Dec. 1 News Brief Central America/Caribbean

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Employment rises in the second half of the year: Despite the hard-hitting economic crisis in Mexico, Labor Minister Javier Lozano announced that 250,000 new jobs were created in the second half of 2009. Furthermore, the unemployment rate shows signs of declining; in September it stood at 6.41 percent and by October it had dropped to 5.94 percent. Lozano compared the rates with those recorded in 1995, when Mexico was also facing a serious crisis, and noted that employment in 2009 had fallen by just 0.6 percent.

[El Heraldo, La Crónica]

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – Banks invest in the region: After a year and a half of partnership with Salvadoran investors, Banco Industrial, Guatemala's largest bank with assets of US$4.38 billion, announced that it will open its first branch in El Salvador in May 2010. Meanwhile, another Guatemalan financial institution, Corporación G & T Continental, also announced plans to expand in the region and open a bank in Costa Rica in the medium term. Both banks already have local offices in Mexico and the United States.

[La Prensa Libre, El Periódico]

PANAMA CITY, Panama – Government seeks to sign transparency agreements: In a bid to be removed in 2010 from the gray list of tax havens established by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Panamanian government is seeking to seal 12 agreements on double taxation in the coming months, announced the Finance Ministry. The negotiations toward the agreements are already in the final stages with Mexico and well advanced with Spain and France. The government is also waiting to confirm talks with the UK and the Netherlands, among others.

[Hora Cero, Telemetro]

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – IDB approves US$86 million loan: The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) granted a soft loan of US$86 million to the country for infrastructure, production and foreign trade programs. The loan was signed by Finance Minister Alberto Guevara, who explained that one half of the funds will go toward improving the rural road network in productive areas. The loan comes after President Daniel Ortega requested the assistance of multilateral agencies to address the impact of the financial crisis in Nicaragua.

[Reuters, El Informador]

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