Thursday, October 15, 2015

Argentina's presidential race too close to call (Oct. 15, 2015)

Ten days to go till Argentina's presidential elections on October 25, and while the Frente para la Victoria candidate Daniel Scioli is leading the polls, the big question is whether he will win outright or be forced to face a run-off election.

To win in the first round, Scioli -- who has the support of outgoing President Cristina -- must obtain over 40 percent of the votes and have more than a 10 point lead over his closest rival. (Or get over 45 percent of the total of votes.)

The polls are too close to predict. One of the latest, published this weekend by Poliarquía Consultores has Scioli at 37.1 percent and his closest rival, the conservative mayor of Buenos Aires city Mauricio Macri, at 26.2 percent. Scioli has more than a ten point lead (though barely) but falls short of the 40 percent threshold he needs to avoid the run-off. But a handful of undecided voters or changed minds could take the election one way or another, explains the conservative La Nación.

A separate poll by Enrique Zuleta Puceiro's OPSM has similar numbers: placing Scioli at 38.4, Macri at 28.8 and Massa at 20.5, reports Perfil.
Left-leaning Página 12 published a round up of nine different pollsters this weekend, and says it's possible that Scioli will win in the first round, but that there's disagreement among the experts. On average they say Scioli is near 40 percent, Macri is somewhat below or around 30 and Massa will come in just above 20.

And it's worth noting that while Scioli is a clear front-runner in the first round, it's less clear what would happen in an eventual second round, in which the two runners up have over fifty percent of the vote between them. Página 12 notes that it's difficult to poll such a run-off before voters actually know for a fact that it will happen.

The two runners up, Macri and Sergio Massa (a small locality in the outskirts of greater Buenos Aires city) are fighting for the so-called "useful" or "serviceable" vote, people who are seeking to use their vote to defeat Kirchner's dauphin rather than in favor of a specific candidate. Massa, who has approximately 20 percent of the vote according to the last Poliarquía poll is making the (somewhat desperate) case that only he could eventually beat Scioli in an eventual run-off election. While Macri makes the case that voting him will ensure a run-off and the possibility of beating Scioli.

An interesting Reuters piece notes the conundrum Scioli finds himself in: much of the widespread support he enjoys is because of Kirchner's support, but in order to win over more votes, he must distance himself from the President and convince voters he is not a puppet. Throughout the campaign he has balanced promises to maintain the Kirchner legacy of social programs and workers' rights, while also nodding to pro-business sectors who want to see policies to spur economic growth. He says his policy of "gradual change" will draw investment worth $30 billion annually and warns the rapid changes proposed by Macri would drive Argentina into a recession.

For those who just can't get enough (which could only refer to those living outside of Argentina, those of us who are here have been bombarded with the topic for the better part of the year) La Nación has an exhaustive (and exhausting) coverage, including maps with primary election results,fact checking of candidates' statements and opinion pieces.

News Briefs

  • Mexican authorities say they have detained the leader of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, Daniel Quintero Riestra, also known as "El Dany." The group has grown in influence over the last year and is responsible for some of the deadliest attacks on government agents in recent years, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • Altar in Mexico -- near the border with Arizona -- used to be considered a "migrant oasis," a place where those seeking to cross the desert into the U.S. could gear up and find guides for the treacherous journey. But warring organized crime groups, seeking to control both drug and human trafficking in the area have made the town itself dangerous for migrants who face extortion, kidnapping and often pay with their lives, reports The Guardian.
  • Peru's intelligence agency has all the equipment necessary to geolocate cellphones. But the recent purchase of said equipment is under investigation by a government watchdog and a Congressional oversight committee which say there is no legal framework to buy and operate this technology, reports El Comercio. The agency also purchased technology from an Israeli company that would permit it to tap over three thousand telephones. In July Peru's government ordered telecommunications companies to grant police warrantless access to cellphone users' locations and other call data in real time and store that data for three years, a decree that civil libertarians called an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. (See July 28th's briefs.)
  • Peru announced an investigation into allegations of military corruption in relation to a cocaine transportation "air bridge" to Bolivia after an Associated Press investigative piece published yesterday. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • There have been dozens of cases of civilians being injured or killed during protests in Peru over the past fifteen years. Yet police officers, who are responsible for at least 97 percent of those injuries and deaths face few consequences, only 17 percent of the cases have ever been prosecuted, reports TeleSur.
  • There's an important focus on homicide statistics in the public security arena. At the same time, experts question the numbers themselves. InSight Crime notes that there are significant issues with how homicides are recorded in different countries and even within them. Meaning, what is actually being compared? InSight has an interesting interview with Michael Reed-Hurtado, a researcher and lecturer at Yale Law School, in which he makes a startling observation: "If there is something that we know worldwide, it's that criminal policy is being conducted basically through leaps of faith."
  • The governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic met earlier this week to work toward "better harmonization" regarding the deportation of Haitian migrants and people of Haitian descent from the DR, reports the Associated Press. The issue has caused conflict between the two countries since a 2013 DR court decision that determined that children of migrants did not have a right to Dominican citizenship, but has stepped up this year as the DR ended a difficult process of registration for the thousands of undocumented Haitians living in their country who now face deportation. (See June 17th's post.) The two sides also agreed on Tuesday to seek solutions in a trade dispute in which Haiti recently banned 23 products from crossing over land borders.
  • U.S. diplomat Kenneth Merten, charged with coordinating U.S.-Haiti emphasized that the upcoming presidential elections there are a Haitian-driven process, reports the Miami Herald. "Like it or not, we cannot and do not run the process," he said yesterday speaking in Miami and responding to concerns by Haitian-Americans about what the U.S. government is doing to protect the electoral process.
  • There are always business opportunities. A piece in Revista Factum looks at the booming industry of funereal homes in El Salvador, where violence is reaching record levelsInSight Crime has an Engish translation of the piece out today.
  • Havana is in the grips of a gold-rush mood according to the Associated Press. "The city is filled with celebrities coming to party and hedge-fund managers sizing up their chances to make millions in one of the last bastions of communism. As an influx of American cash starts feeling imminent and inevitable, there's a giddy, frothy feeling in the air, at least the air breathed by Havana's privileged. While most Cubans remain on the outside looking in, Havana's high society has a gold-rush, center-of-the-universe pulse that hasn't existed here since Fidel Castro stormed down from the mountains in 1959 and threw out the last group of foreigners who saw Havana as their tropical playground."

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