Skip to content

(Brexit) UK and Argentina on the same intelligent reinsertion to the global community

Wednesday, May 23rd 2018 - 06:16 UTC

“We should hail this moment, celebrate this moment of intelligent reinsertion”, Johnson told a crowd at a special event hosted by UK ambassador Mark Kent
“We should hail this moment, celebrate this moment of intelligent reinsertion”, Johnson told a crowd at a special event hosted by UK ambassador Mark Kent
The former Mayor of London had words of praise for his “esteemed former mayoral colleague Mauricio Macri”
The former Mayor of London had words of praise for his “esteemed former mayoral colleague Mauricio Macri”
Under president Macri Argentina had “engaged in what he (Macri) has called intelligent reinsertion into the global community”.
Under president Macri Argentina had “engaged in what he (Macri) has called intelligent reinsertion into the global community”.
“This is happening at the very moment when our country, the United Kingdom, is intelligently reinserting itself into the global community”, Johnson added.
“This is happening at the very moment when our country, the United Kingdom, is intelligently reinserting itself into the global community”, Johnson added.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson forecasted a “new, exciting phase” in Anglo-Argentine relations as he wrapped up his visit to Buenos Aires. Johnson visited Argentina to attend the G20 Foreign Ministers summit. His visit was the first by a British Foreign Secretary in over 20 years.

 “We should hail this moment, celebrate this moment of intelligent reinsertion”, Johnson told a crowd of politicians, business people and cultural leaders gathered for a special event hosted by British Ambassador to Argentina Mark Kent.

The former Mayor of London had words of praise for his “esteemed former mayoral colleague Mauricio Macri”, noting that under President Macri Argentina had “engaged in what he (Macri) has called intelligent reinsertion into the global community”.

“This is happening at the very moment when our country, the United Kingdom, is intelligently reinserting itself into the global community”, Johnson added. “Not by being less European”, he warned, instead by being “more global, more outward looking and more engaged with the world, particularly with this part of the world”.

“It has been very encouraging to see what is going on here in Argentina”, Johnson said.

“I cannot escape the great question hanging over this visit which is: why am I the first Foreign Secretary to come to this country in 25 years”, he said. “Were my predecessors lazy, were they stupid, were they ignorant of this incomparable country?” he added, jokingly.

“Surely they knew about the snows of Patagonia, the sizzling steaks the size of plates, the velvety malbec… And surely they knew of the invincible anglophilia of so many people in this country, which has survived. They must have known about that”.

“There are two reasons they didn’t come”, Johnson suggested. “The first is that Anglo-Argentine relations weren’t always brilliant. But there is another reason and that is that for decades the world view of the United Kingdom has —perhaps, this is my theory— been a little Eurocentric and a little less instinctively global than it was before we joined the common market in 1973”.

The UK’s top diplomat celebrated the presence of British businesses in Argentina and pointed to early signs of an improved “developing” relationship.

“We built the railways once why shouldn’t we do it again?” he pondered, referring to the possibility of a win for British bids in the underground network expansion in Buenos Aires.

“We are already the second biggest consumers of Argentine wine in the world. That is before we have done the free trade agreement that we are going to do”.

“There are massive, massive opportunities”, he concluded.

Throughout the tour Johnson has focused on the prospects of strengthening trade and investment ties with countries in the region. “There are big opportunities for UK business here. We don’t do nearly enough. There’s a low base, but we are going to build on it very fast,” he said.

Mercosur and Japan scheduled to begin trade talks next November in Argentina

Tuesday, May 22nd 2018 - 06:32 UTC

The Group of 20 leaders' summit in Argentina in November “would be a good opportunity” to kick off negotiations on an economic accord, said minister Nunes
The Group of 20 leaders' summit in Argentina in November “would be a good opportunity” to kick off negotiations on an economic accord, said minister Nunes
“If Brazilian products find acceptance in Japan, they will have easier access elsewhere in Asia,” Nunes said.
“If Brazilian products find acceptance in Japan, they will have easier access elsewhere in Asia,” Nunes said.
Japan's top business lobby Keidanren, and Brazil's National Confederation of Industry are planning to report in July on the potential of an economic partnership
Japan's top business lobby Keidanren, and Brazil's National Confederation of Industry are planning to report in July on the potential of an economic partnership
Mercosur left-leaning governments deterred the bloc from pursuing free trade pacts until recently, but more centrist leaders have taken power since 2015.
Mercosur left-leaning governments deterred the bloc from pursuing free trade pacts until recently, but more centrist leaders have taken power since 2015.

