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Quality of Life: Montevideo Best

Montevideo remains Latin America's best city for quality of life, but Santiago is best in infrastructure.


Uruguay’s capital Montevideo remains the best city for quality of life for foreign executives, while Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince is the worst, according to the latest survey from Mercer. The survey looks at ten key factors, including political and social environment, economic environment, health and sanitation and schools and education. Other leading cities in Latin America include Buenos Aires, Santiago, Panama City and Monterrey. Apart from Port-au-Prince, the worst cities for quality of life are Havana, San Pedro Sula, Managua and San Salvador. Mercer has also developed a city infrastructure index, which measures best infrastructure based on electricity supply, water availability, telephone and mail services, public transport provision, traffic congestion and the range of international flights from local airports. Santiago tops the Latin America ranking, followed by Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Port-au-Prince again ranks last, followed by Havana and Managua, Mercer reports.

Investors are bullish on Panama after businessman Ricardo Martinelli was elected president on Sunday. The result was expected, but still was welcome news after recent elections in Ecuador and El Salvador re-elected or elected leftist candidates. "Although this news was not a market mover, we view the results in a very positive light for the continued positive trajectory in the Panamanian economy," Kathryn Rooney, senior emerging markets macroeconomic strategist at Bulltick Capital Markets said in a commentary Monday. "Martinelli, in our view, will prove to be a very market-friendly president and has declared his intentions to encourage further FDI, the passage of the FTA with the US, improved relations with the US, maintain fiscal account health, and decrease the tax rates." Martinelli, who has signaled that he favors a flat tax, is the owner of the Super 99 supermarket chain and is a member of the boards of various local banks and companies. Martinelli is scheduled to assume the presidency in July, succeeding Martin Torrijos, who has received widespread praise from foreign investors.

The Martinelli victory comes a week after Ecuador's angry and investor-hostile president Rafael Correa won re-election. While he's signaled that he wants to speed up radical policies, some observers believe he will be restricted by the low oil prices.  "We think Correa will use this new term to consolidate his power, but not in as extreme a fashion as Chavez took his mandate and ran with it as he has fewer resources with which to work," Rooney said last week.. "It will be more difficult to fund many of Correa's intended social programs with oil having fallen some 65 percent since last year, but we expect this spending to continue." Before even winning this mandate, Correa has selectively defaulted on debt deeming it illegal, changed the constitution, cut down on private investment in the country, she added.

A Los Angeles judge recently tossed out a Nicaragua-related lawsuit against Dole after finding fraud by the plaintiffs. Judge Victoria Chaney agreed with Dole that lawyers for former Dole banana workers in Nicaragua had fabricated evidence of DBCP pesticide poisoning in order to obtain millions of dollars in damages.

The case is eerily similar to one against Chevron alleging that Ecuadorians had become sick with cancer. That case was also thrown out in August 2007 by a California court. Judge William Alsup threw out a lawsuit after finding that the plaintiffs fabricated their claims that they or their relatives had cancer caused by the former operations of a Chevron subsidiary, Texaco Petroleum Company, in Ecuador.

Chevron still has to worry about another lawsuit – in Ecuador – that also claims that victims contracted cancer. A court-appointed “expert,” Richard Cabrera has asked Chevron to pay $9 billion in damages associated with “excess cancer deaths” as part of a larger $27 billion lawsuit by alleged victims in Ecuador.  However, Chevron says that he has failed to identify a single victim, or any corroborating documentation such as a death certificate or a medical diagnosis. “Cabrera … says another $9 billion should compensate for cancer deaths, even though the lawsuit doesn't make any cancer claims,” CBS 60 Minutes said Sunday.

The report on 60 Minutes didn’t exactly thrill Chevron executives, though. “The images from the program are of Petroecuador operations and areas for which Petroecuador has admitted sole responsibility,” says Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson, referring to Ecuador’s state-run oil company. “The segment virtually ignores the fact that Texaco Petroleum has not operated in Ecuador for close to two decades, and in the time since Texaco Petroleum left Ecuador, … Petroecuador, has run the oil fields with disregard for the environment. Moreover, Petroecuador has repeatedly stated that it is solely responsible for the remaining clean-up work that is required.”

Chevron left Ecuador in 1990 after having jointly operated with Petroecuador since 1960. Although it conducted a $40 million remediation and received a release form future liability from the Ecuadorian government in 1998, the current lawsuit counts on the public support of president Correa. “Ecuador’s president has pledged the full support of the government to the plaintiffs, he has stated that his government will help the plaintiffs collect evidence against Chevron, and he has publicly proclaimed Chevron guilty,” Robertson says. “In Ecuador, where the independence of the judiciary has been significantly eroded, such statements have a chilling effect on a trial.”

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