Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Mexico holds final presidential debate (June 13, 2018)

Mexico's third and final presidential debate before the July 1 elections focused on development and the economy. Candidates attacked each other on corruption, with left-right coalition candidate Ricardo Anaya (who is trailing frontrunner Andrés Manuel López Obrador by some 17 percentage points) asserting he would back the creation of a commission to investigate President Enrique Peña Nieto (AP). 

Anaya also attacked Obrador for alleged dirty dealings with city contracts when he was mayor of Mexico City in the early aughts. He encouraged viewers to visit a website that he said backed up his assertions; Reuters found that website was down due to what the Anaya campaign said was a cyber attack. (Anaya has faced his own corruption scandal in relation to a land deal, which has arguably hurt his image as an anti-corruption crusader.)

It was a heated debate mostly due to the back and forth between Lopez Obrador and Anaya, observed Animal Político. Other notable debate moments included López Obrador's assertion that a failed NAFTA negotiation would not be "fatal," and Anaya's promise that he ensure every Mexican would own a smartphone or tablet. Other policy proposals included Lopez Obrador saying as president he would eliminate the "gasolinazo" energy tax; all candidates spoke of raising salaries for teachers, a major voting bloc in Mexico. 

The key question is whether any presidential candidate was able to use debate to significantly advance their current standing. Analysis by BBC News noted that Lopez Obrador is not known for strong debate performances, which arguably could have given the other candidates an opportunity to make an impression in the minds of undecided voters. Post-debate, polls still showed Lopez Obrador in the lead with more than 50 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him. Proceso observed that, as with the previous two debates in which "no one remembers any of his proposals," Anaya proclaimed himself last night's winner.

  • The country's business sector will hold a 24-hour strike tomorrow, in order to demand an end to the state's repressive actions against protestors and thus create the conditions needed for a new round of dialogue (El Pais). President Daniel Ortega told Church leaders last Thursday that he needed several days of "reflection" to react to the proposals presented by the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, which outline demands for greater democratization in the country. According to Nicaraguan human rights group the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), over the weekend Ortega told the U.S. government (Confidencialhe is willing to hold early elections, although the potential date is unclear. The latest death count, according to CENIDH, is 146. 

  • A new Amnesty International report details how protestors unlawfully detained during the unrest that followed last year's contested presidential election were denied due process. The report found that over a 10-day period, the Honduran government detained more than a thousand people for "curfew violations." The United Nations says that at least 118 people were prosecuted for alleged crimes committed during the protests, and 21 people were held in pre-trial detention—with some people spending up to four months in prison.  
  • Honduras continues its selection process for a new attorney general: nine of the 18 nominees must respond today to allegations of corruption. (El Heraldo).

    • A U.S. court sentenced Mexican drug trafficker alias “La Barbie” to nearly 50 years in prison (New York Times). La Barbie was behind the wave of violence that broke out in 2009-2010, after he sought to control the Beltran Leyva Cartel. InSight Crime notes that La Barbie’s sentencing—almost certainly reduced from life imprisonment due to his collaboration with U.S. law enforcement—sends a strong message to his former ally and fellow U.S. inmate Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Both traffickers were extradited from Mexico to the U.S.: Barbie in 2015 and Chapo in 2017. 
    • A federal judge ordered the release of four detainees that the Mexican government blamed for the 2014 disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students. Three of the four detainees are facing criminal proceedings for alledged involvement in the Guerreros Unidos gang, but the court ruled that Mexico's Attorney General's Office has failed to present sufficient evidence tying them to the students' disappearance after being taken into police custody. This follows last week's ruling by another federal court that the government should reopen the Ayotzinapa case.
    • Former employees of a country estate owned by the family of former president Alvaro Uribe recently described the family’s ties to violent paramilitary groups in detailed testimony to a Colombian courtreports El Pais. The testimony was recorded as part of the ongoing case against Uribe’s brother Santiago, who has been fighting accusations of paramilitary ties in court for two decades. Witnesses describe Santiago as working closely with a paramilitary group, the 12 Apostles, responsible for at least 509 murders in the early 1990s, human rights groups say. The testimony could affect the outcome of the current investigation into Santiago Uribe’s paramilitary ties, and hypothetically could cause political problems for Alvaro—who was recently voted into Colombia’s Senate, receiving more votes than any other legislative candidate in the country. 
    • In an interview with Reuters, former guerrilla and leader of the FARC political party Rodrigo Londoño said he believed that conservative factions would not be able to do away with the country's historic 2016 peace deal, due to the support it receives from the international community. 

    Central America 
    • The son of former President Mauricio Funes is under investigation for mismanagement of some $376,000 in public funds, reports El Diario de Hoy. The funds were used for 63 personal trips abroad to counties like Panama, Germany and France. Mauricio Funes was among 16 other government officials arrested yesterday in a corruption probe. The presidency (which is still controlled by Funes' party the FMNL) released a statement yesterday saying they "condemned any act of corruption" and supported an independent, impartial investigation. 
    • Guatemala's Attorney General's Office has requested an increase of approximately 954 million quetzales (about $127 million) for next year's federal budget, for a total budget of approximately $373 million, representing an approximate 55 percent increase from current levels. 
    Southern Cone
    • The demand for legal cannabis in Uruguay is greater than what the country can currently produce, reports the AP

    • Puerto Rico released new data that supports “the growing consensus that hundreds or even thousands of people died as an indirect result of the storm,” reports the AP
    • New York Times en Español op-ed argues that a key legacy of powerful ex-presidents Chávez, Uribe and Lula was how they pursued the concentration of power and how they energized their political base by citing fear of an either abstract or tangible "enemy." Their political style is still having repercussions in elections across the region—the article interprets Colombian presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo coming in third place during the first-round May 27 vote as indicative of how voters aren't interested in centrist candidates who use moderate rhetoric. 
    • Variety looks at two growing entertainment industries in Brazil: gaming and children's animation, both of which are seeing a boost thanks to an influx of government funding. 
    • Place your bets: ESPN predicts Brazil will win the 2018 World Cup, which starts tomorrow in Moscow. 
    - Elyssa Pachico

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