Thursday, March 10, 2016

Peru's presidential election is running short on candidates (March 10, 2016)

With less than a month until Peru's presidential elections, on April 10, the country's electoral council seems intent on leaving voters with few options to choose from.

Peru's electoral council blocked the candidacy of Julio Guzmán yesterday. He was the main challenger to front runner Keiko Fujimori.

The council voided his candidacy citing technical reasons having to do with the mechanism by which his party had chosen him as its candidate, reports the Associated Press.

His Todos por el Perú party questioned the ruling, and will appeal it, reports La Mula. But the party also questioned the fairness of how the electoral council is applying technical rules, pointing to inconsistencies with how other parties selected presidential candidates.

A third candidate, César Acuña, of the Alianza para el Progreso, has also been eliminated from the running, after the council found him guilty of buying votes in Chosica, reports Living in Perú. He was fourth in the running, and is also appealing the decision, reports the Global Post.

The ruling, barely a month before the April 10 first-round presidential vote, has been met with widespread ridicule in Peru and warnings that faceless bureaucrats were threatening the legitimacy of the entire presidential contest, according to the GP.

The exclusion of Guzmán on a red-tape technicality is a hard blow for Peruvian democracy, writes Harvard political science professor Steven Levitsky in his La Republica column (written last month). Candidates whose participation doesn't violate existing laws (such as reelection beyond permitted terms or being related to a sitting president) must be allowed to run, he writes.

The question remains, who is most benefitted from this surprising last-minute decision, reports La República. It's not clear who the candidates' voters will migrate towards. The decision has voters clamoring for the same strict interpretation of the law to be applied to other candidates.

The council is also considering complaints against Fujimori, who is accused of having distributed money and goods at campaign events, reports La Mula. The council must decide by next week if she can run. If she is not sanctioned, the electorate may well feel the vote is rigged in her favor, according to the Global Post piece. (La Republica has a more in-depth report on the accusations.)

Fujimori is running on the hard-right legacy of her father, the discredited former President who is mostly remembered for his legacy of high crimes. She is the face of an improbable political comeback that is said to be orchestrated by the family patriarch from his jail cell, reports Foreign Policy. Her popularity is demonstrative of a national disenchantment with democratic institutions and politicians, according to experts cited in the piece.

Separately, La Mula reports on rumors of ties between the electoral council and the Apra party, whose candidate is former president Alan García.

Guzmán had surged in opinion polls that showed him preferred by about 17 percent of voters compared with 35 percent for Fujimori, according to the AP.

News Briefs
  • Prosecutors filed charges against former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in connection to claims of money laundering and misrepresentation of assets involving a luxury apartment in the beachfront city of Guarujá, reports the New York Times. Lula has denied any wrongdoing and says he does not secretly own the apartment in question reports the Associated Press. (See yesterday's briefs and Monday's post.)
  • The focus on Lula is increasing pressure on President Dilma Rousseff, his successor and protege. Cabinet members and party leaders are urging her to shake up her administrative team and especially to put Lula in a minister-level post, reports Folha de S. Paulo. Such a portafolio would shield the Workers' Party leader from detention, notes Reuters. If appointed, Lula could only be tried in the Supreme Court, placing him out of the reach of the federal judge investigating kickbacks at Petrobras.
  • Brazilian officials are tightening the guidelines used to classify microcephaly in order to reduce the number of false positives of the birth defect, which may be linked to the Zika virus, reports the New York Times.
  • Over 60 research institutions and companies are developing products to combat the spread of the Zika virus, but a vaccine may come too late for the current outbreak sweeping the region, warned the World Health Organization yesterday. At this stage diagnostic and preventative tools are the most important, reports the New York Times.
  • The Nation features an excerpt from Salvadoran investigative journalist Óscar Martínez's new book: A History of Violence: Living and Dying in Central AmericaThe book gathers several pieces of his recent investigative reporting, in which he rides along with cops, gangsters, and informants, uncovering the roots of Central America’s pervasive violence, write the magazine's editors. The piece is adapted from a chapter focusing on El Salvador's only forensic investigator. In the English translation Martínez addresses his U.S. readers:  "I believe," he writes, "you should read this book for one simple reason: for the sake of humanity. I want you to understand what thousands of Central Americans are forced to live through. Then you can understand why they keep coming. ... The solution is up to you. The crisis will be solved when people understand, and worsens when they don't. It's that simple. And it's that complicated."
  • Guatemala's ruling FCN party is looking to pass a bill that would reinstate the death penalty in that country, reports Guatevisión. The bill also has the backing of Zury Ríos, the daughter of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. The proposal comes in the midst of a crime wave in the country, but goes against evidence that shows the measure has little deterrence effect.
  • Salvadoran authorities are considering implementing a state of exception that would suspend certain constitutional rights as the country's security crisis continues to worsen. But the legality and efficacy of the move, which would focus on the country's most violent municipalities, is questioned, reports InSight Crime.
  • Earlier this week Mexico's Secretary of Interior Miguel Ángel Osorio criticized the previous administration's approach to drug control, saying "an unprecedented spike in violence" had come as a result of "a wrong diagnostic and a poorly designed strategy," reports Animal Político. Yet, "for all the talk of change, most of the key components of the Calderón strategy are still in place," writes Alejandro Hope at El Daily Post.
  • As Colombia inches closer to a final peace deal with the FARC, a string of killings of left-wing activists shows the dangers faced by social leaders in the country, reports the Guardian. Yesterday, President Juan Manuel Santos gave the first public indication that two sides may not reach an agreement before the self-imposed deadline of 23 March, which the two sides agreed last year. “I will not sign a bad deal to meet a deadline,” Santos said, adding that if necessary a new deadline would be set.
  • Venezuela recalled its top diplomat in Washington yesterday after the U.S. government renewed a decree imposing sanctions on several top Venezuelan officials, reports Reuters. The U.S. declared Venezuela a national security threat last year, and the two countries have not shared ambassadorial ties since 2010. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has accused the U.S. of plotting to overthrow his government. (See yesterday's post.)

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