This Latino Week

Ex-President Lula sentenced to prison, NAFTA renegotiation targets announced, Latin American football stars dominate transfer window
Jim McKenna

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, better known throughout Brazil and the world as Lula, was convicted of charges relating to corruption this week, and sentenced to nine and a half years in prison. The decision marks a shock fall for the charismatic politician, who had been repeatedly linked with a bid for the Presidency following the struggles of Michel Temer.

The claim that Lula has been convicted of links to connections relating to the ‘Car Wash’ corruption scandal that has engulfed Brazil over the past year. The former President was alleged to have been gifted an apartment as a bribe in exchange for political favours, something which has been strenuously denied by all involved. The case is just one of five which have been brought against Lula, with the other four being heard in the coming months.

For now, Lula remains free pending an appeal, but the charge is sure to damage Lula even if he manages to avoid prison. His potential Presidential ambitions have surely been thwarted, and it is highly unlikely that he will return to the frontline of politics with his Worker’s Party (PT). His allies have claimed that the charges are politically motivated, and designed to prevent him from standing for office – although a range of politicians from all parties could suffer the same fate as Lula. Either way, the conviction is sure to divide an already-polarised nation further, with Lula maintaining a strong backing from his supporters, who view his personal charm and social policies with fondness.

NAFTA renegotiation targets announced

The United States government has stated that its main goals from the discussions around NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) are to deal with trade deficits and market access. The primary target on the American side is to negotiate what is perceived to be an ‘unfair’ deal, with the US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer claiming that NAFTA had caused the balance of trade between the U.S. and Mexico to turn from a $1.3bn U.S. surplus to a $64bn deficit.

Lighthizer also added a range of suggestions in this targets, including strengthening labour and environmental obligations in NAFTA side agreements, cutting market-distorting practises from state-owned companies, and adding a remit for the digital economy, which has rapidly increased in importance since the initial deal was signed in 1994.

In turn, Mexican and Canadian officials have stressed that they wish to push their own agendas at the negotiations, with various domestic markets requiring protection or subsidies that are covered in NAFTA. It is agreed on all sides that some form of change is needed with NAFTA, and many economists have suggested that the deal can be improved. However, it is unclear what time limit has been placed on a very complex set of negotiations, with each party wanting very different measures to protect their own economies.

Latin American football stars dominate transfer window

The opening of the transfer window has yet again seen players from around the world linked with multi-million moves to top clubs, and Latin American players have been at the front of the rumour mill. Confirmed deals include the two-year loan move of Real Madrid’s Colombian playmaker James Rodríguez to Bayern Munich, as well as PSG’s signing of Brazilian right-back Dani Alves from Juventus.

The largest fee paid for a Latin American footballer so far is the £35 million paid by Manchester City for Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson Moraes from Portuguese team Benfica, breaking the previous world record for a keeper, when Gianluigi Buffon moved to Juventus for £32.6 million in 2001. The window is still open in Europe for over a month, and gossip columns continue to suggest that a range of moves could come to fruition. Most strikingly, this week has seen suggestions of a move to PSG for Brazilian forward Neymar, for a fee that could rise to an astonishing £200 million.