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12/27/08

Oh...I wonder where that might be?

Chávez today:

"Next year, we are going to duplicate gold production. We are taking back some concessions that were given out by previous governments and are still valid for some rich guys that take the gold away, exploiting the miners."

He's making a big speech on Thursday January 1st to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution. It's gonna be a doozie, methinks.

Ecuador: Rafa sez; "Pssst! Wanna sell me your bonds.....cheap like?"

Highlight of Radio MUFN today was the part when President Studmuffin said to his nation, "We are going to make a proposal at the beginning of January to buy back the debt, but obviously at values substantially cheaper than the nominal value." He backed up that statement later when saying that the proposal won't be based around the face value of the bonds but a price that compares to the price currently paid by the market.

"The debt" referred to is, of course, the Global 2012 and 2015 bonds that were defaulted due to non-payment of interest in December. The 2030 bonds have an interest payment coming up in February and it's to be seen whether they are part of the defaulted basket. The likelihood is yes; the 2012s an 2015s currently trade at 22.5c on the dollar and the 2030s are marked at 23.25c, so the 30s are assumed defaulted by those that trade them.

Studmuffin's plan seems pretty simple, in fact. The $3.8Bn of bonds out there get bought back by the state for U$1Bn or so, and with U$5.2Bn tucked away in international currency reserves the country has the means to pay the massive haircut in cash. So why do I think he's in for a rude awakening? As Correa himself admits, many of the bonds are in the hands of the "international speculators" who are surely going to take the matter to court to try to get the bonds prepaid at full face value. As long as the vulture funds have a sufficient block of bonds and their holders on their side, the plan to take Ecuador to the NY courts will surely move forward. And if their case prospers and if Ecuador has to pay up that will slurp away the lion's share of those international reserves that would probably be compounded by net withdrawals from the country's banking system. From there, one holds one's breath and just hopes Ecuador can get through the shitstorm. And that's just one manifestation of the nasty scenario that awaits Ecuador.

As registered on this blog, I didn't think Correa would go down the defaulting path. That was my mistake but it was based on the fact that if Ecuador did default it would be putting itself in great financial danger. Correa's brinkmanship style might have worked up to now with oil companies, telephone companies etc, but bond holders have a lot of law on their side on this issue. It feels strange to be siding with the vulture funds on this one, but side with them I must; Correa has basically decimated the market price for Ecuador's sovereign debt and then said "look, that's the market price, we're willing to pay that to buy back the debt," which is every bit as dirty a tactic as the vulture funds snapping up the cheap debt and then aiming for legal recourse. Why Studmuffin is trying to convince his public that defaulted bonds holders will just lie down and take this is beyond me. Also, the offer to pay a haircut on the bonds kinda goes against his whole "the debt is illegal" argument. If it's illegal, then cancel it unilaterally and pay 0% of it, right? How can he say that Ecuador is willing to pay 25% or 30% on the dollar? Does that mean the debt is only 3/4 illegal or something?

The point here is that Correa might well have a point about the usury nature of these Global bonds but unless there's some deeper strategy that this analyst (and the wider financial community) hasn't seen, he's being very naive about it all and is likely to get his ass handed to him on a plate by the NYC courtroom that will decide this matter.

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Bad news for the Bolivian white supremists: They're losing their Uncle Tom


Savina Cuellar is the Prefect of Chuquisaca Department in Bolivia, the region that includes the historical (and still official) capital city, Sucre. Cuellar is also famous for being the indigenous member of the opposition half moon alliance that tried and failed to topple the legitimate democratic government of Evo Morales this year. A more classic Uncle Tom figure is hard to imagine, as up until now she has shamelessly hitched her political wagon on the power block that includes white supremist shits such as Ruben Costas of Santa Cruz dep't, a man who calls indigenous politicos such as Morales "monkeys" and Leopoldo Fernandez of Pando, now in jail accused of being the mastermind behind the Sept 11th massacre. Up to now the token indigenous member of their fascist uprising has been a useful figure, giving them some semblance of legitimacy amongst the people they otherwise use as quasi-slave labour on their vast landholdings.

