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LATAM POLITICS TODAY-Lula taps close ally as Brazil's next finance minister

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Guyana government opens bidding process for offshore oil blocks

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Lula ticket sues Bolsonaro for abuses during Brazil's election

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Guatemalan court approves sending detained journalist to trial

Dec 9 (Reuters) -

The latest in Latin American politics today:

Lula taps close ally as Brazil's next finance minister

BRASILIA - When Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was barred from running for office four years ago, he turned to one of his most trusted allies to take up the banner of his Workers Party (PT) in the 2018 presidential race.

Former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad became a household name during that failed campaign, but there was never any doubt who was pulling the PT's strings. Haddad made almost weekly visits that year to a jail cell where Lula was held on bribery charges later thrown out by the Supreme Court.

Now, making the most important cabinet choice of his third term starting next month, Lula has turned again to Haddad, tapping the 59-year-old as his finance minister to steer the economy away from weak growth, high inflation and precarious debt levels.

Guyana government opens bidding process for 14 offshore oil blocks

GEORGETOWN - Guyana on Friday formally opened a highly anticipated bidding round for 14 oil and gas blocks in its oil-rich offshore, hoping to award exploration contracts by the end of May.

The country is home to one of the largest oil discoveries in the last decade, with about 11 billion barrels of oil and gas found by a consortium led by Exxon Mobil. The government wants to diversify by recruiting new explorers and expanding the role of the state in the business.

Companies can bid through April 14 for the areas after paying a $20,000 fee per block bid to gain access to a virtual data room and participate in the bidding process.

Lula ticket sues Bolsonaro and sons for abuses during Brazil's election

BRASILIA - President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's election team sued President Jair Bolsonaro, his running mate and two of his sons for abuse of power and attacks on Brazil's voting system, both during the October election campaign.

The two lawsuits, filed in the electoral court, seek to ban the four men from running for office in future. Bolsonaro and his vice-presidential candidate, retired army general Walter Braga Neto, narrowly lost the election.

Guatemalan court approves sending detained renowned journalist to trial

GUATEMALA CITY - A Guatemalan court decided on Thursday to take to trial a case against a well-known Guatemalan journalist who was arrested four months ago on charges of money laundering, influence peddling and blackmail.

Jose Ruben Zamora Marroquin, an outspoken government critic, was detained in late July after a police raid on his home and will now remain in prison until the trial begins.

Prosecutors have repeatedly denied the journalist's claims that his detention is a "political persecution." (Compiled by Steven Grattan Editing by Frances Kerry)