Monday, October 1, 2018

Deeply polarized Brazil prepares to vote (Oct. 1, 2018)

Brazilians head for the polls in a week, in what are increasingly characterized as the most turbulent elections in history. About 147 citizens are eligible to vote for president. About 1,600 posts are up for grabs, including two-thirds of the senate seats and over 500 federal deputies.

The latest polls show far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro in the lead with 28 points, followed by Workers' Party candidate Fernando Haddad with 22. The two will likely face-off in a second round later in October. Haddad has a slight advantage in predictions for a runoff, though the two were technically tied in recent polls. (Globo has a comparative of polls since August.)

Deep polarization ahead of the contest was demonstrated in street protests against Bolsonaro that took place in cities around the country. Tens of thousands of women took to the streets with the slogan "Not Him," a movement that started last month with a Facebook group that already has more than 4 million members. Gatherings were notable for diversity of participants, reports the Guardian. The #elenao movement has caught on internationally -- Madonna is one of the latest celebrities protesting Bolsonaro's mysogynist discourse. Indeed, women's vote could prove decisive in the likely run-off vote. Brazilians often vote for the candidate they least dislike in the second round, and more than half of the country's women now say they won't vote for Bolsonaro under any circumstances notes the Wall Street Journal.

Bolsonaro returned home, after an assassination attempt against him put him in the hospital for three weeks. A rally was held in Rio de Janeiro Saturday and marches in his support and anti-Workers' Party protests were also held yesterday. (Ozy and BBC)

Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's shadow looms long over the election. Though he has not been permitted to run, due to a corruption conviction, the Workers' Party leader is the voter favorite, and has played a key role in shaping the uncertain elections, reports AFP.

Though Bolsonaro was not present in yesterday's debate, he was the focus of much of the discourse. Ciro Gomes (PDT), Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) and Marina Silva (REDE) angled to sell themselves as centrist alternative to the polarization represented by Bolsonaro and Haddad. They portrayed the election leaders as representatives of "radical" positions. (El País and Al Jazeera)

El País cautions against comparing Bolsonaro to Donald Trump, calling him far worse in form and function. The editorial notes, as have others, Bolsonaro's constant defense for the country's military dictatorship, and calls for violent police crackdowns on crime. His running mate is a former general who says a military coup could be justified in certain circumstances, and has called for a constitutional reform written by a "council of notables." The editorial warns against an incendiary political discourse aimed at destroying the Workers Party. "As is often the case when democracy is at risk, it is the unity of those who believe in it - regardless of their differences - who finally rescues it. And in Brazil the same must happen."

The New Republic profiles Haddad, a little known and uncharismatic intellectual who has been thrust into a high-stakes election in which he appears to be Brazil's best hope to avoid Bolsonaro's authoritarian admiring tendencies. Though Lula's support will likely be enough to propel Haddad to the second round, in order to win he must succeed in overcoming animosity towards the PT and convince voters that he represents a changing of the guard, according to TNR.

More from the election
  • The Guardian retraces Lula's historic "Journey to the Heart of Brazil" to talk to voters across the country regarding their concerns for the upcoming vote.
  • This year the Supreme Electoral Court sought to strengthen female candidates with an amendment to the Electoral Law requiring political parties to spend at least 30 percent of their campaign funds on its female candidates, reports Al Jazeera.
  • An unprecedented umber of black women have registered to run in legislative elections, and many invoke Rio de Janeiro councilor Marielle Franco, who was assassinated in March. (Guardian)
  • Evangelicals are another major influence on this year's election cycle -- with Bolsonaro and Marina Silva representing visions from the increasingly influential faction. (Deutsche Welle)
News Briefs

  • The U.S. and Canada reached a last minute trade deal that will salvage NAFTA, which will now be called be named the "United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement." U.S. President Donald Trump hailed the agreement, and tweeted that USMCA was a "great deal" for all three countries and solves the "deficiencies and mistakes" in NAFTA (New York TimesBBC and BBC Mundo)
  • Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega declared street marches against him illegal on Friday, a determination considered illicit by human rights defenders and political activists, reports Confidencial. National Police cracked down on anti-government protesters who gathered anyway on Saturday, using sound bombs and tear-gas, reports Confidencial.
El Salvador
  • The U.S. administration considered severely penalizing El Salvador for severing diplomatic ties with Taiwan last month, in favor of China. But decided against retaliation affecting financial aid and visas out of concern that El Salvador would cease to collaborate with efforts to stem illegal migration to the U.S., reports the New York Times.
  • Migration from Central America to the U.S. is on an upward trend, pushed by deep structural factors in the region, and leaving U.S. officials scrambling to respond, reports the Washington Post.
  • Rampant criminal violence is one of the leading factors behind that migration, writes the Washington Post editorial board in a piece focused on the region's murder epidemic.
  • Venezuelan immigrants fleeing economic hardship costs Colombia approximately 0.5 percent of its gross domestic product per year, according to Colombian President Iván Duque. (Reuters)
  • Latin America is struggling to respond to the Venezuela crisis in the absence of U.S. leadership - Washington Post opinion piece by Jackson Diehl.
  • Three U.S. senators asked the State Department to add Venezuela to the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. The designation would expand the range of sanctions that the U.S. could apply against Venezuela. (Miami Herald)
  • Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has vowed to never use military force against civilians. He spoke Saturday at Tlatelolco Plaza, ahead of the 50 year anniversary of a bloody reprisal against peaceful student demonstrators. (Associated Press)
  • A mob of about 100 people doused a detective with gasoline and burnt him to death, apparently motivated by rumors that the man and companions were planning to abduct children. (Associated Press)
  • The International Court of Justice ruled against Bolivia in a dispute with Chile over access to the Pacific Ocean. (ReutersBBC and Guardian)
  • Friday was the the Day of Global Action for Legal and Safe Abortion. Annually 2,000 women die in Latin America and the Caribbean due to unsafe abortions. (TeleSUR)
Paulista style
  • Representation as Resistance in São Paulo - New York Times photo-essay by Gabriela Portilho.
  • Faith in democracy is waning in the region, but Kevin Casas calls against overly catastrophic interpretations in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Argentine Santiago Siri explains his theory of how blockchain technology can transform democracy in the twenty-first century with "political cryptocurrency." (Wired)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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