However, it seems as though Cuellar is finally getting a dose of shame about the company she keeps. Up to now she has been clearly advocating the "NO" vote in next month's contitutional referendum. Just last month she signed a joint declaration with other rebel prefects that called on people to vote against the new constitution on January 25th, even though said document gives autonomy to Bolivia's departments....exactly what the usurpers have been ostensibly demanding (the reality was "no indios in power", but let's not worry about that too much). But yesterday, Cuellar showed that she was breaking away from her masters by saying, "Every person must vote according to their own conscience. I have not instructed anyone to vote "NO"."

This obvious lie is welcome, of course, but the backtracking must have a reason. Perhaps she's finally got the dose of guilt that would have come sooner or later. Perhaps it's realpolitik to appease angry constituents that have accused her of selling out on many occasions. Perhaps she just realizes the blatantly obvious; the "YES" vote is a sure-fire win on Jan 25th and she doesn't want to be painted as on the losing side. Perhaps perhaps perhaps. But whatever it is, she has just opened up an almighty crack within the racist alliance already in its death throes.

12/26/08

The throat of fire and thoughts of longer time

The red arrow marks the spot

Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano is rumbling. Over the last 24 hours seismologists that monitor the volcano with a Quechua name meaning "throat of fire" have noted dozens of small seismic movements consistent with magma upflow. A 4km high cloud of gases and dust has formed above the crater.

The volcano is one of the most active in the Andes and woke up from an 80 year slumber in 1999. This photo taken in 2007 shows what it's capable of at the moment.

About 5km away lies the town of Baños and its 25,000 people will be alert to the possibility of (yet another) evacuation. As Quitos is just 87km North of the volcano, finding a friendly roof shouldn't be too hard. On the other hand, if the volcano gets too busy and the wind blows the wrong way, who's going to look after the population in the capital?

Hey ho, all part of the fun of living on top of a rapidly rising mountain feature (in geological timescales, at least). It certainly reminds me of my favourite quote from the magnificent book "The Earth, An Intimate History" by Richard Fortey. The quote that follows is not some sort of evangelizing about global warming, by the way. Taken in the context of geological time the whole issue becomes vastly more philosophical. In the words of Fortey;

"Mankind is no more than a parasitic tick gorging himself on temporary plenty while the seas are low and the climate comparatively clement. but the present arrangement of land and sea will change, and with it our brief supremacy."

News from "investment grade" Peru (part 193)

Read this report written by an Australian volunteer in Peru. Every so often this kind of first-hand diary-report kind of article gets written by people visiting and working in Peru but this one is better than most.

Anyone who has visited the more remote parts of the Andes Cordillera will know that Courtney Trenwith is the real deal. Her report may be a bit overstuffed with pathos for some tastes, but she's far closer to the truth than the cretins unreservedly praising Peru by looking at its economic numbers from a hotel conference room in Miraflores.

Viva investment grade. Viva viva viva.

"It took Chavez to show how incompetent the Venezuelan elite was."

Sebastian Edwards is one of those intellectual types who thinks he knows about Latin America. The difference between him and 99% of those who would mouth off about the region is that he really does know what he's talking about.

That quote in the title line comes from this L.A Times interview. As a snapshot overview of what's going on down here's it's pretty darned good, gotta say. It passes the Otto mental acid test of good analysis, that being when Otto considers his lefty friends and righty friends and notes that both sets of political dogma will be pissed about what Edwards says at some point.

So go read the note. Recommended as concise, accurate, no BS, with particularly sharp observations about Brazil.

News roundup


Ecuador announces that it has confiscated 30.886 metric tonnes (MT) of drugs in 2008, including 27MT of high quality cocaine. Not bad for a country that produces virtually no cocaine at all and is used as a trafficking route from Colombia and Peru.

Glencore Bolivia announces 700 job losses at its zinc/lead/silver mine in Potosí. Locals are protesting the announcement with protests in the town square. Here's bloomberg on the news, but the Bloomie report doesn't mention the job cuts come just after locals rejected an emergency plan put together by Glencore that would have forced workers to accept a 12 hour working day for 14 consecutive days. It's evolution, baby..........

In Peru, the local Amazon development pressure group Aidesep has threatened to throw Dorato Resources (DRI.v) out of the area it is trying to turn into a gold mine on the Peru/Ecuador border. The Peru mining ministry came out with some BS about Dorato not being there and the cmaps being operated by Minera Afrodita, but forgot to mentin that Afrodita is optioned to be sold to Dorato with the operation due closed in 2009. Anyway, Aidesep says that if the company doesn't leave on its own according, it a 5,000 locals will turn up at their camp and persuade them it'd be best to abadon the area.

