Monday, October 8, 2018

Bolsonaro to face-off against Haddad (Oct. 8, 2018)

Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro narrowly missed winning Brazil's presidency outright yesterday, obtaining a far higher percentage of votes than predicted. Bolsonaro received 46.03 percent of the votes, and will face off against Workers' Party candidate Fernando Haddad in a second round in three weeks. Haddad obtained 29.28 percent of the votes yesterday. Other candidates trailed far behind the two front runners: leftist Ciro Gomes obtained 12.47 percent and market favorite Gerardo Alckmin won just 4.76 percent. (El País has the tallies.)

The Oct. 28 run-off is now billed as a battle between order and freedom, depending on which of the two you believe to be the least bad option, reports the Wall Street Journal. Haddad called on other parties to join him in defense of democracy.

But he has a tough battle ahead. Just to draw level with Bolsonaro, Haddad would need almost all of Gomes and Alckmin's voters. The coalition would have to surpass just the leftists in the country. (Guardian) He hinted that he was angling for that, however. Tweeting that he wants to “keep the dialogue open” and had already spoken to three of the other candidates – Marina Silva, Ciro Gomes and Guilherme Boulos. (Guardian)

Bolsonaro did not appear last night, due to health reasons (he was stabbed at a campaign rally three weeks ago), but called for national unity in a Facebook Live broadcast.

Bolsonaro is a former member of the military and has promised to crack down on rising crime by giving police greater latitude in dealing with suspects and loosening gun laws. 

But Haddad's opponents fear the PT's economic agenda and point to allegations of corruption that have popular former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva behind bars.

Though Bolsonaro has been in Congress since 1991, he portrays himself as a political outsider and remains untainted by the massive Operation Car Wash investigation. He has benefited from a wave of indignation against the country's political establishment. 

He has praised torturers, advocated beatings to stop children from "becoming" gay, and told a lawmaker that she wasn't attractive enough to rape -- among other gems. The Guardian compiled some of the worst phrases, including “I’d rather have my son die in a car accident than have him show up dating some guy." And “I’m pro-torture, and the people are too.” But advocates view the lack of political correctness as a sign of authenticity. 

Bolsonaro won without the backing of a major party, and had little funding for his campaign. He relied mainly on social media to build a base, notes the New York Times. Most of his supporters get their news from social media, reports the New Yorker.

Vice News reports on how Gab, the U.S.-based social network best-known as a haven for neo-Nazis and white supremacists, has sought to capitalize on Bolsonaro's rise and could push the spread of fake news in Brazil.

Bolsonaro says he would have won outright yesterday, were it not for polling booth glitches that prompted many elderly voters to avoid long lines. On Twitter today, Bolsonaro promised to reduce the number of ministries, privatize state companies and combat fraud in social programs if elected. (Reuters)

Experts predict a controversial, polemic-filled second round, with each side seeking to discredit the other. (Guardian)

He has been compared to Trump, and the Washington Post situates Bolsonaro's win within "a burgeoning global movement of right-wing nationalists who have captured the top political jobs in the United States, Eastern Europe and the Philippines." For the New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson, Bolsonaro "is something like a Brazilian version of Donald Trump—slimmer and a decade younger, but just as mouthy—with a large dollop of the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte thrown in." Indeed, on Saturday Bolsonaro rallied supporters saying: “Let’s make Brazil Great! Let’s be proud of our homeland once again!”

The Associated Press analyzes Bolsonaro's Trumpian electoral tactics -- including the incredibly offensive discourse.

In the Guardian, Eliane Brum argues that Bolsonaro's admiration for the country's military past and torturers is only possible because Brazil has failed to grapple with the human rights violations of the dictatorship.

Yesterday's vote represents the defeat of the centrist PSDB party, which obtained less than five percent of the vote and will be absent from the second-round presidential vote for the first time since 1989.

Bolsonaro allies also swept legislative races, demonstrating the power of his anti-political establishment narrative. Bolsonaro’s once-tiny Social Liberal Party (PSL) was poised to land 51 of the 513 seats in the lower house of Congress. The strong showing for his allies defied predictions and could mean Bolsonaro would have an easier than expected time with tough economic reforms, reports Reuters. The PSDB is set to lose about 20 of its 49 seats, in large part due to its role in corruption scandals.

