MercoPress, en Español

Montevideo, September 23rd 2018 - 02:52 UTC

Ivan Duque takes office as Colombian president; staunch ally of the Trump administration

Tuesday, August 7th 2018 - 07:23 UTC
Full article 14 comments

Ivan Duque, who will be sworn in as Colombia’s president on Tuesday, is poised to become an unusually strong ally for the Trump administration after he made a project of cultivating ties with the White House and spotlighting shared views on drug control, counterterrorism and the unfolding political and economic crisis in next-door Venezuela. Read full article

Comments

Disclaimer & comment rules
  • DemonTree

    Damn that guy has a smug face. Gives me an irrational desire to punch him...

    I just hope he doesn't screw up the peace accord and restart the civil war in Colombia.

    Aug 07th, 2018 - 12:46 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • gordo01

    I wonder whether DemonTree has ever lived in Colombia or, indeed, has ever visited the country?

    Aug 08th, 2018 - 06:28 am - Link - Report abuse 0
  • DemonTree

    Nope. But you have, right? What do you think of Duque, and the deal with FARC?

    Aug 08th, 2018 - 08:03 am - Link - Report abuse 0
  • Jack Bauer

    The peace accord, while an improvement over the previous situation, was still pretty lenient, considering the thousands of deaths the FARC caused. It's not going to be easy to please both sides and keep the peace.

    Aug 09th, 2018 - 10:18 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • DemonTree

    True, and I guess that is why it was originally rejected in the referendum. But the war's been going on since the 60s, if some other President could have negotiated a peace deal on different terms, why didn't they take the chance? And I don't like this fashion for renegotiating deals after signing them. What happened to giving your word and sticking to it? It's a poison to future agreements when governments break their promises.

    Aug 10th, 2018 - 09:40 am - Link - Report abuse 0
  • Jack Bauer

    At the time, the prez negotiated what he could....was probably either that or nothing. Which was worse?

    Lula did no reforms…he shied away from anything unpopular, reinforced by massive support fm the largest corporation of all, that of civil servants. The INSS needs to guarantee future pensions ...theoretically coverd by current contributions, provided sufficient.
    Temer created conditions (flexible legislation, Labor reform) to reduce unemployment - the nbr of unemployed who entered the formal sector (registered, with rights ‘n obligations) has been reduced by 1 million in the last year, but the political situation (plus elections, lack of confidence by big biz) has been an obstacle. Those who lose formal jobs receive 1 minimum wage p/ month, for 4 months…supposedly enough time to find another. Informal workers don't contribute, if kicked out get nothing.
    Mismatch between the rent ‘n salary increases made things difficult for quite a few. Interest on mortgages was limited to 12% p/year, but banks also charged inflation, which caused many to lose their homes, as they couldn’t keep up with payments.
    The problem with current tax system is indirect taxes, i.e., on consumption, too high, ‘n treating rich ‘n poor alike…individual income tax (highest bracket) is limited to 27.5 % (lopped off at source, and either compensated, or not, in the yearly income tax return), again, benefiting astronomical salaries.
    Governments on all levels are owed 100s of billions in back taxes, but slow justice and/or corruption makes collection slow 'n inefficient. Many times, habitual debtors are given partial amnesty by the State, which means that those who paid correctly are made to look like idiots. If taxes were reasonable, tax evasion would be reduced.
    “employees paid this way would lose out on their future pension, since contributions would be lower : No, not really, as max contribution stops at a level of salary way below what is being received.

    Have 3 other replies, no space.

    Aug 10th, 2018 - 03:51 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • DemonTree

    I think what Santos negotiated is better than continuing the war.

    As I understand it, even if countries/people do save and invest for retirement, it doesn't fix the real problem which is the ratio of producers to consumers. I read a very ominous (for people my age) article about it, but I can't find it now.

    Sounds like Temer's reforms have not done anything to reduce unemployment, at least not yet. That's unfortunate, and makes me wonder if he addressed the right areas, but I don't know too much about what caused the recession in the first place. What happens to unemployed workers after 4 months when there is a recession and they can't easily get another job, like now?

    Re mortgages, do you mean they charged 12% plus inflation? That's scarily high, it's not a wonder people couldn't keep up. Interest rates in the UK were just raised to 0.75%, the highest they have been since March 2009. Of course all the banks charge more for a mortgage, but this is what seems normal to me now.

    Totally agree about Brazilian taxes, it was Reagan who said “if you want less of something, tax it,” and if you discourage consumption your economy is going to have trouble growing. In the UK the highest bracket is 40%, do you think that would be reasonable for Brazil? But it's a moot point as long as people can get away without paying. You'd think governments would prioritise this, as it would pay for itself, but they are probably benefiting too. And yeah, they need to be careful to avoid a moral hazard forgiving debtors. Better enforcement would not just get money from whoever they went after, but also encourage others to pay.

    “max contribution stops at a level of salary way below what is being received”

    Oh, right. Guess there is no real downside for the employees then... unless they are caught.

