Central America Briefing
The Caribbean Council's Exclusive Publication on Central America

Covering Guatemala to Panama, Central America Briefing provides our subscribers and members with a fortnightly spotlight on the key business opportunities and political developments affecting foreign investors with business operations or capital investments in the region.

Central America Briefing Subscribers receive 22 editions over 12 months featuring the latest reports, business news and insightful analysis.

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Leading Articles Featured in Central America Briefing  

23rd February 2024

El Salvador’s Tribunal Supremo Electoral has confirmed Nayib Bukele as President for the next five years. Félix Ulloa will return as Vice President. Bukele received over 84% of the valid votes cast with over 2.7 million. Manuel Flores of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) was second with 6.4% of votes. Bukele will have considerable power as his Nuevas Ideas party also garnered 54 of a possible 60 National Assembly seats. Various electoral observers including the Organisation of American States have expressed concerns about delays and “a lack of uniformity” in the final count. Four political parties have presented legal action to nullify the results. The country will return to the polls on 3rd March to vote in mayoral and Parlacen elections.

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Photo:  Latin America News Agency/REUTERS

9th February 2024

Despite incumbent President Nayib Bukele declaring himself the winner of El Salvador’s election, days after polling the final results have not been verified. Problems with electronic voting, voting abroad suffering early closures and local issues have contributed to a chaotic ending. On election night, Bukele stated he had over 80% of the vote and would get 58 of 60 seats in the National Assembly. With 98.7% of votes tallied, Bukele’s Nuevas Ideas party won with 2.67 million votes. The next highest was FMLN with 201,705. The result is likely to be declared official on Friday morning. Regional Presidents and US authorities have called to congratulate Bukele on a re-election which critics say is constitutionally invalid. Some opponents have stated they are considering legal action once the results are published.

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Photo: Salvador Melendez/AP

26th January 2024

Guatemala has a new President in Bernardo Arévalo despite last minute efforts to scupper the change over. Congress met for over 14 hours in an effort to declare Semilla politicians independent and check documentation of incoming diputados. At five minutes to midnight, Arévalo took office with former President Alejandro Giammattei dropping off presidential material at Congress and becoming the first ex-President to miss the changeover. Three days later, the US removed Giammattei and his three adult childrens’ visas for “substantial acts of corruption”. Legal moves after the inauguration has led to Congress having a junta directiva without Semilla on it but their coalition will lead the legislative branch.

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Photo: JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

12th January 2024

President-elect Bernardo Arévalo looks likely to take over as the new Guatemala leader on 14 January. This follows months of protests, criminal investigations and high level diplomacy that culminated in blocking attempts to change the August electoral results. Last minute efforts to thwart the peaceful transition of power included the arrest of former interior minister David Napoelón Barrientos for not breaking October protests up, four arrest warrants against electoral magistrates remaining in effect and the Constitutional Court having to remind the Ministerio Publico that they cannot arrest individuals with the right to antejuicio. This thwarted plans to arrest the Vice-President elect, Karin Herrera.

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Photo Prensa Libre: Carlos Hernández

8th December 2023

After Panama’s Supreme Court ruled that Minera Panamá’s contract (Law 406) was unconstitutional, the country faces up to the fallout. At least 7,000 workers have had their contracts suspended, the mine’s owners Canadian firm First Quantum have announced a voluntary withdrawal that could take over 10 years to finish. The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Federico Alfaro Boyd has announced his resignation with Jorge Rivera Staff as his replacement. Arbitration between First Quantum and Panama has already begun with experts expecting a final bill of US$10-20bn. Although teachers have gone back to work, the prospect of protests carrying over into 2024’s election remains. JP Morgan has warned of profound repercussions on Panama’s ability to attract external investment going forward. Korea’s Mine Rehabilitation and Mineral Resources Corporation (KOMIR) owns 10% of Minera Panamá.

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Photo by: Reuters

Nicaragua exited the Organisation of American States (OAS) on November 19, although are obligated to maintain conventions such as on human rights. Some observers lament this will be a blow to regional democracy, others point out that the OAS will continue to report on Nicaragua despite not maintaining a permanent presence in the country. In 2021, President Daniel Ortega announced his intention to leave the organisation. This followed an OAS resolution declaring the 2021 Nicaraguan elections as “illegitimate”. Nicaragua had been a member since 1950.

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Photo: Ramon Espinosa / Associated Press

10th November 2023

With four deaths, including an alleged double shooting on a motorway, Panama’s protests enter a third week. Although there are signs of splits in the various factions, the teachers’ union has stated that protests will remain. Schools have begun to reopen but only an estimated 20% nationwide are receiving students. Prosecutors have opened 175 investigations with almost 1,000 people arrested. President Rodrigo Chaves proposed a mining moratorium which is in its second reading in the National Assembly. Lawyers have warned that arbitration with Minera Panama could cost up to US$20bn. Ratings agencies have changed Panama’s outlook to negative in response to the protests.

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Photo by: Arnulfo Blanco

27th October 2023

A revised contract between the Panama state and Minera Panamá has resulted in a wave of civil unrest across the country. Schools and universities have suspended classes, MiBus has cancelled some bus services and medical staff followed through with a threat to join the strike. Adolfo Fábrega,  president of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama (Cciap) claims that the protests are costing the country US$60-90mn a day. After Congress and President Cortizo approved the contract for 20 years, people took to the streets demanding the repeal of Law 406. There are at least three legal measures claiming the Law violates Panama’s constitution currently filed. The government and Minera Panamá stated that clauses that could violate Panama’s sovereignty were removed.

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Photo: La Prensa Latin

18th October 2023

Nationwide protests entered their second week in Guatemala, with groups demanding the resignation of attorney general Consuelo Porras. President Giammattei has offered dialogue, mediated by the OAS with one major group – the 48 Cantones of Totonicapan. An average of over 110 road blockages in the past week have caused an estimated US$60mn in economic losses, fuel supply issues at airports, stuck tourists and school closures. The Constitutional Court has given permission for the police to use force to break blockades up.

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Photo via: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images