Thursday, November 3, 2016

Presidential campaigning starts in Haiti (Nov. 3, 2016)

News Briefs
  • Campaigning for Haiti's oft-postponed presidential election has begun. But observers are questioning whether free and fair elections can be held in a country whose infrastructure and communities are still devastated from Hurricane Matthew a month ago, reports the Miami Herald. Protests have erupted in storm-hit areas over perceived delays in relief supplies, and two people have died in the unrest over the past week. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Relative quiet in Venezuela, though Efecto Cocuyo reports that the four working groups established in this weekends talks between the government and the opposition are advancing. Each is chaired by an international mediator, and a representative from each side.
  • El País has an editorial warning that the government may be using the discussions as a stalling tactic (a point the opposition has been making). The government must release political prisoners, recognize the National Assembly and permit a recall referendum, argues the paper.
  • Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino announced yesterday that the military will take over the distribution of medicine and equipment to public hospitals. He said the move is intended to prevent the supplies from being resold on the black market, reports the BBC.
  • A poll released this week shows Nicaraguan incumbent Daniel Ortega winning Sunday's presidential election by a landslide, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • On the subject of first ladies' growing involvement in politics, Ignacio Arana Araya has an essay in Nueva Sociedad, noting the regional shift in women's role and the natural platform afforded as a presidential spouse. "But their competivity is, at the same time, a symptom of the same problems in democratic functioning implied by the predominance of political families. ... In countries with weak party systems, politics tends to distance itself from the discussion of ideological projects and focuses on personalities. Names and surnames replace ideas and principles. In addition, dynasties reveal a lack of competition and rotation in the political elite. This affects the system's representativity, as it reinforces the separation between the elites and the electorate they pretend to represent."
  • The Venezuelan economic crisis is having an important impact in Cuba, where there has been a major cut in production at the Cienfuegos oil refinery, jointly managed by the two countries. The refinery is set to halve its output this year, and plans for a petrochemical complex built with Venezuelan investment have been put on hold, reports the Miami Herald.
  • The arrest of Eduardo Cunha, the powerful former House Speaker in Brazil who spearheaded the impeachment effort against Dilma Rousseff, led to speculation that he could take down hundreds of politicians down with him if he makes a plea bargain deal. But prosecutors would rather see Cunha, who is accused of taking at least $6.5 million in bribes, imprisoned for a long time. They say a deal would only be offered in exchange for information of corruption at the highest levels of the government, reports Reuters. (See Oct. 20's briefs.)
  • Recognizing indigenous communities' land rights is the most cost-effective way to protect forests and sequester carbon, according to a new study. This is particularly true in Brazil, which has recognized more indigenous land than any other country in the past decade, reports the Guardian.
  • Volkswagen has commissioned a historian to research its role during Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship. The German auto maker is facing accusations that it collaborated with the regime and drew up a blacklist of employees, reports the Associated Press.
  • No such thing as bad press: The Brazilian government may have kept the film Aquarius out of the Oscars in retaliation for its casts denouncement of a coup process against Dilma Rousseff. Many Brazilians see echoes of dictatorship era censorship. But the attention has spurred the film to a prominence rare for a Latin American production, reports the Conversation. (See Sept. 27's briefs.)
  • Chileans are outraged over a crisis in state child-assistance institutions. The government recently acknowledged that 865 children have died under the care of the National Service for Minors over 11 years, reports the Associated Press.
  • Wondering what the impact of the U.S. election is for the average Venezuelan? Not much, reports the Conversation. After all, "When you must resort to the black market to buy canned corn, toothpaste, or soap, you can’t worry about North Korea’s nuclear testing or the fate of Tierra del Fuego’s penguins. The same goes for the US presidential elections," writes Miguel Angel Latouche. But many are drawn to the comparison of Trump with former President Hugo Chávez. "The plethora of Trump-Chavez comparisons this season has elicited some backlash. To be clear, I am not saying that the two represent the same political perspective – but there’s no doubt on the question of style."
  • On that note, Ioan Grillo has a New York Times op-ed analyzing comparisons between Trump, Chávez and other populists. Though the Democratic Party is trying to exploit the negative association, particularly for Florida voters, the debate actually shows the difficulty of defining populism as a phenomenon, he writes. Rather than ideological, the logic is political, he argues. The strategy pits "a noble section of the people against the idea of an utterly corrupt elite." However, it can be effective in that "it does touch on certain truths. Washington is corrupted by special interests. Latin American governments do suffer immense corruption. However, Venezuela shows that a populist strategy can lead to an even worse alternative."

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