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  

14th May 2024

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele has pledged to improve the country’s economy and asked the population “not to complain”. Comparing the nation to a sick person, Bukele said there was a long list of issues including health, education, infrastructure, employment, housing and the economy. National critics complained about the illegality of Bukele’s re-election as international observers opted for cautious optimism. The debt to the country’s pension scheme stands at over US$10bn and by 2027, El Salvador will have to find US$800mn annually to fund it according to economist Mauricio Choussy.

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31st May 2024

 Walmart has announced investment worth at least US$1.3bn over the next five years in Central America. Of this, US$700mn has been promised to Guatemala, another US$600mn has been earmarked for Costa Rica. Cristina Ronski, Senior Vice President and General Director for Walmart Central America announced the news in which she promised to double the amount of stores across the region by 2029. The stores are expected to create 6,500 direct jobs between the two countries. It also includes a distribution centre in Coyol, Costa Rica, for perishable goods. In Guatemala, Walmart makes an estimated US$2bn worth of annual purchases through its supply chain. 

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5th May 2024

José Raúl Mulino is the new President-elect of Panama with 34.23% of the popular vote. With 78% turnout, the highest since the end of military rule in 1989, Mulino triumphed over nearest rival Ricardo Lombana who polled 24.6%. Mulino, who needed a majority decision by Panama’s Supreme Court the day before the election to continue his campaign, has promised to close the  Darién Gap with almost 150,000 migrants having passed through so far in 2024. Mulino has also promised to “help” former running mate Ricardo Martinelli who has applied for political asylum in the Nicaragua embassy. Facing a US$20bn+ claim on the Minera Panama copper mine, Mulino has also called for a halt to the three arbitration demands. Critics have pointed out that the proposed cabinet of 17 only has three women in it after the first 14 positions were confirmed.

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3rd May 2024

The favourite for Panama’s election, José Raúl Mulino, faces a Supreme Court decision on the validity of his candidacy. Mulino’s running mate, former President Ricardo Martinelli was found guilty of money laundering and sentenced to over 10 years in jail and fined more than US$17mn for the New Business case. Martinelli claimed he was in fear of his life because of Laurentino Cortizo and is currently in the Nicaragua embassy in Panama City claiming political asylum. Panamanians go to the polls on 5 May with employment, public services and the country’s financial future as leading concerns. Mulino has made it clear to the OAS he intends to remain in the election through Sunday no matter what the CSJ says. A ruling is expected Friday after over three days of deliberation.

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Photo: www.elinformador.com.co

19th April 2024

El Salvador returned to the bond market after four years with a US$1bn issuance at 12% that will mature in 2030. This is the largest debt in the country’s history and only four nations have issued sovereign debt above 10% since 2019. The rate could increase to 16% if El Salvador fails to reach an agreement with the IMF by October 2025 or get two of three risk agencies to raise their country grade. The IMF has said addressing Bitcoin risks is key to any agreement with El Salvador as well as fiscal consolidation, liquidity buffers and improved transparency. Analysts point out the new issuance suggests an urgent need for liquidity. Part of the new debt will be used to buy back old bonds with President Nayib Bukele committing to purchasing US$486.7mn of the US$1.75bn bond debt that matures between 2025 and 2029.

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5th April 2024

During a regional visit focusing on the Northern Triangle, US Vice President Kamala Harris earmarked a further US$1bn to the region. The funds will be used for projects that slow irregular migration northwards. This includes US$170mn to Guatemala for development, economic, health and security assistance to Guatemala. US$135mn of this will be distributed by USAID and used to conserve biodiversity, scale agricultural technology and improve health access to indigenous communities. Harris is looking to commit US$5.2bn in public-private partnerships to the region through the Central America Forward project.

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22nd March 2024

IADB is going to ramp up LatAm finance to US$112bn over the next decade following a capital increase of US$3.9bn and internal reforms. These changes will see IADB and its venture capitalist arm IDB Labs focus on fewer but larger loans. This comes after member nations expressed interest in financing specific projects such as Sweden guaranteeing a biodiversity project in the Amazon. IDB President Ilan Goldfajn wants more effective projects that have a greater impact. Examples of these would include waste management in the Dominican Republic and a $400mn green hydrogen investment in Chile.

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Photo: (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

8th March 2024

German pharmaceutical company Bayer announced that it will invest US$200mn in a new plant in El Coyol, Alajuela, Costa Rica. The site is currently installing equipment and acquiring certification to begin production of contraceptives by the beginning of 2025. The aim is to provide access to long-acting, reversible contraception to 100 million women in low-middle income countries by 2030. Further investment in its research and development station in Guanacaste will increase production and the workforce by 18%. Bayer has had a presence in Costa Rica since 1997.

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Photo: Coyol Free Zone

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