Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Honduras still in election limbo (Nov. 28, 2017)

Honduran electoral results are still in limbo. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) said it will not give more updates until all of the votes are counted, possibly tomorrow, reports El Heraldo. The last of the actual tallies are expected to arrive in Tegucigalpa tonight, and counting might continue through Friday, according to La Prensa.

As of this morning, opposition alliance candidate Salvador Nasralla maintained a slight lead, but with just over half the votes counted. President Juan Orlando Hernández, who is running for reelection, has 40.28 percent of the vote to Nasralla’s 45.05 percent, with 58.39 percent of the votes tallied. (See yesterday’s post.)

Slow updates after the surprising initial results have raised questions over whether there are attempts being made to change the outcome, reports the Associated PressHonduras Culture and Politics has updates and analysis on vote counting and potential problems in that arena.

However an election official told Reuters yesterday evening that Nasralla has a lead with over 70 percent of the vote counted and that an opposition upset is irreversible.

New York Times article by Elizabeth Malkin from before the election sheds more light on the polemic reelection issue in Honduras. Reelection is prohibited in Honduras’ constitution, and the topic is polemic after a military coup ousted then-president Manuel Zelaya for allegedly trying to circumvent the limitation in 2009. Hernández supported that coup, but benefitted from a later Supreme Court decision lifting the ban. Critics note that the decision itself is “circuitous” and made by judges who all owed their positions to Hernández after their predecessors were hastily removed.

Beyond the direct policies the candidates campaigned on (see yesterday’s post), Malkin posited that the election was also a referendum on how much control Hernández and the executive branch should exert over the country’s institutions.

Another piece from before the election, in the Guardian, notes the underlying questions about the fairness of the election itself. For example, “according to official figures, 6.2 million people are eligible to vote – a number the opposition says is mathematically impossible in a country with 8.5 million habitants.”

News Briefs
  • Mexico's ruling PRI party will field an outsider presidential candidate in next year's elections. José Antonio Meade resigned from his post as finance secretary yesterday in order to run, after continuously occupying cabinet posts in the Peña Nieto administration, reports Animal Político. Meade is a party independent, and also held the posts of energy secretary and finance secretary under the previous Calderón administration. But the anointing of Meade as chosen PRI successor seems to harken back to Mexico's time under one-party rule, argues David Agren in the Washington Post. Though Meade is not necessarily the party's most popular option, he writes, the campaign strategy will focus on his "apolitical," technocrat profile. The option is particularly soothing for the business sector, which is frightened of the leftist-populist option of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, he notes. Meade's status as an independent is actually alluring to a party tarnished by allegations of corruption and human rights violations, notes the New York Times. Officials hope he will attract voters from the PAN conservative party. However, there are concerns regarding "whether his stellar credentials and scandal-free record will be enough to overcome his relatively low-energy demeanor."
  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro named an active general to lead the country's state-run oil company, PdVSA. It was the last major economic sector that had remained outside of the military purview, notes the Wall Street Journal, and represents most the country's foreign currency income. The appointment comes after a four-month purge of the company, in which more than 50 company officials and contractors have been arrested and jailed in Venezuela since August. Analysts and opposition leaders said the appointment was a political move and would worsen an already crushing economic crisis, reports the New York Times. They say the appointment of Maj. Gen. Manuel Quevedo, who has no previous experience in the industry, is aimed at curbing dissatisfaction within the armed forces, a mainstay of the current administration.
  • Shortages of contraceptives in Venezuela have led to a spike in unwanted pregnancies and STDs, as residents face the bleak choice of abstinence or unprotected sex. It has also led to an increase in dangerous attempts to terminate pregnancies at home, reports the Washington Post.
  • Former FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño has received a makeover in his new role as presidential candidate of the demobilized guerrilla force’s new political party. The man formerly known as “Timochenko” surprised audiences with a softer, neater look, reports the Miami Herald, part of a push to change negative public perceptions of him and the FARC.
  • Colombia’s possible entry to the OECD is a chance to push the state to do more for the malnutrition crisis affecting the Wayuu indigenous community, writes Human Rights Watch’s Juan Pappier in El Espectador.
  • A small group of Argentines – relatives of perpetrators of human rights violations under the 1976-1983 dictatorship – are lobbying to change the country’s penal code, that prohibits offspring from testifying against their parents, reports the Guardian.
  • A year after Fidel Castro’s long-anticipated death, Cubans are commemorating his life with a series of events this week, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Even as U.S. President Donald Trump insists on a border wall with Mexico, increasing numbers of U.S. college students choose to study abroad in Latin America, a potential positive trend for hemispheric relations, reports the Miami Herald.
  • The horror! Cheap, high-definition, flat-panel TVs, a favorite U.S. consumer item, could fall by the wayside if NAFTA ends, warns the Wall Street Journal.

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