Mercosur trade bloc looks to begin economic and trade talks with Japan as soon as November, Brazil's foreign minister said, calling trade with Asia essential to regional economic health as the U.S. embraces protectionism.

 The alliance and common market comprising Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay has a “complementary relationship with Japan,” Aloysio Nunes Ferreira said during an interview in Tokyo.

The Group of 20 leaders' summit in Argentina in November “would be a good opportunity” to kick off negotiations on an economic accord, a process Nunes said he hopes to begin by the end of the year.

Brazil “can contribute to Japan's food security” as a supplier of products including chicken, corn and coffee. “If Brazilian products find acceptance in Japan, they will have easier access elsewhere in Asia,” Nunes said. Both countries' private sectors “expect a lot” from economic cooperation, he added. Japan's top business lobby, Keidanren, and Brazil's National Confederation of Industry, or CNI, are planning to report in July on the potential of an economic partnership agreement.

With a population of 260 million and roughly US$2.8 trillion in gross domestic product, Mercosur is an economic power to rival the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Dominance by left-leaning governments deterred the bloc from avidly pursuing free trade pacts until recently. But more centrist leaders have taken power since 2015, invigorating Mercosur free-trade efforts.

The bloc has been in trade talks with the European Union and Canada. Mercosur will ”agree on May 25 to start FTA (free trade agreement) negotiations“ with South Korea, Nunes said, calling the region's commercial relationship with Asia ”very important.“ China also seeks greater access to the Mercosur market.

The current economic upheaval in Argentina, stemming from steep inflation and a plunging peso, has raised concerns that the region as a whole will suffer, as it did when Argentina defaulted on its national debt in 2001. But ”things are different now,“ Nunes said.

”We do have deep trade ties to Argentina, to be sure. But Brazil has ample foreign currency reserves, runs a trade surplus and has a low 3% inflation“.

It will ”take time“ for Argentina's President Mauricio Macri to complete planned structural reforms in the economy. But the country's difficulties ”can be overcome with assistance from the International Monetary Fund,“ Nunes said.

Venezuela, which was suspended from Mercosur in 2016 for violating rules on democracy, is a different story.

”The economy has collapsed, and it is difficult to see a way out“ of Venezuela's painful circumstances, Nunes said. The foreign minister is hopeful that ”talks will advance to restore the democratic processes.“

On the matter of North Korea, Nunes said he wished success for a planned summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Northern leader Kim Jong Un, and hopes for the North's denuclearization to produce ”lasting peace in the region.”

Ushuaia 2017/18 cruise season “excellent”; provincial funds to upgrade port and city facilities

Wednesday, May 23rd 2018 - 08:18 UTC

Ushuaia received some 120.000 visitors from 332 cruise calls this last season, which was described as excellent
Ushuaia received some 120.000 visitors from 332 cruise calls this last season, which was described as excellent

Ushuaia received 120.000 visitors and 33.000 crew members this last cruise season which totaled 332 calls, according to the results made public by the mayor of Tierra del Fuego's capital, Walter Vuoto.

The mayor praised the private sector for its efforts and thanked the port authority, maritime agents, security personnel, armed forces and the municipal staff for their collaboration in making it an “excellent” season and one of the best in recent years.


“The cruise industry has become one of Ushuaia main industries, with direct impact on employment and growth prospects, and receiving tens of thousands of visitors is not only a great honor but also implies a formidable responsibility”, Vuoto expressed.


The city is improving the infrastructure with better services and repositioning, in conjunction with the private sector, the stands by the port and making access to the tour agencies more fluid and competitive, said Vuoto who also underlined the efforts to have a clean and tidy city for the visitors.


Vuoto underlined governor Rosan Bertone's lobbying to upgrade port and docking conditions as well as promoting further cruise calls and improving the network of local roads. “If the State does not have a policy or make decisions, the industry's activity by itself is insufficient”.


There is a clear determination from the provincial government, the port authority and the Ushuaia municipality to promote the tourism industry and invest in infrastructure, and with the active participation of both the city and provincial tourism offices, “we have been participating in some of the main cruise industry fairs worldwide”.


Likewise security has been a main issue and some thirty operations were undertaken to provide the necessary staff and resources to comply, successfully, with international regulations on the matter. .


“Ushuaia is positioned internationally as a great tourist attraction, and we can say proudly it has been recognized as the leading hemispheric cruise city with 330 vessel calls, and thus our commitment to continue investing and promoting the industry”.


