Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Paraguay election results questioned (April 25, 2018)

The second-place finisher in Paraguay's presidential election demanded a recount yesterday. Efrain Alegre said he had evidence of fraudulent voting in Sunday's election, in which ruling party candidate Mario Abdo was declared the winner. The race was closer than expected. With 97.67 percent of ballots counted on Sunday, the tribunal said Abdo won 46.44 percent to Alegre’s 42.74 percent. (See Monday's post.)

International observers who monitored Sunday’s election reported no major irregularities, reports Reuters. The head of the European Union's electoral mission said the elections were carried out well, but in a context of "institutional weakness," reports EFE.

Alegre said on social media that the country’s official elections tribunal was too quick to announce the results on Sunday.

The allegations come as Abdo said he may seek to reform Paraguay's constitution in order to permit presidential reelection -- though he promised not to seek a second mandate himself.

The issue is controversial. Last year protesters set Congress on fire in response to President Horacio Cartes' plan to seek reelection.

The tight results spell trouble for governability in Paraguay though, according to El Pais. The emboldened left will likely have more seats in Congress (final results aren't expected for a couple of weeks) which could be challenging for the ruling Colorado party. Analysts expect the Colorados to lose a majority in the Senate, and possibly in Congress outright, reports Americas Quarterly.

News Briefs

  • The migrant caravan that U.S. President Donald Trump singled out as a national security threat (see April 2's briefs and April 4's post) has started to arrive at Mexico's northern border. Two buses carrying about 130 migrants, most of them women and children arrived in Mexicali yesterday, a month after the group started out from the country's southern border with Guatemala, reports the New York Times. More contingents of the original group were expected to arrive soon. Many of the Central Americans are fleeing violence at home and caravan organizers estimated that between 100 and 300 would apply for asylum in the U.S. The mass migrations are an annual rite around Easter, and are intended to provide migrants with safety in numbers from criminals. On Monday Trump said on Twitter that he had instructed the Department of Homeland Security "not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country."
  • Three Mexican film students who were killed and dissolved in acid have become the latest emblems of the country's crisis of violence, reports the Los Angeles Times. Protesters and human rights organizations gathered yesterday to demand an investigation into the deaths of Jesús Daniel Díaz García, Marco Francisco García Ávalos y Javier Salomón Aceves Gastélum, reports Animal Político. Authorities say the three students were abducted on March 19 in a Guadalajara suburb and later tortured and killed in a case of mistaken identity stemming from a rivalry between two criminal gangs. Demonstrators in Guadalajara called for the resignation of Jalisco Gov. Aristoteles Sandoval, a member of the ruling PRI party.
  • This week for the first time the Inter-American Human Rights Court will hear a case regarding human rights abuses committed by the Mexican military in the course of carrying out national security operations. WOLA presented an amicus curiae emphasizing abuses committed in Chihuaha state during military operations there. The case is particularly relevant as the Supreme Court is in the process of evaluating the constitutionality of a new national security law that would maintain the military in a national security role, said the organization.
  • With Mexican leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador firmly in the lead for July's election, his opponents have abandoned policy proposals in favor of attacking him directly. In a debate on Sunday, most of the candidates tried to weaken AMLO, reports the Washington Post. And a campaign ad by the conservative PAN party seeks to spook potential AMLO voters by comparing him to the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, reports Animal Político.
War on Drugs
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said the war on drugs has not been successful. Speaking before the U.N. General Assembly, he called for a different international focus and said drug trafficking is a major threat to peace in Colombia, reports EFE.
  • Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega sought to diffuse street protests against his government by releasing dozens of protesters arrested in demonstrations over the past week. Student protesters were dropped off along a highway in the outskirts of Managua. And all the television channels blocked for showing anti-government protests were back on the air by yesterday, reports the Associated Press. The Roman Catholic Church agreed to act as a mediator in a national dialogue. Nonetheless, the situation remains tense after at least 27 people were killed in clashes with security forces over the past week, reports AFP. (See yesterday's post and Monday's.) Yesterday the White House accused Nicaragua's government of "repugnant" violence and repression against protesters.
  • Salvadoran police detained the husband of a journalist killed earlier this month. He is accused of killing La Prensa reporter Karen Turcios, reports EFE.
Militarized security failures in Jamaica and Brazil
  • Jamaican authorities had to redeploy security forces to a neighborhood where murders spiked after the recent withdrawal of a joint military-police occupation, reports InSight Crime. More broadly, the crackdown is likely worsening violence by splintering gangs.
  • Violent deaths increased by 24 percent last month in Rio de Janeiro over February's statistics. Police killings of suspects increased 34 percent last month, in the first full month of army intervention in the city's security, reports Reuters
  • Reuters interviewed leaders of Rio de Janiero's rival street gangs -- the Red Command and Pure Third Command -- who said the military intervention in the city won't solve Rio's pressing violence problem.
  • President Nicolás Maduro lambasted rival presidential candidate Henri Falcón's proposal to dollarize Venezuela's hyper-inflation plagued economy, reports EFE.
  • The arrest of a Guatemalan army colonel on charges of laundering money for MS-13 shows how street gangs are becoming more sophisticated in how they operate in the country, according to InSight Crime. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • Official statistics released this week show that poverty in Peru increased by one percent last year, a reversal after a decade in which poverty was reduced by over 20 percent, reports EFE.
  • Bolivia's government launched a Danish funded wind farm initiative that could soon have the country exporting electricity to its neighbors, reports EFE.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take?  Let me know ... 

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