Monday, November 20, 2017

Piñera wins first round by smaller margin than predicted (Nov. 20, 2017)

Former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera won the first round of an election to reclaim his old post on Sunday. With 36.6 percent of the votes, he will face off against Alejandro Guillierme of the ruling Nueva Mayoría coalition, who won 22.7 percent, reports El Mercurio (full breakdown of votes). 
Though Piñera's was not expected to pass the fifty percent threshold needed to win outright, he performed less well than expected. Analysts had predicted an easy win in December's second-round for Piñera, but yesterday's results point to a potentially closer result if leftist voters back Guillier, reports the Wall Street Journal. Yesterday Guillier called for a broad alliance to win the runoff. 
Leftist candidate Beatriz Sánchez obtained 20.3 percent of the votes, far more than predicted before the election. Though Sánchez didn't endorse Guillier during a concession speech yesterday, she said that Piñera's re-election would be a setback for the country. 
Her voters are largely youthful, and could hold the decision regarding the next Chilean presidency in their hands, according to the BBC."The surge from the left, more relevant than in any other presidential elections since 1990, may change the political map, or at least influence the agenda of the future president," agrees the New York Times. Votes from yesterday demonstrate a generational shift, 
Investors are hoping for Piñera's economy boosting policy promises -- including pledges to reduce corporate tax rates and simplify the tax code -- according to the WSJ. Guillier, though initially independent, has promised to continue President Michelle Bachelet's ambitious goals of progressive reform.
The Chilean constitution prohibits consecutive presidential terms, but some analysts see the election as a referendum on her legacy, reports U.S. News and World Today.
As Bachelet prepares to step down, she ends an era of female presidents across the region -- one that she herself ushered in with her initial 2006 election, notes the Christian Science Monitor. Though Bachelet and her regional counterparts were symbolically important, critics say they did not do enough to advance women's rights in their countries, according to the piece. But even the gains such as Chile's new law permitting abortion in limited circumstances could be challenged by her successor.
A new gender parity law was in effect for the first time this year, fomenting female participation on party slates. And female lawmakers increased to 21.4 percent, up from 15.8 percent, reports El Mercurio.
News Briefs
  • The exodus of Venezuela's citizens -- to other countries in the region and the United States -- is difficult to quantify, though tens of thousands seek asylum, many more migrate for economic reasons to countries that have seen a massive influx in recent years, including Colombia and Trinidad and Tobago, writes David Smilde at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. He notes the relative lack of official crackdowns on these migrants, as well as efforts by civil society groups to pressure their governments to meet immigrants' needs. "In Colombia, human rights group Dejusticia has launched a campaign called #VenezuelaBienvenida, which combats discrimination against Venezuelan immigrants in the country. As the group puts it, the campaign is a “call for solidarity,” and one of its aims is to showcasehow many of these are descendants of Colombians who originally fled the armed conflict. In Brazil, Conectas has been especially involved in advocating for more resources for the crisis, and for local governments along the Brazilian border to treat Venezuelans who arrive with dignity and respect for their rights."
  • Efforts to find a negotiated solution to Venezuela's crisis are increasingly central to avoiding a Syria-like flood of refugees, writes Andrés Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald
  • Five regional human rights groups - CELS, Conectas, Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, Dejusticia and WOLA -- condemned Argentine President Mauricio Macri's call for a U.S. oil embargo on Venezuelan crude. "As organizations devoted to advancing human rights, the signing groups express our deep rejection of these remarks. We urge the international community to find a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Venezuela by refraining from supporting sanctions that would worsen the grave humanitarian situation faced by Venezuelans." Restrictions on oil sales would affect the Venezuelan government's ability to import much needed food and medicine, as well as worsen the above mentioned migration crisis, they argue. "Finally, economic sanctions would go against public opinion in Venezuela, where a majority of Venezuelans reject such measures. For this reason and because of the frequent invocation by the Maduro government of an alleged international plot to justify policies that violate human rights, sanctions could even be counterproductive and end up contributing to those policies."
