Friday, November 18, 2016

Haitians to finally head to polls (Nov. 18, 2016)

Haitians head to the polls again to pick a president -- a re-do election after last year's results suffered from widespread fraud and irregularities. Haiti has been struggling for  a year to resolve a political impasse that has left it under the administration of an interim-government that has failed to meet several deadlines for holding elections.

the election is taking place amid the rubble of widespread Hurricane Matthew destruction, which led to the most recent postponement of voting, scheduled for last month. But interim president, Jocelerme Privert urged citizens to go to the polls, calling the exercise vital for the country's stability, reports the Guardian.

Voting will have to be conducted at fewer polls, due to storm destruction. Many other schools, used as voting centers, are being used as emergency shelters for displaced people, notes the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. Other voters will face difficulty having lost their identification cards (along with all their belongings) in the storm.

There are 27 candidates for president in this Sunday's election, but only six are actively campaigning and have a shot governing for the next six years, according to the Miami Herald. (The article has useful bios of the six.) 

The leader of the pack is Jude Célestin, who has the unprecedented support of a coalition of former presidential candidates, according to the Herald.

The Guardian cites polls putting Jovenel Moïse ahead, and another showing strong support for Maryse Narcisse.

The top contenders include two women. Most of them have strong links to former presidents Michel Martelly, René Préval and Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Aristide's campaigning on behalf of his Fanmi Lavalas political party pick, Narcisse is a departure from his habitual isolation. (See Sept. 27's briefs, for example.) 

All of the candidates have made promises that experts say would be difficult -- if not impossible -- to carry out, such as a 12 percent annual growth rate, 100,000 jobs in 100 days, a metro system, according to the Miami Herald.

News Briefs

Read more here:
  • A 22-year-old activist was killed in Guatemala City last weekend. Jeremy Barrios, who had survived a previous assassination attempt, worked as an assistant to the general director of the Guatemalan environmental and human rights group CALAS, which has denounced abuses at the hands of mining corporations in the country, reports TeleSur.
  • Mexico's central bank raised interest rates yesterday in an attempt to counter the peso's plummet following Trump's election last week, reports the Guardian. Trump's promises to tear up NAFTA have caused deep concern in Mexico, which sends 80 percent of its exports to the U.S., reports the Wall Street Journal. (See pretty much most posts and briefs for this week.)
  • NAFTA is a disaster, as Trump has argued, but it's negative effects are worst for poor Mexicans than anyone else, argues Guardian special correspondent Felicity Lawrence. Mexican manufacturing initially won, but only remains competitive if wages are cripplingly low. "As with subsequent bilateral free trade agreements, this one was rigged in favour of American and Canadian business. ... The balance of power in negotiations is always with the richer countries and with transnational corporations and elites."
  • A curious ramification of Trump's promised pulling out of the global climate agreement would be that the U.S. and Nicaragua would be the only countries to formally oppose the Paris Agreement adopted by almost 200 other states, notes Reuters.
  • Expectations of a U.S. economic retreat from the region has leaders looking to China to help in the midst of a negative outlook, according to the Associated Press. That approach however has pitfalls for countries which have discovered the downside of relying heavily on commodity exports, and would prefer the manufacturing jobs that could by supported by exports to the U.S.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping is setting off on a LatAm diplomatic tour today, with visits scheduled in Ecuador, Peru, and Chile, reports TeleSur. The three countries are China's largest economic trading partners in Latin America.
  • Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega won a larger majority in Congress in elections two weeks ago in which he was reelected for a third consecutive term, reports Reuters. The national electoral authority took over a week to announce the final results of the legislative elections as it tallied results from isolated communities. Ortega's Sandinistas won 71 of the 92 seats in Congress, up from the 63 seats they won in the 2011 election. Critics however say the ruling party is unfairly consolidating power and weakening institutional structures. (See Nov. 4's and Nov. 8's posts.)
  • InSight Crime has a two part series analyzing cocaine output figures for Bolivia and Colombia. In the case of Bolivia, the numbers published by the UNODC and the U.S. government have been sharply divergent: while the U.N. numbers show a downward shift in coca cultivation, suggesting the country is a decade-long low, U.S. data posits that the country hit a 15-year coca growth peak last year. These numbers have been questioned by experts who point to methodological problems and say the numbers are likely inflated. However, there is also another problem which is cocaine production in Bolivia using coca paste from other countries like Peru, notes the piece.
  • In the case of Colombia, authorities have seized a record amount of cocaine this year, a number likely linked to a recent boom in coca leaf production, explains InSight. By UNODC figures, Colombia has seized nearly half of its estimated pure cocaine production, and even by U.S. calculations of output. The numbers seem unrealistic, considering that countries generally seize an estimated 10 percent of production, according to InSight. This could point to less pure cocaine being produced, or far greater quantities than either the U.S. or the U.N. are estimating, according to the piece. "In sum, it is nearly impossible to determine the true extent of Colombia's cocaine production when official figures from various sources differ greatly and reveal potential flaws in their methodologies. Still, it is probably safe to say that the volume of cocaine the country is feeding into the global market is at or above the highest estimates available."
  • Graciela Mochkovsky has a piece in the Atlantic analyzing Henry Kissinger's lack of repentance for U.S. actions in Latin America during the Cold War.
  • New aerial pictures taken along the Brazil-Venezuelan Amazon border show an apparently healthy and growing community, one of three un-contacted Yanomami tribes in the area, reports the Guardian. The groups have been monitored remotely after rebuffing approaches from outsiders, but indigenous rights advocates have been concerned about the encroachment of illegal mining on their lands. "But relief at finding the tribe has survived is mixed with worry that they have moved even closer to the miners, who bring diseases, contaminate water sources with mercury and often carry – and use – guns." The images were taken as part of surveillance preparation to remove an estimated 5,000 illegal miners from the area. Advocates note that the National Indian Foundation (best known by its Brazilian acronym Funai) has been hard hit by Temer administration austerity budget cuts, and say it could endanger efforts to protect un-contacted and recently contacted groups.
  • On the topic of Brazil's rainforest, the New York Times has a feature on the "pirates of the Amazon River." "Piracy has long been a fact of life on the rivers of Brazil’s anarchic wilderness. But as the population in the Amazon surges and drug gangs expand their sway over the region, hijacking opportunities have flourished. And police forces are struggling to keep up with the crime, culminating in a series of recent attacks that have terrorized riverboat crews and their passengers."

Latin America Daily Briefing

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