    Aug 12th, 2018 - 09:22 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • Jack Bauer

    Ok, so we agree that in Colombia's case the agreement was better than none. As to pushing it too hard now, might be wise to consider the possible consequences...

    Unfortunately, the labour reform - which attended MANY worker revindications - was passed at a time when people thought it would be a “solution to reduce unemployment”...but unemployment was too large for the reform alone, to solve it. It should have been done years ago, regardless of the economic situation.
    Had it been passed under a better economic scenario it would have, besides probably contributed to improving the employment rate, improved worker/employer relationship, and made it easier to solve eventual individual/collective labour disputes.
    As it is, the lack of confidence by business due to political uncertainty is what has worked against it. After the 4 months, if they have no savings, they're screwed. But it's always been like that.

    What caused the recession was a combination of factors : corruption at the highest scale - for about a decade, incompetence, lack of vision, disastrous economic policies - many contrary to common sense, populism - seen as the salvation, overspending - even with decreasing tax revenue...

    Right, 12% plus inflation. Banks never lose. In a healthy economy, an interest rate of 0,75% could be covered by savings, or what's left over of one's salary.

    A bracket of 40% for the highest earners would most definitely be OK, and it would hit less than 0,5 % of the population, including Congress, reason why it'll never happen.

    Back in the day, would be kinda difficult to catch companies /employees being paid under the counter....first because it benefited both sides, second, because their was no official register - only a verbal agreement to be honoured....however, if an employee decided to throw sh*t in the fan, besides being difficult to prove the origin of the cash, he'd be admitting he was part of a tax evasion scheme...not a particularly intelligent move...IMO.

    Aug 13th, 2018 - 04:04 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • DemonTree

    No way for us to what would have happened if the labour reform was passed at another time. Perhaps it would have been better if the TSE had just found Temer (and Dilma) guilty, and he had been replaced early on. I'm sure all the votes they had on him contributed to the uncertainty... but then who else would have been any better? Getting rid of all the graft should be a good thing, but it's really screwing with the economy.

    Which economic policies do you think were contrary to common sense? From what I have learned, economic principles often ARE contrary to common sense.

    No bank gives an interest rate of 0.75% - well, not on purpose. Just before the crash, I had two colleagues who both took out mortgages. One had a fixed rate and the other variable, and both were paying about 5.5% interest. A year later, the one with the variable rate was paying 0.5% (and the other was kicking himself). But as soon as the rate fell, banks stopped offering those deals. Our mortgage was a tracker, base rate plus 1.89%, so 2.39% total, with a 35% deposit, and that was a very good deal. I thought it was unlikely rates would rise quickly enough to be a problem, but I never dreamed that next time the rate changed, it would be down...

    Before we took it out, I did look up historical rates to see the worst case scenarios; in the 80s they were over 13% for a while, but I think inflation was much higher too. 12% on top of inflation is horrendous.

    “After the 4 months, if they have no savings, they're screwed.”

    That sucks. In the UK after six months on the dole they send people on a course to learn how to do job applications etc, and there are other requirements. But still some people manage to live on benefits for years and years, even all their lives. That is also a big problem.

    “he'd be admitting he was part of a tax evasion scheme”

    Mmmm. It's easy to see how they got away with it.

    Aug 13th, 2018 - 09:47 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • Jack Bauer

    ”No way for us to know what would've happened if labour reform was passed some other time. Perhaps would've been better if TSE had just found Temer (and Dilma) guilty, and he had been replaced early on“....
    Up to a certain extent....if it had made the working environment, for all, better, it could only have had a positive effect....30 years ago I remember everyone complaining about the ”obligatory union contribution” (1 day's salary).....of course the unions would have complained back then as well, but the political scenario, being less fragile, would have been able to cope with it better.
    The fact that the TSE let both Temer and Dilma off the hook has nothing to do with the labor reform, and I think that if he had been impeached - only way to get rid of him - would have been worse, because the next-in-line was not even “elected” as VP..

    “Which economic policies do you think were contrary to common sense?” Dilma made several mistakes, but the main one was thinking she could get out of the self-inflicted crisis by spending more when tax collection was decreasing, resorting to illegal loans to cover the deficit, then lying about it...until she couldn't. Economic policy is not an exact science, as the dozens of variables in a market, and their intensity, are foreseeable only in theory...nevertheless, there are certain things you don't do, specially when, with 99% certainty, they'll only make things worse. You can only spend yourself out of a crisis if you have sufficient reserves...which obviously she didn't.
    Looks like taking a mortgage at a fixed or a variable rate is a gamble...need to look not only at the past but the probable future.
    Here the Federations of Industry, as well as Commerce, offer free training and specialization courses, but many don't even have sufficient qualification to take advantage of them, not to mention that there is no way to force them...basically it comes down to the individual to show initiative to get out of the hole.

    Aug 13th, 2018 - 10:21 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • DemonTree

    “The fact that the TSE let both Temer and Dilma off the hook has nothing to do with the labor reform”

    I know, but I think Temer's vulnerability to corruption accusations increased political uncertainty and helped prolong the recession. If someone clean could have taken over early on, things might have gone better, but there was really no chance of that. And as you say, it would make the illegitimacy problem worse. Perhaps they could have agreed to hold an early election, but that might just have made things worse.