Mayor Vuoto said it was the city's decision to continue improving services and infrastructure, and, taking advantage of the industry's global growth tendency, to target a 5% annual activity increase for the next six years.


Finally Vuoto revealed the city had signed a US$ 15 million public works program with the provincial government to keep upgrading the city's roads and open spaces, hopefully on time for the next season.

Brazil's Temer calls on centrist parties to support Meirelles as presidential candidate

Wednesday, May 23rd 2018 - 08:44 UTC

Temer, whose approval rating is stuck in the single digits as Brazil largest economy slowly emerges from a historic recession, announced his decision at an MDB event
Temer, whose approval rating is stuck in the single digits as Brazil largest economy slowly emerges from a historic recession, announced his decision at an MDB event
 Temer, 77, and Meirelles, 72, have been polling in the low single digits ahead of the 7 October election.
Temer, 77, and Meirelles, 72, have been polling in the low single digits ahead of the 7 October election.

Brazilian President Michel Temer scrapped plans to run for re-election on Tuesday and said he supported his former finance minister, Henrique Meirelles, to stand as the presidential candidate of the ruling Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB).

Temer, whose approval rating is stuck in the single digits as Latin America's largest economy slowly emerges from a historic recession, announced his decision at an MDB event. Temer, 77, and Meirelles, 72, have been polling in the low single digits ahead of the October election.

The president's decision was the first of many moves expected to consolidate the presidential race in Brazil, where years of corruption scandals and recession have hurt the chances of traditional parties in a wide-open race.

Over the weekend, Temer said Brazil's centrist parties needed to join behind one candidate if they were to win the presidential election and continue his pro-business policies and balance the federal budget.

Pressure had mounted on Temer to hand the mantle to Meirelles within the MDB party, as its leaders came to terms with his dismal chances of winning popular support and key allies began to launch their own candidates.

With less than five months until the 7 October vote, candidates across the political spectrum are still working to build party coalitions to lure voters disenchanted with Brazil's graft-tainted political class. Investors have been on edge amid uncertainty about the highly unpredictable race, in which few of the leading candidates have embraced Temer's fiscal reforms.

Temer last week touted his achievements in reviving the economy, reducing inflation and turning around state-run companies in the two years since he took over from impeached president Dilma Rousseff.

Still, his approval rating remained stuck at 4% in the latest MDA poll that showed that 71% of Brazilians considered his government bad or terrible, turned off by a string of corruption scandals and high unemployment. His rejection rate was even higher, with 88% of those surveyed saying they would never vote for him.

In controversial vote US Congress rollbacks 2010 banking regulations

Wednesday, May 23rd 2018 - 08:24 UTC

It now heads to the White House for the signature of President Donald Trump, who had long pledged to slash the existing reforms.
It now heads to the White House for the signature of President Donald Trump, who had long pledged to slash the existing reforms.
The controversial measure cleared the House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote of 258 to 159 after successfully passing in the Senate.
The controversial measure cleared the House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote of 258 to 159 after successfully passing in the Senate.

United States lawmakers passed Tuesday the first major rollback of banking regulations enacted after the financial crisis that were aimed at protecting taxpayers from fresh economic trauma and new bank bailouts.

The controversial measure cleared the House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote of 258 to 159 after successfully passing in the Senate. It now heads to the White House for the signature of President Donald Trump, who had long pledged to slash the existing reforms.


The bill frees thousands of small and medium-sized banks from the regulatory scrutiny imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, while leaving key elements of the law in place for the nation's largest financial institutions.


The White House has argued that the measure shields banks from “excessive regulation.”


But critics like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blasted it as another effort to weaken the crucial Dodd-Frank reforms, which included what she called the strongest set of consumer financial protections in history.


“It opens the door to lending discrimination, and it potentially threatens the stability of our financial system and our economy,” Pelosi told colleagues.


“The bill would take us back to the days when unchecked recklessness on Wall Street ignited a historic financial meltdown.”


The Senate's March 14 vote came 10 years to the day after the collapse of New York-based investment bank Bear Stearns, widely seen as marking the beginning of the financial crisis that rocked the global economy.


Supporters say the new bill frees smaller banks and credit unions from onerous regulations aimed at reining in major financial institutions swept up in the financial crisis, and allowing them to focus on community lending.


“This is a major step forward in freeing our economy from overregulation,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said.


“Main Street banks are engines of growth, and now it will be easier for these banks to lend to #SmallBiz and families,” he added in a tweet.