In Argentina, the Econometrica monthly review is out for the month of December. Here's the link to this most useful PDF that keeps Spanish speakers nicely informed on economic issues. Recommended reading, and free.

In Peru, Prime Minister Yehude Simon complains that businesses should have dropped their retail prices due to cheaper supplies, citing the example of chicken selling at S/8 per kilo (U$2.58). He accuses businesses of not playing fair. Meanwhile, Bolivia's government sets a price limit of Bs./12 per kilo (U$1.70) for chicken and doesn't allow the "free market" room to rip off its population.

Chart of the day is............

.....soybean meal, January 09 futures, six month chart.

Everso everso quietly, soybean meal (and its other soyfriends, of course) have put together a very interesting end of year rally. We're now at a point where the mumbo-jumboists will point to resistances lines, overboughtness on RSI and Stochs, etc. Meanwhile normal people will look at the chart, think about dollar weakness, lack of fertilizers used in the first half of the growing season (phosphate and urea prices have dropped considerably in the last few weeks) and the non-record numbers expected by Argentina and Brazil (to name but two) this year.

You'd do well to watch the bean from here; maybe those enormous Chinese apartment blocks are empty, but the people who were about to move in still need to eat food wherever they're hanging. The last time I looked the world's population was still growing and the thought of that bubble bursting does not promote thoughts of peace on earth and goodwill to all.

12/25/08

For the record

I got socks.

Merry day to all.

12/24/08

Trading Post (not a creature was stirring edition)


Tis quiet out there. Not so quiet in here, though. Currently listening to Let It Die by the Foo Fighters (at 11), as close to the definitive rock song as I've heard in the last couple of years.

On these kinds of days the person that cares enough can look for an anomaly or two in the market and scalp a couple of percentage points once the market kicks back into gear in a day or two. In the case of today the idea would be to buy or sell a position and reverse Monday. Frankly I don't care enough to do it myself, but in times past it was one of the ways used to make a bit of coin when living in Argentina. On days when the local market was open and the USA closed, the floor brokers would try and pump a local dog-stock that would normally be held back by foreign money transactions. Not quite the same scenario today, but there are enough parallels to remind me of the heady days in Buenos Aires. Memories, eh?

So check out how GRZ is up 18% on low volume. The idea would be to sell a few shares here, then repurchase at $0.50 on Monday or Tuesday.

The example on the opposite side of the trade is DMM.to. On the quietest volume day of the month it's decided to buck its recent strong uptrend. If you think this is coincidence I recommend you never trade the stock market ever again. Down 21c at $3.39 right now, the idea would be to buy a few shares and then sell them for the quick'n'happy flip when the market returned to normal, presumably at $3.60.

Just two examples of the trade available and they get chosen because they're two stocks front'n'centre on my radar at the moment. Pick your own example, as it's likely to be just as good.

Merry Christmas

This is what I'd really like for Christmas this year, but I'll settle for a pair of socks.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas if that's what they call it where you live. Have yourself an equally happy holiday if it goes under a different name. Whatever and however, have a good one.

Click here for the IncaKolaNews super-duper corporate greetings card from here to you.

12/23/08

Coro Mining (COP.to) pays a heavy price for its bad financing decisions

Back on October 2nd this post outlined the BoD-level mistakes that Coro Mining (COP.to) had made in the decision on how and when to finance and how much it had cost the company up til then. At the time the stock had just dumped from a very great height and was trading at $0.50. Now it's down to $0.09 and the company has just tonight announced that it's doubling its share count to raise just $4.5m in working capital, along the way handing over 34% of total shares to Benton Resources (BTC.v), a junior explorer with $19m in cash hanging round waiting to find a home (well, make that $16m, cos they've just bet $3m of it with COP.to).

So overnight COP.to shares out go from 38.5m to over 79m. Full dilution goes from under 43m shares to over 120m shares, all to get its hands on $4.5m in working cap. And it gets tougher still, because since COP.to lost its premier project due to the dearth of financing back in October it's betting the farm on a copper/gold project in Mendoza Argentina, possibly the worst place in the whole Southern Cone to get mining permits.

