Monday, April 4, 2016

Leftist surprise in store for upcoming Peruvian elections? (April 4, 2016)

Peru's presidential front-runner Keiko Fujimori signed a pledge at a debate yesterday, promising to avoid the authoritarian ways of her father, the now-incarcerated former-president, Alberto Fujimori.

It's an attempt to appeal to more middle of the road voters ahead of the April 10 elections, reports Reuters. She repudiated actions taken by her father that weakened democratic institutions and flouted human rights and press freedom norms. "Never another 5th of April!" Fujimori said, referring to the day 24 years ago when her father shuttered congress and intervened in the courts with the backing of the military.

(See La Mula's full coverage of yesterday's presidential debate.)

In Peru, however, the election is never over until it actually happens. (See March 16's post.) Leftist candidate Veronika Mendoza is inching forward in polls, and could be the second place candidate Fujimori faces in an eventual second round. She is statistically tied with with investor-favorite Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in three recent opinion polls, as support for him remains largely flat, notes Reuters.

About 60 percent of Peruvians have made up their minds about who to vote for, according to Ipsos.

Mendoza wants a new constitution to weaken the business elite, and a surge in her popularity is also strengthening Fujimori's hand, reports Reuters in a separate piece. In yesterday's debate she spoke in quechua and affirmed her demand for change, reports La Republica.

The share of voters who said they would "definitely not" vote for Fujimori fell to 45 percent from 49 percent in a recent Ipsos poll.

In a second-round scenario, Mendoza would lose to Fujimori by six percentage points, whereas Kuczynski would beat Fujimori by two percentage points, according to Ipsos.

But La Mula columnist Jorge Frisancho argues the contrary, saying Mendoza might well pull ahead in a second round. He point's to her party, the Frente Amplio's rise throughout the electoral process, and her persuasive alternative to "fujimorismo."

News Briefs
  • El Salvadors three main gangs still hate each other and remain sworn enemies, but they have temporarily united in a cease-fire aimed at convincing the government to back off of heavy handed tactics against them, in the midst of spiraling levels of violence that have exhausted everybody, reports the Washington Post, which has an interview with representatives from the two main gangs, MS-13 and Barrio 18. The administration of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén has vowed to continue a crackdown that gang members complain has included police death squads and disappeared friends. In the meantime, the government dismisses the possibility of negotiating with gangs, and says the current lull cannot be maintained by the fragmented gang landscape. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • Mexico's government says third investigation of a dump site in the country's south, near the town of Cocula, shows evidence of a large fire in which at least 17 bodies were burned. They are saying it could be proof that the 43 students who disappeared in Iguala in September, 2014 were burned there, reports the Associated Press. That contradicts the findings of the team of international experts sent by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which concluded the students from the Rural Normal School at Ayotzinapa could not have been burned there. The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team released a statement saying the latest investigation by a team of experts "neither confirms nor denies" the official version, reports the Associated Press separately.
  • A huge trove of more than 11 million leaked files from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca reveals the use offshore companies to facilitate bribery, arms deals, tax evasion, financial fraud and drug trafficking, according to a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The global investigation into the sprawling, secretive industry of offshore that the world’s rich and powerful use to hide assets and skirt rules by setting up front companies in far-flung jurisdictions, turned up some interesting Latin American characters. Among the five country leaders implicated in the leaks is Argentine President Mauricio Macri. An aide to former Argentine Presidents Nestor and Cristina Kirchner is also implicated (though two years after leaving official employment). Other interesting tidbits include revelations regarding the Mexican president's "favorite contractor," the former governor of Ecuador's Central Bank, the former Buenos Aires finance minister, two Brazilian legislators, a Venezuelan oil company exec, the son of the Honduran vice president, and a close associate of a Chilean intelligence agency official. AFP reports on the Latin American officials implicated in the leak. For example, at least 57 people already linked to Brazil's huge Petrobras corruption scandal opened offshore companies through Mossack Fonseca, a list topped by a company that reportedly belongs to Eduardo Cunha, the speaker of the lower house of Brazil's legislature and the man heading efforts to impeach President Dilma Rousseff.
  • Secret off-shore money has helped to fuel Miami's luxury real-estate boom, reports the Miami Herald
  • A growing number of indigenous Mexicans are being detained by agents looking for Central American migrants, amid a crackdown driven partly by aid from the U.S., reports the Guardian.
  • The wide-ranging investigation into corruption at Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobras, is among the most far-reaching in the developing world, and scholars are comparing it to an earthquake hitting the country's privileged elite, reports the New York Times. The piece explores the breadth of the investigation, the implications for Brazilians of the corruption scandal centering on Petrobras and corruption in Brazil in general.
  • President Dilma Rousseff and her supporters have been arguing that impeachment proceedings against her constitute a sort of "institutional coup." The Los Angeles Times explores the meaning of the term in Brazil, where it conjures up the country's dark military dictatorship past, and how that claim is and isn't justified. Pro-government protesters are channeling the music and symbolism of the fight against dictatorship, reports the Guardian.
  • The Guardian explores her would-be successor, Vice President Michel Temer, who heads the PMDB, her former coalition ally. "In the past year, Temer’s loyalty has been called into question by a series of ambiguous public statements and leaked private letters."
  • Two former high-level officials of the country’s governing Workers' Party on Friday, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Documents released on Friday as part of the Operation Car Wash investigation alleged that the 14-year-old murder of a member of the ruling Workers’ Party may be connected to the corruption scandal, reports the Wall Street Journal. Allegedly fraudulent loans obtained for Workers’ Party, or PT, may have been used to buy the silence of a person with knowledge relating to the death of Celso Daniel, one of the party's founders.
  • Will anybody remain untainted? A Dutch artist is saying that a giant yellow rubber duck used as a sort of mascot by anti-government protesters in Brazil is too similar to his own creation, reports the New York Times.
  • The head of an Olympic security force in Brazil has stepped down four months before the mega sporting event is scheduled to start in Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian media reported that he stepped down after sending an e-mail to colleagues that was critical of President Dilma Rousseff, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Police raids in Venezuela, connected to a nation-wide police crackdown, are implicated with  illegal killings by police and other security forces, mass arbitrary detentions, mistreatment of detainees and forced evictions, reports the Guardian. The piece covers on a new report out today by Human Rights Watch and Provea which covers allegations of abuses during public security operations carried out nationwide, beginning in July 2015, as part of the "Operation to Liberate and Protect the People" (OLP), which was billed as an operation to combat criminal gangs. The groups will present their findings to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at a hearing today.
  • A water shortage is crippling Venezuela, where citizens already impacted by food and medicine scarcities battle lack of water and energy, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Sixteen months after breaking ground, the Grand Nicaragua Canal project seems to have died. While the project was backed by Chinese billionaire Wang Jiang, who has since lost 80 percent of his fortune, it has never been clear whether the mega canal also had the backing of the Chinese government, reports the New York Times. In the meantime critics of what would be the largest movement of earth in the planet's history, have become more outspoken and organized. An accompanying photo-essay looks at what's in the path of the planned canal. (See post for Oct. 2, 2015 for some previous canal coverage.)
  • A group of Guatemalan women are suing a Canadian mining company, saying they were gang raped in 2007 as part of an eviction process. The suit, which has already crossed significant legal hurdles, could mean new scrutiny for the world's international mining companies, half of which have headquarters in Canada, reports the New York Times.

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