Monday, August 27, 2018

Colombia's anti-corruption referendum narrowly fails (Aug. 27, 2018)

Colombia's anti-corruption referendum fell just shy of passing yesterday. For validity, the consultation needed a third of Colombia's 36.4 million eligible voters to participate  -- 11.6 million people voted yesterday, just half a million shy of the 12.1 needed for quorum. (See Friday's post.) The vast majority of voters, 99 percent, backed the seven measures on the ballot -- including stricter sentencing for corruption crimes and salary reductions for lawmakers.  (Reuters)

Nonetheless, the turnout exceeded predictions from last week, when even some optimists were talking about a ceiling of 7 million voters, reports SemanaLa Silla Vacía notes that the referendum measures obtained more votes than President Iván Duque obtained earlier this year. Campaign leaders said the vote was still a success and put the topic of graft firmly on the legislative agenda, and experts say there is now a clear mandate for change. Lawmakers who campaigned in favor of the "Yes" vote promised to introduce bills based on the measures. (BBC) Last night Duque, whose party did not support the referendum's efforts, urged lawmakers to support anti-corruption reforms and citizens to report graft.

La Silla Vacía says the vote, along with other elections this year, shows voter fatigue with the political establishment. In another piece, La Silla Vacía also emphasizes the importance that the consultation was not pushed by the government, but rather through citizen support.

Urban voters were largely responsible for the turnout yesterday, 70 percent. In Bogotá 44 percent of voters participated, while in Medellín only a third came out. Semana emphasizes that nearly a third of voters participated, despite lack of traditional political machinery, and hypothesizes that had the referendum been held with the legislative or presidential elections held earlier this year, it would have easily passed the threshold. Another piece in Semana analyzes the obstacles in the path of the referendum, including high abstention rates in the recent second round of presidential voting (46 percent), lack of campaign funding, "electionitis" in a year where voters have already come out three times. It also notes that former presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, who obtained 8 million votes in the second round did not campaign strongly for the referendum.

Winners of the day include the consultation's promoters, Claudia López, Angélica Lozano, and Antanas Mokus, among others. But also Duque, who supported the measure despite opposition from his political mentor, former president Álvaro Uribe -- a fact that will help break the vision that the new president is an Uribe lackey and could provide a point to bridge Colombian polarization, according to SemanaLa Silla Vacía says the results position López, a former senator, as a potential future Bogotá mayor.

More from Colombia
  • Two former FARC fighters were killed in Cauca last week. (TeleSUR)
News Briefs

  • The U.N. estimates that 2.3 million people have left Venezuela since 2015, and Colombian authorities predict another 2 million could follow their footsteps by 2020 -- that would mean about 14 percent of Venezuela's population had fled, reports the Guardian. On Friday the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration said the Venezuelan refugee situation is nearing a "crisis moment" and called on Latin American countries to ease entry for Venezuelans, reports Reuters.
  • That the exodus has not yet reached crisis point is largely because of the productive stance countries in the region have already adopted though, note Benjamin Gedan and Nicolás Saldías in Foreign Policy, especially compared to the U.S.'s harsh stance.
  • Though neighboring countries have been generous, Venezuelan migration and the strain it places on scarce resources in host countries, is rapidly reaching a breaking point, writes Alberto Barrera Tyszka in a New York Times Español op-ed that recommends more stringent capital controls in addition to the stricter migration controls most countries are implementing.
  • An Ecuadorean judge temporarily suspended the country's new passport requirement for Venezuelan's, after it was challenged by the national ombudsman and human rights organizations. And Peru will exempt some Venezuelans from the passport requirement, including parents with children seeking to join the rest of their family, pregnant women and the gravely ill. (Reuters)
  • Venezuela's crisis is increasingly a challenge for Colombia, and will require state planning, fiscal resources, anti-xenophobic education, and special intelligence, writes Tulio Hernández in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Semana profiles the thousands of Venezuelans walking across Colombia after fleeing their home country's crisis. Many don't have a destination, can't afford buses, and will find cities already filled to capacity with refugees, according to the piece.
  • U.S. prosecutors are investigating whether Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's family benefited from an alleged plan to steal $1.2 billion from Venezuela's state-oil company, reports the Associated Press.
  • Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega claims to have quelled months of unrest against him, and appears intent on staying in office despite international calls for him to step down, reports the Washington Post in a piece examining the his path from revolutionary to autocrat.
  • Students have led months of protests against Ortega, and many have either paid with their lives or found them totally disrupted as a result, reports the Washington Post.
  • A 12-year prison sentence for corruption may keep former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for running in October's presidential election -- but the popular and charismatic leader could be kingmaker in Brazil's chaotic political season, reports Reuters.
  • After a year of controversy, the "Queer Museum" art exhibit has finally opened in Rio de Janeiro, reports the New York Times.
Food security
  • A drought affecting Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras affects crops and the food security of 2.1 million people warned the Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations World Food Programme. (AFP)
  • Ecuador withdrew from the Venezuela led ALBA regional bloc, reports the Associated Press.
  • Rumors of an imminent agreement on NAFTA renegotiation between Mexico and the U.S., reports Reuters.
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales, is losing support among his traditional indigenous base, reports Reuters. Bolivians vote next year, and the opposition remains fragmented. Though Morales' support has dropped, he still has a 43 percent approval rating and about 29 percent voter support.
  • Paraguay's senators rejected pension reform, in response to roadblocks and strikes around the country. (TeleSUR)
  • Argentine's have been entranced by the soap-opera like "Cuadernos" corruption investigation, that has led to 26 high profile arrests, and dozen tell-all deals between prosecutors and leading businessmen. The latest installment last week was a raid on former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's properties. While optimistic observers talk of a sea-change in corruption prosecution, others are more concerned over the apparent political aims of the investigations, reports the New York Times.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

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