The ostensible reason for Mendoza's hatred of mining is that the locals are all clean and green and won't allow nasty chemicals to be used around their way, such as cyanide and sulphuric acid. So COP.to has submitted a float-only business plan that needs no H2SO4 to produce its copper and gold. The problem with this is that the real reason Mendoza doesn't want miners is the local wine growers' cartel of criollo landed gentry want no competition for the cheap near-slave labour around grape harvesting time and they view any other large scale industry trying to move in on their patch as serious competition.

Progress sucks when it stops you from being rich and powerful. Thus even though COP.to's plan is green, clean and mean, expect some trumped up objection to stop the mine from moving ahead. Unless, of course, COP.to can come up with suitable 'incentives' for the right people at the right time and by the looks of things that kind of deal might push share count over 200m just to get the permit signed. Then there'd be the little matter of raising $277m to build the actual mine. Yeah, we're talking Lake Titicaca dilution world here.

Otto sez: avoid COP.to like the veritable plague. This thing is now operating for the benefit of those employed, not for any reason that could even approach being labelled as shareholder value. There are plenty other microdot priced juniors you can risk a few shekels with. This one is not the place.

Is it just me......

.........or do these two headlines back-to-back make you think "nobody has a clue what to do about this mess down here" too?

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Colombia will “delay” 3 trillion pesos ($1.4 billion) in spending from the 2009 budget in a bid to bolster investor confidence amid a global economic crisis.

Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Peru is advancing with plans to sell its first foreign bonds in almost two years to “demonstrate the economy’s strength” after receiving investment-grade ratings, said Betty Sotelo, the Economy Ministry’s debt director.

So how's this go again? One country is going into debt to boost investor confidence. The other is holding on to savings in order to do exactly the same. Both will receive the breath of popular applause, of course. After all, it's not what you do but who you do it to that counts.

Latin Business Chronicle's Leader of the Year Award goes to............












Count 'em up


..........Alan García. Wow, what a surprise. LatAm's worst and most brazenly neocon bizrag chooses LatAm's worst and (this is official, don't take my word for it) most unpopular president as its poster boy. How cute. García gets the nod because he was lucky enough to be Prez while commodities were strong and wasn't moron enough to change Toledo's economic plan (though LBC gives their own twist of that truth).

Meanwhile, to get a feel about just how much chance Chávez, Studmuffin and the Axis of Evo has of bagging this award one day, note that previous winners were Felipe Calderón (2007), Martín Torrijos (2006) and Álvaro Uribe (2005). Nuff said. These LBC guys are running out of friendly natives fast, but they've already thought of a solution, clever fachas that they are. Because of the current lack of right wing candidates, next year Latin Business Chronicle poll will try and pick the best LatAm leader of the last 50 years. Here's the short list;

1. Juan Peron
2. Alfredo Stroessner
3. Rafael Videla
4. Augusto Pinochet
5. Alvaro Uribe

It's going to be a tough choice, because photos of all five figure prominently on the walls of the LBC editor's office.

A bit of Keynes in Argentina


Early reports about the economic stimulus package introduced by the Klishtina gov't are pretty encouraging. Part of the plan to offer fridge-freezers at ArgP$1,440 (about U$420) with no-interest/low-interest easy ways to pay has been reported as a success by those outlets participating. Big Argentine whitegoods retailer Fravega earmarked 500 units for sale under the plan and sold the lot in under a week. Brisk sales have also been reported from Fravega's competitors. In general terms, sales are reported at end 2007 levels, which sounds pretty solid to me.

What with this electrodomestics front and the gov't plan to offer easy payment plans on the key new car sector now underway, Argentina is not sitting on it hands and waiting for the crisis to wash over the country tsunami-style. But of course, these measures aren't the way the experts up North advise as best, so don't expect any praise aimed at Argentina from the people who actually caused this mess in the first place.

Trading Post (life back together edition)


The computer's fixed and doing what it was built to do today. That's good. Gold dumped $10 just now. Not so good.

Dynasty (DMM.to) up 12% at $3.64. Yeah, I'm gloating today....bite me. Now 200% up on the original recommendation...tough to believe we're just three weeks gone from that point. The valuation doesn't surprise me, but the speed it got to where it got does. Not complaining, though. Not selling, either.

Colossus Minerals (CSI.to) UNCH at $0.60. It may well be time to revisit this thing at this price, Albatross or no Albatross. The last set of drill grades were good but not unexpected, either. The orebody is good (else it wouldn't have been dug to hell in the 1980s by garimpeiro miners) and the 2009 drilling campaign that already has its budget locked'n'loaded will go a long way in deciding whether the tough to get at deeper mineral will be commercially viable or not. Pricewise it does seem to be bottoming out at this $0.45 to $0.60 band level. If Anderson "was retired" I'd be more interested, but in the end biz iz biz.

