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Latin America’s top corporate executives are getting a reality check. After several years of booming growth, thanks in large part to their success in tapping burgeoning demand in emerging markets, top Latin executives are now feeling the knock-on effects of a recent slowdown in those markets as well as the persistent woes dogging Europe and North America. The slump in demand is forcing corporate leaders to pull in their horns, or at least recalculate their trajectory.

The two largest Latin American economies are both feeling the slowdown. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that Brazil, a darling of the emerging markets for the past five years, will grow by only 1.5 percent this year, against 2.7 percent last year and a galloping 7.5 percent in 2010. And the IMF says Mexico, which some investors have seen as an alternative to Brazil, will grow by 3.8 percent this year, faster than Brazil but virtually unchanged from Mexico’s 3.9 percent growth rate last year and down from 5.5 percent in 2010.

In general, Brazilian companies are reacting to the new international and domestic environment by reining in costs. Consider Brazil’s Vale. The mining conglomerate is one of the world’s largest producers of iron ore and copper, among other minerals, and it has benefited in recent years from surging Chinese demand for metals. But slower global growth has sent commodity prices tumbling, causing a 20.8 percent decline in Vale’s second-quarter operating revenues, to $12.15 billion, and a 58.7 percent plunge in earnings, to $2.7 billion.

For a company that had planned to ramp up its capital spending by nearly 17 percent this year, to $21 billion, that revenue hit has prompted a hardheaded rethink. In August the company canceled plans to invest $3 billion in a new potash mine in Saskatchewan, Canada. 

In October, Vale also put on hold the $1.3 billion development of the Zogota mine in Simandou, Guinea’s richest iron ore deposit. The mine was supposed to have started output by the end of this year. The company paid $2.5 billion for the concession in April 2010 but its plans were thrown into doubt, following the end of military rule in the country in November 2010, as the new civilian government decided to review the mining licenses that had already been granted.