Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bolivian president insists on waiting for final results in referendum vote (Feb. 23, 2016)

Bolivian President Evo Morales refuses to accept defeat in Sunday's constitutional referendum on whether to modify presidential term limits. While exit polls suggest a failure of his motion to permit a second reelection, Morales insists that a final recount could bring a victory to the "yes" votes, reports the New York Times.

But a partial count issued yesterday afternoon by the electoral committee showed 59 percent of voters rejecting the measure and 41 percent supporting it. With 80 percent of the ballots counted just after midnight Monday, the "no" vote stood at 55 percent, reports the Associated Press

Polls indicated a single digit margen of victory, and Morales said yesterday that votes are still being counted in rural areas where he has a lot of support. The president blamed what he said was a dirty social media campaign by his political opponents for the poor showing, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See yesterday's post.)

News Briefs
  • The group of international experts for the Inter-American Human Rights Commission who are investigating the case of 43 disappeared teacher's college students say they have run into serious obstacles, reports the Associated Press. In a press conference on Sunday, they voiced concern about being given limited access to new information uncovered by government investigators and criticized leaks of statements from some of those arrested in the case that the panel said "don’t correspond to the truth." They also said authorities had not allowed them be present for statements by military personnel who were witnesses to the disappearance.
  • "Authoritarian leadership, stifled dissent, limited freedom of assembly, and endless violence, are the hallmarks of Mexico under Peña Nieto. It's time for Washington to pull the plug," argues John M. Ackerman in Foreign Policy. "The real problem is at the top, not the bottom, of the Mexican political system. And the key obstacles reside within the Mexican federal government."
  • Venezuela's government announced a decrease in gas subsidies and a devaluation last week, but much more needs to be done to stabilize the crisis-hit economy. Steps towards improvement include creating a system to ensure food and medicines at reasonable prices for citizens, stabilizing the currency, eliminating price controls and diversifying the economy away from oil, argues CEPR's Mark Weisbrot in Fortune.
  • Given the magnitude of Venezuela's crisis, the modest policy changes announced last week won't be enough, according to Michael McCarthy and Fulton Armstrong at the AULA Blog. They report on the modest measures taken since the Supreme Court decision reaffirming President Nicolas Maduro's authority to declare an "economic emergency."
  • The campaign strategist behind Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's two electoral victories, João Santana, surrendered to police this morning, reports Reuters. A federal judge issued arrest warrants yesterday for the temporary detention of Santana and his wife in relation to the ever-widening Petrobras corruption scandal. Federal prosecutors accuse the couple of receiving payments of about $7.5 million in offshore accounts from key figures involved in the large corruption scheme, reports the New York Times. The latest twist in the investigation harms Rousseff's case of staying out of the scandal, according to the Wall Street Journal. The development occurs just as impeachment proceedings against Rousseff were losing steam. Santana is suspected of money laundering and corruption in connection with at least $3 million in suspected illegal payments he allegedly received from Brazilian building giant Odebrecht SA. Santana and his wife turned themselves into the police upon their return this morning from the Dominican Republic, where they were working on the re-election campaign of President Danilo Medina, reports the Wall Street Journal in a subsequent piece.
  • Colombian authorities are making efforts to identify about 28,000 victims of the country's fifty-year civil war who were found in unmarked graves, reports the Associated Press. Prosecutors say the process can be sped up thanks to an agreement between the government and the FARC in the course of ongoing peace negotiations between the two sides. The two sides are quarreling over restrictions imposed on FARC leaders' visits to Colombia last week. (See Friday's briefs.)
  • Last week, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos urged FARC leaders to respect a March 23 deadline for a peace agreement, warning time was short as tensions rose over the negotiations, reports AFP.
  • The conservative former Colombian president, Álvaro Uribe, announced an anti-government march for April 2, in order to object to the ongoing peace talks with the FARC, according to Colombia Reports. The Democratic Center party says the government has been too soft in the negotiations and given too many concessions. 
  • The average daily violent death toll so far this year in El Salvador is 23.5, more than double that in the same period last year, reports EFE. The increase is due to the rise in the number of gang members killed in clashes with police and the army, according to authorities.
  • Al Jazeera has a feature on the forensic anthropology investigations in Guatemala's Military District 21, where 558 bodies were found in pits. (In January authorities arrested 18 former military officers in relation to massacres and disappearances carried out from the detention center. See Jan. 7's post.)
  • Three-thousand barrels of crude oil have been spilled in the Peruvian Amazon from ruptures in the country's main oil pipeline, reports Reuters. Two rivers relied on by indigenous villages for water have been affected.
  • Keiko Fujimori, the center right candidate who is the daughter of discredited former president Alberto Fujimori, remains the front-runner for Peru's April presidential elections. But she is losing ground to technocrat Julio Guzman, whose candidacy faces legal questions, reports the Associated Press. The latest Ipsos survey from this weekend points to the possibility of a tight run-off vote. (See last Thursday's briefs.) 
  • A new effort to control the spread of Zika-carrying mosquitoes in Brazil involves sterilizing them with gamma rays, reports the Guardian.
  • In Cuba, President Raúl Castro has deployed 9,000 troops in the battle against Zika. Though there hasn't been a single case detected on the island yet, the officers will clean up potential environments for the mosquitoes reports Reuters.
  • The downturn in commodities prices has affected copper prices in Chile, where small and medium-sized mines could be forced to shut-down, reports Reuters. Mass closing of mines would be a disaster for President Michelle Bachelet. Copper makes up half of the county's exports and lost about 10 percent of its jobs last year.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to visit Argentina in March shows the country is mending its diplomatic ties after years of tension, Argentine President Mauricio Macri told AFP yesterday..

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