What is it with Troy Resources (TRY.to)? Down 3% at $0.72 right now, but that might change to up 8% at $0.80 at any moment as the bid/ask is wider than the Grand Canyon. It really is about time the Canadian market swallowed its national pride, admitted that Aussies are just as good as they are in the junior game and bought into this stock. Wildly good fundamentals.

Great Panther Resources (GPR.to) at $0.23. I actually read some newsletter dude saying this thing had great fundamentals this week (I refuse to say who the idiot is, but the name starts with a David and finishes with a Morgan) which is the silliest statement possible if you ever bother to read the financial reports and that kind of thing. Trust me on this; no cash and severely restricted mining operations in 2009 to try and rein in a double-digit cash cost is no sane person's idea of good fundies. GPR should re-name itself Great Dogwithfleas Resources.

Rusoro (RML.v) at $0.43 and Gold Reserve (GRZ) at $0.52. So RML has rebounded nicely in the last couple of days, certainly more to do with the rolling out of a slick promo campaign than the company fundamentals. There's more dilution on the way than the punchbowl at a Mormon Prom night. Taken strictly on the numbers, the 3-for-1 deal RML is offering for GRZ means it's valuing each GRZ share at $1.04 now (0.43X3/1.21 forex rate), precisely double its PPS. This alone would point to just how much the market expects RML to dilute in order to raise capital after the GRZ buyout happens. This assuming it ever happens, of course. A real tangled web, all in all. The very best advice is go look somewhere else to put your money if you're not bought in already. Just avoid them both.

Protests against the passage of Ecuador's mining law....

Photo of the road block this morning from Ecuador's El Comercio

....have been pretty subdued so far.

Right now the law is in a transitory committee stage, between is successful first reading and the second reading due next week. Without complicating matters, it's fair to say that if it passes its second reading it becomes law as stands (just need some rubberstamping here and there).

As for protests, yesterday there were "dozens" (reports El Comercio) of protesters that descended on the Congresillo building carrying banners saying "Viva la Vida" etc (thanks to a band that appeals to those that don't understand Radiohead, there's no need to translate that one).Then this morning a roadblock was set up by indigenous protesters that blocked the main highway between Cuenca and el Oro (the main mining district part of Ecuador). Ironically, those that damn the miners for crimes against environmental humanity used burning car tires to block the roads.....nothing like a bit of black smoke to draw attention to yourself, is there? Police opened the road quickly, then it was blocked again in a different part...then opened again, then blocked, then re-opened etc etc.

Quite frankly, these people don't know what they're protesting against. As a legal framework to provide solid rules and safeguards against pollution, the new law is a good document and this government is bound to come down heavily on any mining company stupid enough to try and cut corners on the enviro aspect (just ask Chevron). There are still "dirty" mining companies (such as PTQ.to, recently fined $1.9m for being a shame on the face of Panama), but the 21st century has mainly left these relics behind, especially when it comes to new operations. I'm very pro-enviro causes and also very anti-polluters of all types (especially miners), but common sense needs to be applied, too. It all boils down to the two words that President Correa uses when talking about mining, "responsible development". He's got it right.

UPDATE: The second passage is now slated for the first week in January. Perfectly acceptable IMHO.

A fascinating read

Instead of my normal morning routine I've been staring at this e-book sent by reader 'El Otro Miguel'. It's "The Atlas of Global Development" publshed by the World Bank, and not only is it packed with serious amounts of well-founded statistics, charts etc but it's also presented in a very user-friendly and colourful format (not PDF). Once you move to the full page version you'll be as drawn into the report as I was. Click on this link to get wise to what I'm talking about.

Highly recommended reading. Thank you ElOtro for passing this on.

Chart of the day is............

.........sugar, March futures, two year chart.

This because a couple of regulars are intruiged that I've placed a trade in CZZ above the more normal mining fodder on this blog. Well, it's true there's a real bias towards miners here (it's the sexiest industry in LatAm for potential investment, so it gets a lot of my time) but every now and again Otto tries to pretend he's not a one trick pony.

The chart is self explanatory. It goes up, it goes down. One thing CZZ does is times its sales to this chart and last quarter it reported (as usual) that it was storing sugar for future sales.

