Food shortages in Venezuela have led to the effective rationing of basics there - while Ecuador and Colombia are close to easing import/export barriers on a number of goods. Ivor Bennett asks: which news should investors take as their buy/sell signal for the region?
Some have been waiting since dawn. The endless queues at Venezuelan supermarkets a result of painful shortages. Milk, toilet paper and other basic goods all in scant supply. For many, the wait just got longer. The government now limiting access to certain days of the week based on ID card numbers. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) COOK, JUAN GONZALEZ, SAYING: "Obviously I can't shop when it's not my turn. I have obligations and can't limit my obligations to shop for food." Not far away, a very different picture. The shelves of Ecuador's supermarkets stocked to the hilt. There were concerns recent import tariffs would upset the apple cart. The country slapping on levies of 21 percent on Colombian goods, fearing their neighbour's shaky currency. But instead, the pair have kissed and made up. Ecuador agreeing to lower the tariffs, and discussing an increase in exports. Despite this, investors say the problem of their northern neighbour is keeping South America at arm's length. Jeremy Batstone-Carr from Charles Stanley. SOUNDBITE (English) JEREMY BATSTONE-CARR, CHIEF ECONOMIST, CHARLES STANLEY, SAYING: "Venezuela has got to be one of the countries around the world that must rank very high up the league table for potential default in 2015, therefore irrespective of what may be happening at the local level in relation to improving the trade environment most investors would far rather sit it out I think and watch from the sidelines." Falling oil prices have also been a factor. Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro going cap in hand to Russia and before that China hoping for some help. Back home, the wait continues as the rationing kicks in.