-freest economy. Venezuela’s score declined most, according to the Heritage Foundation.

Political Freedom: Chile Best, Cuba Worst

Perhaps it’s no coincidence, but when it comes to political freedom, Chile and Cuba are again the regional opposites.  Chile gets a perfect score of 1 in political and civil rights, while Cuba gets a dismal  7 and 6 points in the 2009 Freedom in the World survey from Freedom House.

Dominican TV Spot Wins US Award

A campaign a for Dominican president Leonel Fernandez won the 2008 Reed award for best international television advertising spot category. The award, which is presented annually by Campaigns & Elections magazine in the United States, went to the consulting firm Newlink Political. The political ad Votante won for its excellence and effectiveness and was designed by Nandy Rivas based on Newlink Political’s strategy for Fernandez’s re-election campaign last year.
The political ad begins with a voter who arrives at a voting booth and is about to cast his vote for a specific party, when suddenly, he recalls all the bad times that political party brought to the country.  As a result, this causes the voter to change his vote in favor of Fernandez.  The creativity and simplicity of this advertisement, as well as its ingenious and memorable execution, were the key elements that made the ad worthy of such an award. Another Dominican campaign spot developed by Rivas and Newlink, Enfermo, was among the top three finalists for its category. “We are proud to have received an award that recognizes the political effectiveness that can be achieved through the combination of good research, a better strategy and excellent journalistic creativity like that of Nandy Rivas,” Eduardo Gamarra, Managing Partner of Newlink Political and one of Fernandez’s advisors, said in a statement.

Florida Bar Deal With Dominican Bar

Meanwhile, the Florida Bar International Law Section (ILS) recently signed a partnership with the Dominican Republic Bar aimed at exchanging information and services. “The Dominican Bar  partnership will certainly prove valuable to lawyers in both Florida and the Dominican Republic in educational exchanges, local counsel referrals and other areas of practice extending the reach and capabilities of Florida international law practitioners,” the ILS said in a statement.  The agreement was signed by Jose Fernando Perez Volquez, president of the Colegio de Abogados de la Republica Dominicana and ILS Chair J. Brock McClane of Orlando-based McClane Tessitore.

Crisis No Obstacle

The economic crisis in Mexico won't stand in the way of purchases for Valentine's Day, according to a new Ipsos survey on behalf of PayPal. In fact, Mexicans beat out plans by people surveyed in other countries such as  the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy and the Netherlands. About 80 percent of Mexican couples and 71 percent of Mexican singles said they are planning to give a gift this Valentine's Day, the highest percentage out of all regions surveyed. In the United States, by comparison, 71 percent of couples and 47 percent of singles said they would do the same. “Even during these tough economic times, consumers are showing that love truly has no bounds—not even economic,” Adolfo Babatz, business manager for PayPal Mexico, said in a statement.
 

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