Looking at this chart, they'd be pretty silly if they didn't. DYODD.

12/22/08

Top of the Props


On the day Petaquilla Mining (PTQ.to) did over 600k of volume.........

Dec 19/08 Dec 18/08 Fifer, Richard Glenn Fifer Carles Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 9,500 $0.425
Dec 19/08 Dec 18/08 Fifer, Richard Glenn Fifer Carles Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 10,000 $0.400
Dec 19/08 Dec 18/08 Fifer, Richard Glenn Fifer Carles Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 15,500 $0.400
Dec 19/08 Dec 18/08 Fifer, Richard Glenn Fifer Carles Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 13,000 $0.400
Dec 19/08 Dec 18/08 Fifer, Richard Glenn Fifer Carles Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 7,000 $0.380
Dec 19/08 Dec 18/08 Fifer, Richard Glenn Fifer Carles Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 500 $0.380
Dec 19/08 Dec 18/08 Fifer, Richard Glenn Fifer Carles Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 19,500 $0.370
Dec 19/08 Dec 18/08 Fifer, Richard Glenn Fifer Carles Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 20,500 $0.370
Dec 19/08 Dec 18/08 Fifer, Richard Glenn Fifer Carles Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 13,500 $0.370
Dec 19/08 Dec 18/08 Fifer, Richard Glenn Fifer Carles Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 2,500 $0.365

Nuff said.

About DMM.to

I've been asked by a DMM.to long via mail whether I'm taking profits. That's an easy one to answer: NO.
.
In the report I wrote that I was looking for a jump to $3, then $4 or so once the mine opened and a steady state target (using the conservative-biased parameters mentioned in the report) of $5.60. You think I'm going to bail just because the first target was blow away in just three weeks? No way! If it rushes directly to $4 then there's a place for thought and perhaps taking 1/2 profits. That's as whussy as I get, though.
.
If you want a copy of the report I'll be happy to sell you one (sold two today). Here's the pitch post, but it boils down to sending U$10 via PayPal to this address......
.
otto.rock1 (AT) gmail (DOT) com
.
.....and I'll send you your copy. But the call is the same as on the free blog. It's still a great buy.
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Greetings from a crummy cybercafe as I wait for the computer doctor to give me the bad news.

major office computer malfunction

The world decided to blow up my computer last night. Normal service will resume as soon as possible.

12/21/08

Bolivia: An impressive economy (doesn't that sound strange?)

Bolivia was pure partytime last night, as Evo declared "mission accomplished" on his three year mission to rid Bolivia of illiteracy. As IKN did a chart and a post on this nine days ago (check it out here) we're not going to dwell on this significant achievement today.

Nah, let's look at something that's just as impressive, from this financial analyst's viewpoint anyhow.


Bolivia's currency reserves now stand at U$7.608Bn (as at 30 November 2008) and quite frankly I've never seen anything quite like this chart to counter people who say that nationalizations don't work and that industrialized nations don't take rampant advantage of their poorer cousins. In the case of Bolivia, the whole ballgame changed with the social unrest known as the 'gas wars' that brought down the previous administration (admittedly that single sentence simplifies things greatly). From 2005 Bolivia began to benefit from its own hydrocarbons revenues for the first time due to the protests led by Morales and his M.A.S. party.

Once Dr. Morales' admin took official charge in 2006, things just took off. Prophets of doom have been totally and utterly silenced over the Bolivian hydrocarbons nationalization. Bolivia's GDP has grown to 6.7% in the third quarter 2008....

......and the country is well-placed to survive the pressures it will feel from the global recession coming soon to a country near you. I've said it before and I'll say it again; complain all you like about his politics, but the Morales administration has handled its country's economic affairs impeccably; I'm one of those who have grown to expect fiscal and financial irresponsibility from left wing politicians once they reach power; that just isn't so in the Bolivia of Evo Morales. It's very impressive.

It's not some panacea of perfection in Bolivia, of course. The country is very poor and it's difficult for anyone from industrialized nations that hasn't traveled through any ofthe world's poorest areas to grasp just how poor places like Bolivia really are. Inflation is running at 11.37% for the first 11 months of 2008......

..... but as with all the region the biggest hike (to 8.85%) came in the first six months of 2008 as the main pressure came in the second half of 2007 and the first half of 2008 when commodities were going batshit. The last two months in Bolivia have seen things more under control, with inflation clicking up just 0.31%. Little doubt that Bolivia's headline inflation rate will tumble in 2009.