Republicans have repeatedly sought to chisel away at Dodd-Frank, a Democratic initiative established after the financial crisis sent the US economy into a dangerous tailspin.


But supporters of the regulations, like Senate Democrat Elizabeth Warren, say that such arguments fall apart, given that banks have earned huge windfalls in recent years, and particularly in 2018, with passage of Trump's massive tax cuts.


“For years, armies of bank lobbyists & executives have groaned about how financial rules are hurting them,” Warren wrote in a tweet before the House vote. “But there's a big problem with their story -- banks are making record profits.”

Pompeo threatens Iran with “strongest sanctions in history”; Teheran says US was regressing to “old habits”

Tuesday, May 22nd 2018 - 06:51 UTC

Mike Pompeo did not say what new measures the US was contemplating but he described sanctions imposed on head of Iran's central bank as “just the beginning”.
Mike Pompeo did not say what new measures the US was contemplating but he described sanctions imposed on head of Iran's central bank as “just the beginning”.
The Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif said the US was a prisoner of its “failed policies” and would suffer the consequences
The Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif said the US was a prisoner of its “failed policies” and would suffer the consequences
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Pompeo had not demonstrated how abandoning the deal made the region safer from nuclear proliferation.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Pompeo had not demonstrated how abandoning the deal made the region safer from nuclear proliferation.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the US is imposing the “strongest sanctions in history” on Iran. In a speech on Monday in Washington, America's top diplomat said Iran would be “battling to keep its economy alive” after the sanctions took effect.

 His Iranian counterpart said the US was a prisoner of its “failed policies” and would suffer the consequences.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump took the US out of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Mr Pompeo had not demonstrated in his speech how abandoning the deal made the region safer from the threat of nuclear proliferation.

US sanctions lifted after the 2015 deal will be re-imposed, Mr Pompeo said, and those and new measures will together constitute “unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime”.

The older American sanctions prohibited almost all trade with Iran, making some exceptions only for activity “intended to benefit the Iranian people” such as the export of medical and agricultural equipment.

The secretary of state did not say what new measures Washington was contemplating but he described sanctions imposed last week on the head of Iran's central bank as “just the beginning”.

Some of Europe's biggest firms who rushed to do business with Iran after the nuclear deal now find themselves forced to choose between investing there or trading with the US.

Iran is one of the world's largest oil producers, and the export of oil and gas is worth billions of dollars each year. Both the country's oil output and its GDP fell noticeably under international sanctions.

The sanctions will not be re-imposed on Tehran immediately but are subject to three-month and six-month wind-down periods.

“Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East,” Mr Pompeo said.

Javad Zarif said America was “regressing to old habits”. Iran, he added, was working with the other partners of the nuclear deal to find a solution.

Mr Pompeo laid out 12 conditions for any “new deal” with Iran, including the withdrawal of its forces from Syria and an end to its support for rebels in Yemen.

Others include Tehran giving the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) a full account of its former nuclear military program, and giving up such work forever; ending its “threatening behavior” towards its neighbors, including “its threats to destroy Israel, and its firing of missiles into Saudi Arabia and the UAE”; releasing all US citizens, and those of US partners and allies, “detained on spurious charges or missing in Iran”

Iran has spread its influence across parts of the Middle East where there are large communities of fellow Shia Muslims, from Iraq to Lebanon. Its support for Lebanon's Hezbollah movement is particularly alarming for Israel while Saudi Arabia, another bitter enemy, accuses the Iranians of equipping rebels in Yemen.

In the Syrian civil war, it is one of President Bashar al-Assad's few outside allies, sending thousands of fighters and military advisers.

Mr Pompeo has made clear he expects the backing of his allies in Europe but also called for support from “Australia, Bahrain, Egypt, India, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea [and] the UAE”.

“We welcome any nation which is sick and tired of the nuclear threats, the terrorism, the missile proliferation and the brutality of a regime at peace with inflicting chaos on innocent people,” he said.

Ex-London mayor resigns from Labour party following anti-Semitism controversy

Tuesday, May 22nd 2018 - 07:00 UTC

Livingstone rejected he was guilty of anti-Semitism or bringing Labour disrepute but his case had become a “distraction” for the party and its political ambitions.
Livingstone rejected he was guilty of anti-Semitism or bringing Labour disrepute but his case had become a “distraction” for the party and its political ambitions.
Jeremy Corbyn, a close ally of the former London mayor said it was a sad moment but it was the “right thing to do”.
Jeremy Corbyn, a close ally of the former London mayor said it was a sad moment but it was the “right thing to do”.
Livingstone has always maintained that comments about Hitler supporting a Jewish homeland when he first came to power in the early 1930 were historically accurate.
Livingstone has always maintained that comments about Hitler supporting a Jewish homeland when he first came to power in the early 1930 were historically accurate.

