Friday, June 8, 2018

Nicaraguan president to consider early elections (June 8, 2018)

  • President Daniel Ortega initially refused to accept a negotiated constitutional exit from power after a two hour meeting yesterday with Nicaragua's Episcopal Conference. But he asked for 48 hours to reflect on the proposal to hold early elections, reports El País. The proposal would also include a complete changeover of electoral authorities and constitutional reform, aimed at ensuring free and fair elections, as well as deep police reform, reports Confidencial.
  • The talks were held even as repression of protests continued around the country. The latest statistics calculate over 130 dead over the past seven weeks. On Wednesday evening three people were killed with bullets in Chinandega, reports Confidencial.
  • The U.S. announced visa restrictions against "individuals responsible for human rights abuses or undermining democracy in Nicaragua." The U.S. State Department made reference to political violence by police and "pro-government thugs," reports CNN. The comunique doesn't specify the names of affected officials, but it includes National Police officers, reports El País.
  • The Ortega administration's brutal repression of protesters demonstrates the moral bankruptcy and political instability of the government's alliance with the business community that has permitted it increasingly subvert government institutions and the electoral playing field, according to the Economist. He is unlikely to succeed in perpetuating his rule as a dictatorship, however, in no small part because the business community is stronger than in Venezuela in 2013, according to an expert cited in the piece.
  • Economic losses have been steep as well, some estimates point to a loss of $600 million and potentially 150,000 jobs lost, reports Confidencial.
  • Masaya, once a Sandinista stronghold and a revolutionary symbolic locality, has become a hotbed of anti-government protest, reports the Guardian. The city has become a symbol of resistance, and resembles a war ghost town, reports the Miami Herald.
  • For those who have lost track of the crisis' timeline, BBC has a roundup.
News Briefs

  • Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who casts himself as a political outsider, is dominating polls. But there has been less analysis of how Morena party might well win an absolute majority in both houses of Congress on July 1. That's a radical shift for a party that won 35 seats in the lower chamber in 2015 and none in the senate, writes Macario Schettino in Americas Quarterly. But while AMLO and Morena's strong position reflect a voter desire for change, their ascent "is less a fresh start than a return to the bad old days of the PRI," he argues.
  • YouTube videos purportedly link candidate Ricardo Anaya to corruption. The left-right coalition candidate, who is polling second, said he holds the Peña Nieto administration responsible for the attack, report El País.
  • Fuel theft, dubbed huachicoleo, increased 50 percent in the year's first quarter, and is moving towards the country's center, reports Animal Político.
Regional diplomacy
  • Venezuela's collapse is attracting the attention of major international players, to the detriment of continental leadership, argues Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly. Russia, China, the U.S. and Cuba are the four most influential international actors in the country's fate, a dramatic change of fortune particularly for Brazil which sought regional leadership under Lula.
  • This year's electoral season was symbolically launchd by the ten-day trucker strike that brought the country to its knees, and bodes ill for economic stability under the next government, according to the Economist.
  • Right-wing candidate Iván Duque is expected to win the second round of presidential elections, raising questions regarding the influence of former president Álvaro Uribe in the government. Uribe remains a political heavyweight -- he was the most voted senator in the country's history in March's legislative elections. Duque is expected to be loyal to his political godfather, who plucked the candidate from virtual obscurity, writes Sylvia Colombo in a New York Times Español op-ed. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • That the second-round is between a candidate from the left and from the right is significant in Colombia, where the competition has generally been between the right and the extreme right, writes Hernando Gómez Buendía, editor of Razón Pública. (See May 28's post.)
  • Argentina's government proudly announced a three-year deal with the International Monetary Fund for a $50 billion credit line. The amount was larger than expected, but demands sharper cuts in the country's fiscal deficit and decreases in inflation (Argentina's perennial scourge), reports the New York Times. The deal is good news for investors, and a vote of confidence in the Macri administration from the IMF, but ordinary Argentines resent the IMF's role in the catastrophic 2001 crisis, and are unlikely to welcome further fiscal austerity -- ultimately affecting Macri's chances at reelection next year, warns the Economist.
  • At the mercy of flakey international investors that respond to market expectations rather than underlying economic policy, Argentines are at least united by their hatred of the IMF, writes Ernesto Tenembaum in El País. So much so that both sides of the abortion debate are invoking it as the devil against which they struggle: this week a pro-abortion march also included opposition to the IMF in its call to demonstrators. While a priest speaking in Congress said that abortion is equivalent to the IMF, to explain his opposition to legalization.
  • Conservative attitudes towards abortion in Argentina have shifted thanks in part to publicity regarding the often lethal tragedies and injustices prohibition has caused for women, reports the Economist. The lower chamber of Congress is set to vote on a bill that would legalize abortion within the first 14 weeks -- it will be a close vote with enough undecideds to go either way.

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