Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Nicaraguan election results questioned by opposition, U.S. (Nov. 8, 2016)

Nicaraguan authorities confirmed that President Daniel Ortega's won a third consecutive term in Sunday's elections. But the story is more about the process than the result, for many Nicaragua observers, according to the Washington Post. "... One that has looked increasingly undemocratic and authoritarian as Ortega has consolidated power over his many years in office." (See yesterday's and Friday's posts.)

A U.S. State Dept spokesman said yesterday the election was flawed and couldn't be seen as "free and fair," reports the BBC.

New York Times editorial decries the country's "electoral farce," and cites fears that a lack of democratic possibility for dissent could harken a return to the country's armed clashes.

With no serious opposition candidates, the opposition is hotly debating how many people participated in the election, a proxy for those against Ortega.

Officially 32 percent of voters didn't participate. But opposition politicians say the results were manipulated and that a far higher percentage of the electorate abstained, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See yesterday's post.)

El Confidencial questions the Supreme Electoral Council math and voter registration, and says the official rate of 68 percent participation is difficult to defend. The true number is likely closer to 48 percent abstention, according to their calculation. 

Though Ortega and his wife, now vice president, are genuinely popular in Nicaragua, they will face difficulties due to economic crisis in Venezuela and a worsening relationship with the U.S., reports Reuters.

News Briefs
  • Haitian authorities and international aid groups are launching an ambitious campaign to vaccinate 816,000 people against cholera within a week, reports the Miami Herald. The efforts target the Hurricane Matthew hit southwest of the country, and respond to a spike of cholera cases since the disaster. The WHO and the Pan American Health Organization are supporting the program. However, experts note that the cholera vaccine is no panacea, with only 65 percent effectiveness at protecting from the disease. And Haitians will be receiving only a single dose, which is effective for only six months. The ambitious effort comes as the U.N. has promised a $400 million proposal to tackle the disease brought by U.N. peacekeepers in the aftermath of a 2010 earthquake.
  • Coverage of the widespread material damage wrought by the storm -- houses, livestock, crops and trees -- has been "underwhelming," denounces anthropologist Mark Schuller in the Huffington Post. "This lack of urgency is deadly. The real disaster — chronic hunger, food insecurity, and dependency — is yet to come," he writes, emphasizing the need to get Haitian agriculture back on its feet.
  • Wrenching piece by Washington Post correspondent Nick Miroff on traveling through Hurricane Matthew ravaged parts of Haiti and encountering the desperate needs of people desperate for food. "Southern Haiti right now is a place living on scraps. The scraps of the storm wreckage. The scraps of international aid."
  • At least ten people were killed in northern Haiti by floods caused by heavy rains, reports the BBC.
  • Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández said he's considering running for reelection, reports TeleSur. Though the Supreme Court overturned a constitutional ban on second terms, opponents say it's still not legal. And in any case it would be a polemic move in a country where a 2009 coup was justified as defense from a constitutional reform that might have also permitted reelection.
  • Paraguayan doctors began a three day strike yesterday demanding improved salaries and working conditions in the public sector, reports EFE.
  • Brazil's health ministry is looking to reduce costs and inefficiencies in the country's massive public health system, ahead of likely budget cuts next year, reports the Wall Street Journal. Critics say spending limits under consideration in congress now would worsen access to care in a country where most people rely on the public system. 
  • Brazilian President Michel Temer expects the country's economy to return to growth in the second half of next year, though economists see a turnaround occurring earlier, reports Reuters.
  • Feminist capoeiristas using the martial art to protest Temer, reports the Guardian.
  • Leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador has cast himself as an antidote for a population increasingly sick of corrupt politicians. But a failure to disclose two Mexico City properties could hurt his efforts to capture the presidency in the 2018 election, in which he is a leading contender, reports the Wall Street Journal. (Though the WSJ reported on the omission from his public declaration, López Obrador has responded that the apartments were donated to his sons.)
  • Support is growing in Chile for a little known "anti-establishment" candidate for next year's presidential elections, according to a poll released last week, reports Reuters. Leftist senator Alejandro Guillier was named as the choice of fifteen percent of respondents, up from 5 in August and catching up to top choice, former president Sebastian Pinera who has 20 percent support. 
  • Two nephews of Cilia Flores, wife of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's, are on trial in New York for attempting to smuggle 800 kilos of cocaine into the U.S. While government prosecutors paint the pair as spoiled kids who believed they could ship huge quantities of drugs from the Caracas airport. In the meantime, their defense lawyer says they're clueless incompetents who were lured by DEA paid informants, reports the Guardian.
  • Jailed political activist Milagro Sala urged the Argentine government to respect a recent U.N. commission recommendation to free her immediately. The U.N. body said her arrest amounts to arbitrary detention, reports TeleSur. (See last Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Increasingly relaxed currency regulations are reducing demand for Argentina's informal money changers, reports Reuters

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