All told, when those lists are made of "countries that will ride out the recession" Bolivia should be up there with Chile, Peru and the other usual suspects. This blog has already noted in this previous post how Bolivia in 2009 benefits from major countercyclical infrastructure projects that will keep the GDP number clicking over handily. Evo's doing right by his country's economy and has had precious little applause for his efforts. No need to wonder why.

Meanwhile, how have the economies of the world's expert financial nations been doing recently?

And while we read about the plane that slid off the runway.....

....this morning in Denver, Colorado that thankfully caused no deaths:

1) Seventeen people died in the early hours of this morning when a bus fell 100m off the side of the hill that connects La Paz with El Alto, Bolivia. Anyone who's visited the place knows the zigzag road that connects the two cities, as the airport is in El Alto and your hotel was almost certainly down the hill in the city centre.

2) Twenty-one people died yesterday morning when a minivan was hit at high speed by a 50-seater bus travelling significantly over the speed limit some 23km outside of the city of Juliaca, Peru. The owner/driver of the bus, fearing he would be lynched by locals for causing the accident, fled. Furious locals burnt his bus to the ground instead. One person inside the minivan survived.

3) Fifteen people died last night when another minivan fell 100m off the side of the road near the town of Huamachuco in the La Libertad region of Peru last night. The bus was carrying a group of schoolteachers to a Christmas convention.

I decided not to add photos to this report. I for one didn't want to come back to this blog tomorrow morning and see the photos that local newspapers have 'entertained' their readership with today. Travelling up and down this continent, often by road and often in public transport, I've seen my fair share of nastiness and you hear stories like the three above all the time, more's the pity. My own personal nearest miss was in Paraguay, as the wheel of the bus I was travelling on sheared off its axle and I had the pleasure of watching it bounce off into the semi-tropical scrub like one of those WWII dambuster bombs before the driver realized what had happened (the passengers finally managed to convince him to stop).

The three multiple-death causing accidents in the last 24 hours are from Peru and Bolivia, but the next headline might be from any other country you care to mention. The criminal combination of badly maintained vehicles, badly maintained roads, badly paid public transport workers who are often obliged to drive for 14 hours non-stop, the machismo attitude of said drivers, the all-out drive for lower costs and higher revenues, the lack of laws and enforcement of laws that exist, the driver/police dance of bribing one's way out of a problem...all these factors and more combine to make journeying on LatAm roads a dangerous pastime.

But there's nothing like a plane crash, is there?

UPDATE: I just noticed that eight people died and 39 were injured in various auto accidents in Argentina today.

Nestor Kirchner is unwell

Rumours and rumbles about Nestor Kirchner's health have been doing the rounds for as long as this observer can remember. Since at least 2004 (and maybe before) talk of bowel and/or colon cancer in particular has done the rounds from time to time. There is a whole network of supposedly well-founded gossip (that never seems to get anyone on record, though) which has the 58 year old Neshtor visiting a specialist clinic in Rosario, Argentina, has him on special vegetable-only diets and even has him collapsing in the Olivos Presidential residence. Plenty of variations of these themes have been heard by your tuned-in Otto, too.

It's one of those urban legend rumour things that is part of the fabric down here. It's never occurred to this humble scribe to mention the issue because it's a bit of a cheap shot, really. It's too normal for bitchy K detractors to go after Neshtor this way and there's not much the guy can do to defend himself on the issue. But when I saw this photo today of Neshtor going to pay his respects to local BsAs Peronist stalwart politico Manuel Quindimil who passed on Friday....

Nestor Kirchner, December 2008

....the phrase that sprang to mind was "That dude is unwell." So I checked back at previous years photos of Argentina's ex-President. This below is Neshtor in 2005....

..... here he is in 2006.....

....and this final one below is from 2007.

I've tried to be fair with these examples, rejecting photos that are either too modeled or too informal, just attempting to get an honest shot of the guy in the years in question. The bottom line is that he suddenly looks 15 years older. Correct me if I'm wrong cos I'd like to be, but my next door neighbour is 79 (just asked him this morning) and looks in far better shape.