    Spending (or tax cuts) to get out of a recession is orthodox economic policy, although it can be risky. The new government has cut back, but they are still spending more than they take in, right? Our government hasn't run a surplus since 2001, and were aiming to get back into the black by 2020 - which many people thought was too harsh and damaging to the recovery - but that target was abandoned after the Brexit vote. More years of austerity...

    And yup, mortgages are a gamble. Plus mostly they only guarantee the rate for a few years, and then you have to remortgage or get screwed. Didn't you ever have one?

    Are there no basic courses for the unemployed, to increase literacy, or teach skills in whatever jobs are available?

    Aug 14th, 2018 - 09:45 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • Jack Bauer

    “but I think Temer's vulnerability to corruption accusations increased political uncertainty 'n helped prolong the recession”...without a doubt, but the next-in-line would've had the same problem...Rodrigo Maia (president of Lower house) is not exactly clean either ...and had he taken over, he too would probably become a target of the opposition, looking to strengthen their own position..
    But two things which, independent of Temer or Maia, have had a bigger influence on prolonging the recession : Congress's usual refusal to cooperate in approving reforms, and Lula's stirring up the sh*t all the time.

    “Someone clean” ? if such a thing exists here, probably yes...and the only way for that to happen would've been new elections, however that would require a constiututional amendment, which besides taking time, would certainly not be a transparent / honest process, as Congress would still need to be “persuaded” to cooperate.

    To erradicate all the corruption - in all of its multiple forms - would mean starting from scratch, like in a new country...and without any of the current crap. Utopic and impossible.

    The current government inherited an expensive structure (which increased dramatically in size under the PT) and had to face a situation of falling revenue....however, I think there is still plenty of room to reduce government running-expenses without affecting the already shitty service provided to the population. Instead of cutting into their own flesh, they reduced productive investments....to be expected.

    Re mortgages, when you have have several choices, you usually go for the wrong one...Murphy's law.
    I bought my flat when I was working most of the time in West Africa, earning well and in USD, so never had a problem paying for it (15 yrs).
    The industrial/commercial federations - plus government - have regular courses for the unemployed and to erradicate illiteracy, but the people who need them most are rarely in the right place to take advantage of them.

    Aug 15th, 2018 - 05:14 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • DemonTree

    “Rodrigo Maia is not exactly clean either”
    “however that would require a constiututional amendment”

    Guess there was no good option. And besides, if they'd held early elections Lula would probably have won, so I can't see Congress ever agreeing to it.

    “however, I think there is still plenty of room to reduce government running-expenses without affecting the already shitty service provided to the population. Instead of cutting into their own flesh, they reduced productive investments....to be expected.”

    Depressing that they would continue stealing at a time when the effects on Brazil are so much more severe. But I'm not surprised either.

    Re mortgages, I'm pretty happy with my choice ;) , but I'm sure just as many people picked the wrong option. I wondered what property prices are like in São Paulo so I looked it up; perhaps it's the exchange rate, but the apartments seem cheap compared to my small town, you wouldn't get a broom cupboard for that in London.

    “The industrial/commercial federations - plus government - have regular courses for the unemployed and to erradicate illiteracy, but the people who need them most are rarely in the right place to take advantage of them.”

    I can understand the federations run courses where they are based, but why doesn't the government hold courses where they are most needed?

    Aug 15th, 2018 - 10:35 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • Jack Bauer

    Here there are no 'good' options'....starting with a Congress rotten at the core.
    After Dilma was impeached, and some groups in Congress suggested early elections (maybe March 2017 ??), that's when Lula knew he had to run (to save his butt), but only if the elections were still to be held in Oct 2018....because, one thing is almost sure, had there been new elections right after Dilma was impeached, Lula would've very likely lost, as the crisis was still very fresh in everyone's mind, and the PT's popularity, including Lula's, was pretty low.
    The idea of having a candidate (at that time still only) 'accused' of corruption and money laundering (in one or two cases ??) would hardly be an option better than any other...with the aggravation that had there been early elections, had Lula run and won (very unlikely, as I said above), all investigations into corruption would've been stopped, and corruption would only not have continued as before, but increased, and then no one knows what would happen...

    The prices of real-estate in SP (as in most of the big towns in Brazil) are going through a rough patch....the sluggish economy has generally forced prices down (not all that much really, but sufficiently to make it a bad moment to sell, unless you have another place in view to invest in immediately). The 'average' price can be deceiving : good areas have maintained their value pretty well, but that of the more distant suburbs and specially areas close to 'favelas' have dropped considerably...not only difficult to sell, but usually at a significant loss.

    Where the courses (and schools) are most needed - or where they are lacking - is not in the big populational centres, or the industrial ones, but in the distant areas where life is hardest and the people are almost forgotten...by local governments as well.

    Aug 16th, 2018 - 10:10 pm - Link - Report abuse 0

Commenting for this story is now closed.
If you have a Facebook account, become a fan and comment on our Facebook Page!