  • Escaped Venezuelan political prisoner Antonio Ledezma arrived in Spain on Sunday, reports the Associated Press. (See Friday's post.) Ledezma is one of the country's most recognized political prisoners, reports the Miami Herald
  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, concluded a visit to El Salvador. He criticized the mano dura approach to gang violence, urging preventive policies as well. "The level of violence in El Salvador remains shockingly high. According to civil society groups, from January 2015 to February 2017, more than a thousand civilians and 45 police officers were killed in armed confrontations between the police and alleged gang members. There are also alarming reports of extrajudicial killings and the return of death squads. No matter how serious the human rights violations committed by violent gangs, all perpetrators of violence need to be held fully accountable for their actions through judicial mechanisms. Victims on all sides deserve justice." He also said he was "appalled" by punishments women face for complications in pregnancy under the country's draconian abortion prohibition. He called on authorities to review all cases of women detained for offenses related to abortion, including miscarriages and obstetric complications, reports Reuters.
  • Surging violence in Rio de Janeiro has officials hostage, reports the New York Times. Teachers find themselves perfecting the art of determining when gun-battles merit canceling classes, and police officers face rising levels of mortality as well. But it also affects ordinary citizens who use apps to glean information about ongoing gunfights. Rio is facing a "rise in lawlessness reminiscent of its darkest periods in the 1980s and 1990s," according to the piece, which cites the Brazilian Forum on Public Security.
  • The UK's trade minister successfully lobbied the Brazilian government on behalf of BP and Shell. The oil giants were concerned over Brazilian taxation, environmental regulation and rules on using local firms, according to documents revealed by a Greenpeace investigation. Greenpeace accused the department of acting as a "lobbying arm of the fossil fuel industry," reports the Guardian.
  • Fifty years after Caetano Veloso's "Tropicalismo" album earned him fame and detention by the country's military dictatorship, he has now emerged as the leader of a resistance against Evangelical and rural movements in Brazilian politics, writes Carol Pires in a New York Times Español op-ed. In the midst of a sort of conservative counter-revolution, he and his partner Paula Lavigne have organized artistic protests.
  • Mexican officials promised a new capital city airport would be a conservation lodestone. But critics say the environmental efforts associated with the new airport are suspiciously devoid of detail, reports the New York Times. It's yet another potential failure for President Enrique Peña Nieto, notes the piece.
  • Public sector reform remains a challenge, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the Miami Herald, saying that borrowing to pay for a sector that does not produce value makes no sense. He also highlighted the need to tackle violence -- homicides so far this year have increased by 25 percent over the 2016 total.
  • Argentine officials said the odds were increasingly grim in the search for a missing submarine and its 44 person crew. The  San Juan, which went missing on Friday, is the focus of an international search to locate the vessel, reports the New York Times. Assistance from the U.S. and the U.K. have raised some eyebrows in Argentina, where critics say it indicates a lack of investment in the military, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • The Trump Ocean Club tower in Panama was apparently used by many condo-owners to launder illicit funds, report NBC and Reuters. Their investigation "shows that the project was riddled with brokers, customers and investors who have been linked to drug trafficking and international crime." A Global Witness investigation on the issue, also released Friday, argues that "Trump may not have deliberately set out to facilitate criminal activity in his business dealings. But ... licensing his brand to the luxurious Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama aligned Trump’s financial interests with those of crooks looking to launder ill-gotten gains. Trump seems to have done little to nothing to prevent this. What is clear is that proceeds from Colombian cartels’ narcotics trafficking were laundered through the Trump Ocean Club and that Donald Trump was one of the beneficiaries."
  • Latino, Latina, Latinx? In a New York Times Español op-ed, Ilan Stavens explores attempts to make Spanish gender neutral, and in the process also explores the history of the term Latin America.
  • Rat soup anybody? It's a delicacy in Mexico's Zacateca state, and crusade for a local lawmaker attempting to rescue the tradition, reports the Guardian.

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