Ken Livingstone has said he is resigning from the Labour Party. The ex-London mayor has been suspended since 2016 in a row over allegations of anti-Semitism following comments he made about Hitler and Zionism.

 Mr. Livingstone said he did not accept he was guilty of anti-Semitism or bringing Labour into disrepute but his case had become a “distraction” for the party and its political ambitions. Jeremy Corbyn said it was a sad moment but it was the “right thing to do”.

Mr. Livingstone, an ally of Mr Corbyn, has always maintained that comments he made about the Nazi leader supporting a Jewish homeland when he first came to power in the early 1930 were historically accurate.

Speaking in April 2016, Livingstone, who was defending MP Naz Shah over claims she had made anti-Semitic social media posts, said: “When Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”

Despite his decision to resign from the party, Mr. Livingstone said on Monday he “did not accept” the allegation that he was “in any way guilty of anti-Semitism”.

He added that he “abhorred” anti-Semitism and was “truly sorry” that his historical arguments had “caused offence and upset in the Jewish community”.

“I am loyal to the Labour Party and to Jeremy Corbyn,” he said in a statement. “However, any further disciplinary action against me may drag on for months or even years, distracting attention from Jeremy's policies. I am therefore, with great sadness, leaving the Labour Party.”

A spokesman for the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism said Mr Corbyn's decision to describe Mr. Livingstone's resignation as “sad” had merely “rubbed salt into the wound”.

The group called for Mr. Corbyn to apologize and added: “The Labour Party's anti-Semitism problem seems to be growing, not receding.”

Mr. Livingstone was expelled from Labour in 2000 after challenging the party's official candidate in the mayoral contest but returned to the fold later.

Populist Euro-skeptic coalition agreed in Italy; panic in Brussels

Tuesday, May 22nd 2018 - 07:12 UTC

The Five Star's Luigi di Maio (L) said that president Mattarella had been informed that Giuseppe Conte (R) was the agreed candidate
The Five Star's Luigi di Maio (L) said that president Mattarella had been informed that Giuseppe Conte (R) was the agreed candidate

Law professor Giuseppe Conte has been named as the choice of the Five Star Movement and League to lead the Italian coalition government. The leaders of the two parties have been holding talks with President Sergio Mattarella over the approval of their coalition government.

 The Five Star's Luigi di Maio has said that president Mattarella had been informed that Mr Conte was the agreed candidate. The two populist parties issued their joint coalition plans last week.

They both reject EU austerity and want to renegotiate Italy's debt, and their spending proposals put Italy on a collision course with the EU.

The coalition pledges, agreed after days of talks between Mr. Di Maio and the League's Matteo Salvini, include new “flat tax” rates and a guaranteed basic income for the poor. Their expensive economic plans could prompt a clash with the EU if they defy the previous government's agreements to reduce Italy's budget deficit.

Over the weekend, Mr Salvini rejected a call by French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire for Italy to respect its EU budget commitments. “We will do the opposite of what preceding governments have done. Am I wrong? He tweeted.

On Monday, European Central Bank council member Ewald Nowotny said the proposed policy changes were creating ”nervousness“, adding: ”I hope that the practice will be a much wiser approach than what is here today from the newspapers.“

Both parties have called for a renegotiation of EU fiscal rules and Mr. Salvini has in the past condemned the introduction of the euro as an error.

Giuseppe Conte, 54, is a professor who teaches private law in Florence and Rome. He is not an MP and is a complete unknown in politics. He is seen as a compromise candidate who will come across as palatable to Italy at large, and hard for the president to turn down. However, he has strong ideas about how Italy should be run and is seen as close to Luigi Di Maio of Five Star.

Conte has called for hundreds of ”useless laws“ to be abolished and believes that the ideologies of the 20th Century are out of date. He was Five Star's preferred choice and was already the figure they wanted for another government role.

The parties needed to reach an agreement on their prime ministerial candidate with president Mattarella before seeking approval from parliament.

