Monday, November 21, 2016

Haiti elections smooth, results delayed (Nov. 21, 2016)

Haiti's oft-delayed presidential election (see Friday's post) went off smoothly yesterday, though results could take up to a week, reports the BBCReuters however says there could be early results later today. 

After polls closed in the late afternoon, election workers began counting paper ballots by hand in voting centers lit by candles, lanterns and flashlights due to a temporary blackout in the capital, reports the Associated Press.

But the Miami Herald celebrated that the election day "was much improved over the last year’s," and incorporated measures such as new fraud-deterrent purple indelible ink.

A few "hitches" included rising rivers that delayed voting in two centers and prevented it at two others, along with general rain and problems with voter registration lists, according to the Herald.

While voter turnout was reportedly low in the Hurricane Matthew ravaged southwest, citizens lined up to participate in voting centers in the rest of the country.

But political party poll watchers, a major issue in last year's botched elections were not as much as an issue this time around, according to the Herald.

News Briefs
  • El Salvador's destructive street gangs are "mafias of the poor," in a far different league from the sophisticated, transnational criminal networks they are equated with internationally, according to a collaborative feature between El Faro and the New York Times. "El Salvador has been brought to its knees by an army of flies," write by Oscar and Carlos Martínez, Deborah Sontag and Efren Lemus. "Unlike other groups considered global organized crime syndicates, the Salvadoran gangs do not survive on the international trafficking of cocaine, arms and humans. While they dabble in small-time drug dealing, gun sales and prostitution, they engage primarily in a single crime committed over and over within Salvadoran territory: extortion. Inside El Salvador, they hold the reins of power largely because of a chilling demand repeated — or implied — daily across the country: Pay or die." In the context of an unprecedented crackdown on the gang's financial network earlier this year, the attorney general emphasized the difference in the lifestyle of gang leadership and rank and file, intending to drive a wedge within the gangs. Yet, according to the piece, while leaders' families have slightly more resources, they are hardly living lives of luxury. The piece has incredible insights to a phenomenon that has been reported on broadly. For example, transportation companies have become particularly vulnerable to extortion, and "over the last five years, it has been more dangerous to drive a bus than to fight gang crime."
  • Violent shoot-outs between police and residents in Rio de Janeiro left at least 12 deaths this weekend, reports the Wall Street Journal. Most of the deaths occurred in the City of God neighborhood on Saturday, where a police helicopter crashed in the evening, killing four police officers. Authorities say there is no evidence it was shot down, reports the BBC. The bodies of seven youths were found with indicators that they were summarily executed in the wake of a massive security operation in the favela, reports El País. Authorities have chosen to remain in the neighborhood indefinitely, and the federal government has offered national force officers to assist. Crime and violence are increasing in Rio: the 2016 murder rate through Sept increased nearly 18 percent over the same period last year, while street clime increase by 44 percent, reports Reuters.
  • A Brazilian federal judge has ordered 21 people linked to mining companies to answer to homicide charges related to the Samarco tailings dam accident last year. The accident is considered the country's worst-ever environmental disaster -- a wave of toxic mud killed at least 19 people, razed villages and polluted an estimated 400 miles of waterway, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • A Venezuelan Supreme Court decision last week regulates the right to protest, outlining "that demonstration, in Venezuelan law, is not an absolute right understood as that class of law that admits of no restriction, for example the right to life." But critics say the ruling is ambiguous, leaving it unclear which authorities must determine when a manifestation has the potential to disturb public order nor what criteria should be used in making the call, writes Hugo Pérez Hernáiz in Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights.
  • President-elect Donald Trump's promises to build a wall to stop immigration from Lain America has fed into a surge of migrants hoping to make it to the U.S. before regulations become even tougher -- and are proving a valuable selling point for human smugglers, reports the Washington Post. But a point that is often lost in the debate is the changing face of who is trying to cross the border, notes the piece. The number of Mexicans seeking to cross illegally has dropped significantly since 2010, while the number of migrants from violence-plagued El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala has nearly quadrupled in the same period, to almost 179,000.
  • The threat of U.S. withdrawal from the region has Latin American leaders looking to strengthen ties with China, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See Friday's briefs.) At the end of a summit in Lima on Friday, Apec leaders reaffirmed their commitment to free trade, reports the BBC, though it appears the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be dead in the water without U.S. support.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama sought to assuage fears of a U.S. trade turnabout while in Lima on Friday. "There are going to be tensions that arise, probably around trade more than anything," he told an audience of students and young leaders from Latin America, reports the New York Times. “Because the president-elect campaigned on looking at every trade policy and potentially reversing those policies ...But once they look at how it’s working, I think they’ll actually determine that it’s working for both the United States and our partners."
  • U.S. advocates for closer relations with Cuba are preparing for a far less receptive administration, reports the Miami Herald. The piece goes into the theory of promoting democratic change through closer engagement, as espoused by the Center for Democracy in the Americas, the Brookings Institution and WOLA among other groups.
  • "Rudolph Giuliani's controversial prior work on behalf of an opioid pain medication manufacturer helped facilitate an explosion of drug violence in Mexico," reports InSight Crime.
  • Interesting piece by political scientist Javier Corrales in Americas Quarterly analyzing Trump's election within the context of a regional trend towards electing political outsiders (or pseudo-outsiders, as he argues.)

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