Is the health of Nestor Kirchner truly newsworthy and worth mentioning here? Well, yes it is. It's not just gossip and snark, not while he's the President of the PJ (Peronist) party, he tries (and fails) to get the top job at the newly formed regional Unasur body and he continues to be the undisputed driving force behind Argentine governmental politics. It's also notable how his eldest son Maximo is suddenly making noises inside the party and trying to secure a powerbase in his local structure; the thought of him doing that without Nestor's help is just too silly to imagine. Thoughts of setting up his lasting dynasty before it's too late, perhaps.

SmallCaps 2009

Every year around this time, Canaccord publishes its list of twenty small cap miners to follow in 2009. It's always a funny (haha & peculiar) list and often shows just how little they really know about LatAm. For example, last year they reco'd Ascendant Copper as a pennyplay when anyone with knowledge of the Ecuador mining scene knew that the company was bigtime toast.

This year (and quite impressively), Can'o'corn has already put its foot in it somewhat with the choice of Condor Resurces (CN.v), as on the very same day that the SmallCaps2009 came out CN.v reported dusters from its Brahma project in Chile. And even though it may be the second semi-non sequitur of the morning it makes me feel like quoting Oscar Wilde: "To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."

So anyway, here's the list of the twenty stocks Can'o'corn has highlighted this year. You'll note quite a few are just the company talking its own book (the dreadful ITH, for example), some are actually quite interesting as picks (an e-mail friend and I have already noted the intruiging GUY.to has been included, and my e-mail friend noted that Can'o'corn won't have a cat in hell's chance of getting any financing action there so it's fun to see it included)

Banro Corp, Brilliant Mining Corp, Condor Resources Inc, Diamonds North Resources Inc. Extract Resources Ltd, Fortress Minerals Corp, Golden Arrow Resources Corp, Guyana Goldfields Inc, Helio Resource Corp, Intl. Royalty Corp, Intl. Tower Hill Mines Ltd, Keegan Resources Inc, Kivalliq Energy Corp, Lumina Copper Corp, Peregrine Diamonds Limited, Rubicon Minerals Corp, Serengeti Resources Inc, Underworld Resources Inc, Uracan Resources Ltd, West Timmins Mining Inc.

Finally, added to the team headed up by the acceptable Wendell Zerb this year is Eric Zaunscherb, the guy who helped rip off the market with his moronic Aurelian calls while at Haywood (from where he "was resigned" some weeks later) and a few days after getting the stock and the politics totally wrong decided to rip off my own blog thoughts on Ecuador and Aurelian as his own. Fortunately Zaunscherb has been limited to coverage of Canada-based miners by his new employers; a relief all round, I'd venture.

So how can you get your hands on a copy of this 2009 smallcaps report? I have no idea, but maybe clicking on this link might help.

Bad news for Ecuador-haters

Isn't it strange how people vent anger by demonizing a whole country? Anyway, that slight non-seq aside, here's a couple of snippets from the land of the Muffin:

1) The new mining law has passed its first reading. It now spends a week in committee before going to the second debate. If it passes debate two (which should happen before the end of December, but relax and smell flowers if it doesn't happen til January, yeah?) then it just needs the Congresillo rubber-stamps and its a done deal. Were you warned and did you have the time to take advantage? Yes you were. The good news is that there's plenty more to come. If you want a copy of the 3mega 88 page Spanish language PDF that was debated in the assembly, send me a mail; I don't see why I should be the only one to suffer ;-)

2) Correa isn't dropping the dollar. Bloomie (via Stephan Kueffner, who along with Alonso Soto at Reuters Ecuador does a good job in covering the country) notes in a Radio MUFN soundbite yesterday, Correa said, "It would be stupidity to drop the dollar under these circumstances."

Where does that leave Alberto Ramos of Goldman Sachs and his "I would not make a bet that we will have dollarization in three to five years?". Well, it just highlights what a hedged and non-commital statement it was in the first place. Certainly far more wishy-washy than the screaming "Ecuador May Be Forced to Scrap Dollar After Default" headline slapped on top of the story. The authors? Oh wow! Lester "ring the usual suspects" Pimentel and Matthew "balance is for suckers" Walter. Tell 'em what they want to hear, boyz........



PS: thanks once again to reader DMMwatcher, who is keeping tabs on the mining law's passage far more closely than me and gave the headsup about the first passage yesterday afternoon. He shows me up as the slacker that I am, but I'm grateful all the same :-). And with a handle like his he's probably be a bit richer after this week's market action, too :-)