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Alex Bravo, former chief executive of state-owned Petroecuador, has been arrested over influence trafficking. (Photo: Ecuador Oil Ministry)
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Trade Talk

Competitiveness: Argentine Improves


Latin America's best workplaces, Cuba hotel boom, Petroecuador corruption.

BY LATINVEX STAFF

Argentina moved up four spots on the latest competitiveness ranking from Swiss-based business school IMD. Among 61 economies worldwide, Argentina now ranks in 55th place, up from 59th place a year ago.

Meanwhile, Mexico fell six spots – from 39th place to 45th place.

Brazil and Chile both fell one spot. Brazil went from 56th to 57th place while Chile fell from 35th to 36th place.

Colombia and Peru kept their ranks (51st place and 54th place, respectively), while Venezuela remains the least competitive economy on the ranking.

BEST PLACES TO WORK IN LATIN AMERICA

US-based technology company Cisco is the best place to work in Latin America among foreign multinationals in the region, followed by France-based hotel company Accor and US-based agrochemical company Monsanto, according to the latest ranking from the Great Place to Work Institute.

The top ten workplaces also include US-based computer producer Dell, US-based household cleaning producer SC Johnson, US-based logistics company DHL, Peru-based cosmetics company Belcorp, Brazilian cosmetics company Natura, US-based hotel company JW Marriott and US-based manufacturer Mars.

CUBA: THE NEXT HOTEL BOOM

Plans call for doubling the number of hotel rooms in Cuba from 62,090 today to 134,300 by 2030, according tto Arturo García Rosa, President & Founder of the South American Hotel South American Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference (SAHIC) who recently attended the Internnational Tourism Fair in Cuba. During 2016, 13,688 new rooms are expected to enter the market.

In Havana, there are currently 7,760 rooms in 51 hotels, with the pipeline calling for a further 9,188 rooms and 42 new hotels.

ECUADOR: HANDS IN THE COOKIE JAR

QUITO, Ecuador (Ecuador Weekly Report by Analytica) -- On May 16, police arrested Alex Bravo, a former chief executive of state-owned Petroecuador. The prosecution accuses him of the crime of influence trafficking when he managed the refurbishment of Ecuador’s main refinery, Esmeraldas, with an official capacity of 110,000 barrels a day – a project whose projected costs ballooned from $187 million to $1.2 billion and counting.

While Bravo denies the charges, president Rafael Correa and his chief legal advisor, Alexis Mera, have sought to distance themselves from him. By attending Bravo’s arraignment, Mera and the head of the Internal Revenue Service, Leonardo Orlando, did reveal the government’s particular interest in the case.

According to the prosecution, at Petroecuador, Bravo directly benefited companies in which family members and friends are shareholders or employees. Three companies in which he is a shareholder directly obtained well over a 100 contracts, including one for more than $35 million in a services company. Since Bravo worked for the company from 2006, Mera said he might also be guilty of bribery and embezzlement. Mera denied that Bravo’s was “a political official of this government,” which can hardly be since Petroecuador’s supervisory board, which consists only of the oil minister, the planning minister, and a representative of the presidency, appointed him last November.

President Correa denied knowing him and that he needed to pay for his crimes, if he committed them; this is also disingenuous as Bravo frequently attended the president’s Saturday propaganda broadcasts and given Correa’s style of micromanagement. In a video in March, he referred to him as “my dear Alex,” and numerous recent photos of the two have emerged. Bravo’s lawyer during the arraignment said that the sheer scale of the alleged crimes implies that he couldn’t have acted alone.

Investigative journalist Fernando Villavicencio agrees; in a report for investigative news site Focus, Villavicencio writes that his meteoric rise as a local Esmeraldeño to lead the oil refining, transportation and gas station company at just 35 needed support from political leadership. While Correa said that he had been fired, Bravo said that he had resigned after his name had emerged tied to the massive “Panama Papers” data leak. Indeed, he and oil minister Carlos Pareja, whom Correa says is an honest man, resigned after El Universo and Focus revealed his offshore links. According to El Universo, his personal assets rose to $670,000 as of last December from just $19,000 as recently as 2012. Bravo acknowledges having created Panamanian companies but denies using them to commit crimes.

 

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