Bolsonaro supporter beat out PT heavy weights such as former president Dilma Rousseff. Counter to pre-election surveys, she failed in her run for a senate seat, and took just 15 percent in Minas Gerais, a distant fourth. Nonetheless, the PT will remain a strong congressional force, and is expected to take 57 seats. (AFP and El País

Among yesterday's major legislative winners were Bolsonaro's son, Eduardo, who obtained 1.7 million votes (20 percent) in São Paulo -- he was the most-voted lower house candidate in Brazil’s history. Bolsonaro's public security advisor and close ally, Major Olímpio Gomes, won in Amazonas by an ample margin. In Rio de Janeiro, the PSL got nearly 23 percent of votes for the lower house. (El País and Reuters)

About 100 military veterans sought office yesterday, most aligned with Bolsonaro and most advocating his heavy-handed security policies, reports Vice News.

News Briefs

  • Haitian officials said at least 12 people died and 188 were injured in a 5.9-magnitude earthquake that hit the island's northern portion on Saturday. The area was then hit by a 5.2-magnitude aftershock on Sunday. The death toll was concentrated in the northwestern port city of Port-de-Paix, where hospitals were overwhelmed and struggling to deal with the wounded, reports Al Jazeera. The aftershock caused panic on the city's streets, according to the Associated Press. Though the death toll is a fraction of the destruction of the country's 2010 earthquake, the episode demonstrates the country's vulnerability to seismic activity, reports the Miami Herald
  • An investigation by Diario Libre confirmed the existence of a trafficking network that smuggles Dominican and Haitian migrants to Chile, using fake documents, clandestine trips, and scams. The paper found evidence of involvement by Haitian officials and travel agencies. (Connectas)
  • Half of the migrants traveling with relatives detained at the U.S. border come from Guatemala -- 42,757 over the past year. Extreme poverty has pushed up the numbers, combining with drug trafficking, municipal corruption, and gang extortion. And a U.S. ad campaign warning would be migrants of the dangers of the trip has had little impact. (New York Times)
Backyard Diplomacy
  • The U.S. Trump administration has come down on the wrong side of the two biggest issues facing Latin America: migration and corruption argues Shannon O'Neil at the Council for the Americas.
  • Financial experts believe the Petro, Venezuela's cryptocurrency backed by hypothetical oil reserves, will never catch on. But the government is pushing citizens to use it for purchases such as homes, airline tickets, and hotel rooms -- even passport renewal. (Miami Herald)
  • Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández's book on the missing 43 Ayotzinapa students meticulously takes apart the government's "historical truth" regarding the atrocity that occurred in 2014. She proves how government officials at all levels worked to cover up their role in the murders of the students, even using torture to extract confessions. (Guardian)
  • Oil theft is one of Mexico's most lucrative illicit economies -- last week more than 50 people were killed over five days of battles between rival criminal groups in relation to the business, reports InSight Crime.
El Salvador
  • Semana interviews El Faro director  José Luis Sanz, praising the Salvadoran online paper's intrepid investigations into migration, gangs, and Monseñor Romero's assassination.
  • The LGBTQ Victory Institute is holding a series of workshops in Central America aimed at bolstering the LGBTI community’s involvement in the region’s political process. The first, in Tegucigalpa, was attended by 28 people, including Nicaraguans participating in their country's anti-government protests. (Washington Blade)
  • Cracks are appearing in Colombia's biggest criminal group, the Urabeños. (InSight Crime)
  • Colombian writer Héctor Abad's new novel, The Farm, follows a family as it struggles to live among guerrillas, paramilitaries, army soldiers and drug lords. (Guardian)
  • U.S. tourism to Cuba is perking up after a slump last year. (Miami Herald)
Environmental corner
  • Asian demand has collapsed Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula sea cumber population, a decline that could affect nutrient recycling and biodiversity on the seafloor, and may interrupt the food chain. (New York Times)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...Latin America Daily Briefing


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