The populist parties anti-austerity coalition manifesto includes Guaranteed income: poor families will get a €780 basic monthly income, provided recipients actively seek work; mass deportations, an estimated 500,000 undocumented migrants in Italy must be deported ”as a priority“; new tax rates, a ”flat tax“ will be introduced to reduce income tax rates to just two brackets, set at 15% and 20%, while families would receive a €3,000 annual tax deduction based on household income; Italy's debt, revision to the EU's Stability and Growth Pact, which sets a tough budget deficit limit of 3% of GDP, and a plan to reduce debt through ”internal demand” instead of austerity; pensions' reform, setting the minimum monthly pension at €780, with a plan to abolish the current pension reform that raises the retirement age in phases.

Finally relations with Russia, to work with the Kremlin on international issues such as the smuggling of migrants across the Mediterranean and the continuing influence of violent Islamists.

Australian Catholic archbishop found guilty of concealing child abuse

Tuesday, May 22nd 2018 - 07:20 UTC

Philip Wilson, the archbishop of Adelaide, becomes the most senior Catholic in the world to be charged and convicted of the offence.
Philip Wilson, the archbishop of Adelaide, becomes the most senior Catholic in the world to be charged and convicted of the offence.

An Australian court has found a Catholic archbishop guilty of concealing child sexual abuse. Philip Wilson, the archbishop of Adelaide ,becomes the most senior Catholic in the world to be charged and convicted of the offence. He was found to have covered up the abuse of altar boys by a pedophile priest in New South Wales in the 1970s.

 During his trial he denied any memory of being told about the abuse by two of the boys.

He told the Newcastle Local Court he had not been aware of priest James Fletcher's abuse, which took place while he was an assistant priest in Maitland.

Fletcher was convicted of nine child sexual abuse charges in 2004, and died in jail in 2006.

One of his victims, Peter Creigh, told the court he had described the abuse to Wilson in detail when he was 15, five years after the abuse.

Magistrate Robert Stone rejected Wilson's assertion that he could not remember the conversation, and said he found Mr. Creigh to be a reliable witness.

The priest knew “what he was hearing was a credible allegation and the accused wanted to protect the Church and its reputation”, Magistrate Stone said according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Wilson's lawyers had attempted four times to get the case thrown out after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He will be sentenced in June and faces a maximum two-year jail term.



Trucks loaded with soybeans block main highways in Brazil to protest fuel prices

Tuesday, May 22nd 2018 - 07:36 UTC

The demonstrations added to pressure on the federal government to provide some relief from rising fuel costs
The demonstrations added to pressure on the federal government to provide some relief from rising fuel costs
Mines/Energy minister Wellington Moreira Franco said government was discussing possible tax cuts to reduce fuel prices, which have surged nearly 50% in a year
Mines/Energy minister Wellington Moreira Franco said government was discussing possible tax cuts to reduce fuel prices, which have surged nearly 50% in a year

Brazil lorry drivers blocked major roadways around the capital of the country's largest grain state to protest increases in domestic fuel prices, affecting highways in 18 states, the federal highway police said on Monday.

 The demonstrations added to pressure on the federal government to provide some relief from rising fuel costs, which would mean either backsliding on efforts to close a fiscal deficit or interfering in the state-run oil company's pricing policy.

Grain exporters association Anec said the protests have not had an impact on cargoes from grain producing regions. Abiove, a group representing oilseeds crushers, said the blockades are isolated and unlikely to disrupt the flow of agricultural goods in a significant way.

Mines and Energy Minister Wellington Moreira Franco said last week the government was discussing possible tax cuts to reduce fuel prices, which have surged nearly 50% at Brazilian refineries in less than a year.

Finance Minister Eduardo Guardia said on Monday that Brazil must carefully consider whether to cut fuel taxes to curb the sharp fuel price rise given a lack of “flexibility” on the fiscal side.

State-controlled Petrobras, whose freedom to track global fuel prices since July has helped an operational turnaround, raised diesel and gasoline prices on Monday to the highest levels yet under the new policy.

The government is likely to address the sensitive issue in an election year with a tax cut, analysts at the sales desk of Banco BTG Pactual told clients in a note, underlining the risk of worsening Brazil's large fiscal deficit.

On sections of a highway known as BR-163, which connects Brazil's farm country to major ports, truck drivers blocked access on the outskirts of Cuiabá, capital of Mato Grosso, only allowing passenger vehicles through, according to the toll road operator there.

At Santos, Latin America's largest port, protests around the area of the terminals caused delays in the reception and dispatch of cargoes since the early hours of the day, according to Codesp, the state-run company that operates the port.

Fecombustíveis, a trade group representing gas station owners, is also publicly demanding an overhaul of Brazil's tax code, which could help mitigate fuel price hikes by Petrobras.