Monday, November 7, 2016

Ortega wins again -- among those who voted anyway (Nov. 7, 2016)

Daniel Ortega handily won a third consecutive presidential term, announced Nicaragua's electoral authorities late last night. Ortega, who shared the ticket with his wife, Rosario Murillo, had 72 percent of the votes with over 66 percent of the ballots counted.

Electoral authorities said participation was high -- with about 65 percent of the electorate casting votes yesterday. But the opposition, which urged a boycott, said abstention was high. The main opposition Frente Amplio para la Democracia said abstention was at 70 percent, reports the Associated Press

Members of the opposition accused the government of manipulating results to minimize abstentions, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The opposition called yesterday's election a farce and urged Nicaraguans to boycott. Two citizen groups harboring opposition groups sidelined by judicial decisions this year celebrated the highest rate of absenteeism in thirty years, reports El Confidencial.

La Prensa denounces a "resounding failure of the electoral circus." While the official abstention rate of nearly 35 percent mirrors that of the 2006 election, the contrasts are marked, according to La Prensa, which cites an absence of lines at polling centers and opposition groups. 

El Confidencial cites polling center material showing a low rate of participation, with examples from several polling centers showing 75 percent abstention.

Ortega has been accused by critics of unfairly sidelining the main opposition candidates. But his broad popularity, and that of his wife, can also be ascribed to successful social programs and economic growth under his leadership. (See Friday's post.)

A measure in the U.S. Congress -- the Nicaragua Investment Conditionality Act, "Nica Act" -- would prevent multilateral organization loans to the country, complicating infrastructure investment, reports El País. The outlook for Ortega's third term is also complicated by the Venezuelan crisis and criticisms from the OAS.

(Final results were expected later today, El Nuevo Diario's site has been updating an infographic.)

News Briefs
  • Latin America leads the world's femicide ranking, but also has a high rate of female political representation. "I believe that behind every macho man there’s an insecure boy in need of mothering, so in Latin America men in all their virile glory have not disputed the suitability of women for the higher office," writes Nicaraguan author Gioconda Belli in a Guardian op-ed exploring the contradiction.
  • Nationwide protests in Chile, which included roadblocks and torched buses ramped up pressure on the government to reform the country's pension system, reports the Wall Street Journal. The system, implemented under Augusto Pinchot's dictatorship has been lauded internationally for putting the onus on workers to save for retirement. But the payouts are low and the government has promised reform. Proposals a few months ago included a reduction in the fees of private administrators of pension funds, the creation of a state run fund and employer contributions to increase the savings rate. (See Sept. 12's briefs.)
  • A Chilean navy ship is considered a national symbol and tours the world as part of training cruises. But human rights reports have found it was used as an illegal detention and torture site for opponents of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship, prompting quayside protests and calls for the navy to recognize that chapter in the vessel's history, reports the Guardian.
  • Rio de Janiero's state government announced a "draconian" austerity plan that aims to rectify years of high government spending, reports the Wall Street Journal. The new plan includes seizing 30 percent of low and middle income retirees' pensions in order to support the state workers' pension fund.
  • The city's electorate picked a conservative evangelical mayor in last week's elections. The choice raises concerns for observers of crime and police violence, writes Julita Lemgruber in the Conversation. "The incoming mayor has promised changes to the city’s municipal guards, which unlike the state-controlled military and civil police forces, have never carried guns or so-called “less lethal” weapons. Starting January 1, they will be expected to use pepper spray, tear gas and tasers. Brazil’s Guarda Municipal is tasked with protecting public spaces, including city buildings, monitoring mass transit and helping tourists, so the idea of arming them is dismaying."
  • A Guatemalan journalist, Hamilton Hernández Vásquez was killed, with his wife. Their bodies were found along a gravel road in Queztaltenango, reports El Periodico. He's the ninth journalist assassinated this year, an increasing trend.
  • The Guatemalan government extradited an alleged drug smuggler to the U.S. Marlon Francesco Monroy Meoño, alias "El Fantasma," is suspected of being linked to corruption scandals with the previous Otto Pérez Molina administration and the current government as well, reports InSight Crime.
  • A failure in Venezuela's Vatican mediated dialogue between the government and the opposition could result in bloodshed, warned a papal envoy in an interview this weekend, reports Reuters.
  • The latest in the long Trump-Chávez comparison debate: Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights has a great exchange between Tim Gill who sustains that Chávez's populism was inclusive while Trump's is exclusive, and experts who dispute various similarities and differences between the two politicians. 
  • The Venezuelan birthers: Among the many tactics the Venezuelan opposition is adopting in their attempt to oust Maduro, a stranger one focuses on proving he's actually Colombian and thus not qualified to hold the country's highest office, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • The Peruvian and Bolivian presidents agreed on a program to finally give landlocked Bolivia access to the sea, reports EFE. An agreement announced Friday includes a plan to incorporate Bolivia in a projected railway linking Brazil's Atlantic coast and Peru's Pacific coast.
  • The former treasurer of Mexico's Veracruz state under the notorious administration of Javier Duarte admitted that more than 300 million pesos of a federal health subsidy were diverted to "other state priorities," reports Animal Político. Just the latest in the extensive web of corruption under Duarte, who is now on the lam. (See Oct. 19's briefs.)
  • When Google Translate just doesn't cut it, there's "Corrupcionario Mexicano," a new compendium of Mexico's extensive lexicon of corruption related words by a local NGO that shows the extent of the phenomenon in the country, reports the Guardian. For example: "chapulín" signifies "grasshopper" – but can also mean a politician who changes party affiliation in search of financial benefit.
  • The future of a U.S. government program that allows undocumented workers to temporarily stay in the U.S. and work -- as well as leave and reenter the country -- is uncertain, reports the New York Times. The program has allowed young immigrants to reconnect with countries they left as children, but its unclear whether the next president of the U.S. could cancel it.

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