Monday, October 29, 2018

Ordem e Progresso (Oct. 29, 2018)

Jair Bolsonaro won Brazil's run-off election yesterday, a sharp turn to the right for the country. He won handily, taking 55 percent of the vote to leftist Fernando Haddad's 45. (Maps at El País.) The Guardian chalks it up to a world-wide trend in embattled democracies, in which voters swap "the politics of hope for “anti-politics” – the politics of anger, rejection and despair."

Though Bolsonaro is known for incendiary remarks against women, minorities, democracy, and most progressive causes, he struck a conciliatory tone yesterday, notes the Wall Street Journal. “You are my witnesses that this government will be a defender of the constitution, democracy and liberty and this is not just the promise of a party, or the empty words of a man, but an oath to God,” he said after results confirmed his win. He promised an administration that "defends and protects the rights of citizens who comply with their duties and respect the law." (Video)

Analysts say Bolsonaro's election is not necessarily an indication of the public's ideological leanings. Bolsonaro's support is in large part a rejection of the Workers' Party and the political status quo by a public disgusted by corruption scandals tainting most major parties -- even by groups who have been the target of his prejudices. Pre-election polls showed that a quarter of Bolsonaro's voters did not admire him or his policies, but rather sought to punish the PT. Bolsonaro is the first presidential winner since 1989 who isn’t from the Workers’ Party or Brazil’s centrist PSDB Party. Though he has served in Congress for nearly 30 years, he ran and won as an anti-establishment candidate. (ConversationGuardian)

He also gained support from conservative groups, promising to support "tradition family values." And he was backed by minorities who chose to prioritize other issues -- crime and economics -- over identity politics, notes the Guardian.

Many voters were attracted to Bolsonaro's promises to forcefully respond to an uptick in violence that has claimed a record number of lives this year. There were 64,000 homicides last year, though most experts question the efficacy of Bolsonaro's proposals to allow police carte blanche to kill suspected criminals and arm civilians for self defense. Followers have started making hand-pistol signs in reference to his promises, notes the New York Times. He blames drug crime for the ongoing violence, and has spoken of deploying the military to combat it, but has given little detail of what such a policy would look like. In the past he's advocated to lower the age of criminal responsibility and to reinstate the death penalty. 

Markets embraced him against the Workers' Party thanks to his promises to cut public debt and open up the economy. Paulo Guedes, a University of Chicago-educated liberal, is his pick to head the finance ministry. The Wall Street Journal predicts a short-term boost at least, as markets free up investment that's been holding back awaiting the election results.

Though the concrete agenda is still unclear, there are numerous controversial fronts: Environmentalists and indigenous rights activists are concerned about his promises to open up reserves and reduce environmental fines. And for schools he has promised a focus on "traditional family values." (Guardian)

Human Rights Watch called on Brazil´s judiciary and other key institutions should resist any attempt to undermine human rights, the rule of law, and democracy under the newly elected government. Bolsonaro has a history of bigoted and anti-democratic statements

He was not, however, prolific at making laws in his decades in Congress, nor was he known for building consensus in a highly-fractured Congress, notes the New York Times.

Fake news has been a significant factor in the elections. A poll by Atlas Político attempted to suss out belief in fake news circulating, such as an assurance by a lawmaker-elect that a major magazine was paid to support the PT. Apparently 71 percent of voters heard the rumor, and about 35 percent believed it. (El País)

News Briefs

  • A 26-year-old Honduran man was killed in clashes at the Mexico-Guatemala border as a group of about 2,000 migrants reportedly rushed a fence blocking passage between the two countries. Migrants and members of Guatemala's Policia Nacional Civil were reportedly wounded. The migrants were ultimately stopped by Mexican security forces in anti-riot gear. Mexican authorities denied reports that their security forces used rubber bullets, and said the migrants were armed and had Molotov cocktails. There are reports of minors being affected by tear gas, and Guatemalan authorities said migrants had used children as human shields. (Animal PolíticoWall Street Journal)
  • Another group of more than 300 Salvadorans left the San Salvador yesterday. Inspired by the migrant caravan currently wending its way through Mexico, participants organized through social media, seeking safety in numbers for the trek to the U.S. El Salvador's government dispatched police to guard the migrants' gathering spot and emphasized their right to mobility. Last week President Salvador Sánchez Cerén rejected U.S. President Trump's demands to stop migration. "For us, migrating is a right, and so migrants’ rights have to be respected," he said.(Guardian and Washington Post)
  • The "original" migrant caravan is advancing about 43 miles a day through Mexico -- but exhaustion and grueling conditions on the road are taking a toll and a number are dropping out. Mexican authorities estimate about 3,630 people are still in the caravan, though local mayors put the estimate at 6,000. Along the way, migrants have been welcomed into towns along the way with aid from Catholic and evangelical groups, as well as locals and municipal governments. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Washington Post accompanies the migrants for a portion of their walk north -- watched by reporters, Mexican migration officials who allow the large group to pass, and Red Cross volunteers treating the dehydration and blisters many of them suffer. Though the group has no strict leadership, several migrants have taken on a leadership role and Pueblo Sin Fronteras is helping to coordinate. The route is not fully planned and partially depends on what towns agree to help along the way.
  • In an effort to stop migrants from heading to the U.S., Mexico has offered temporary identification papers and jobs to migrants who register for asylum in the country, reports Reuters.
  • A secret condition of the renegotiated NAFTA (know called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) involves Mexico stopping would-be migrants and refugees aiming to enter the U.S., argues Jorge Castañeda in a New York Times op-ed. "No one knows for sure, but after nearly 40 years of being intimately involved, as an academic and public official, with these situations, I can offer an informed guess: The United States gave up most of its trade demands in exchange for a confidential commitment by Mexico to do Washington’s dirty work against would-be immigrants and refugees."
  • Former Guatemalan ministro de gobernación Carlos Vielmann was detained today, in relation to an investigation by the Public Ministry and the CICIG. The case has not yet been made public. Vielmann was tried and absolved in Spain on charges of creating a paramilitary group that executed seven inmates -- the Pavón case. Entering the courthouse, Vielmann said he would have presented himself willingly and accused the CICIG of mounting a political show. (PublinewsPrensa LibreSoy 502EFE)
  • About a million Mexicans participated in a consultation over the future of Mexico City's airport. Most, 69 percent, voted against a half-built $13.3 billion new airport project, instead backing a proposal to building up an military base airport near Mexico City to complement the existing Benito Juárez Airport. The issue has been fraught -- during his campaign, president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador opposed the project due to high costs. Other critics of the project emphasize its potential environmental impact. But business leaders say canceling the project will come at a high cost, and say the costs of changing projects midway could be even worst than continuing with the current construction. The implementation of the consultation was also criticized as insufficiently rigorous, though AMLO touted it as an example of his intent to referendum key policy decisions. (Animal PolíticoWall Street Journal)
  • An environmental activist was killed last week in Chihuahua -- part of a marked trend of  Julián Carrillo, was member of the Alianza Sierra Madre organization, the death occurred shortly after his community of Coloradas de la Virgen registered opposition to a mining concession that they say was located in their territory without their permission. (Guardian)
  • More than 50 U.S. lawmakers called on President Donald Trump to investigate a string of threats against journalists and human rights activists in Honduras. They list details of the threats and ask that aid to the Honduras government be tied to respect for human rights. (Guardian)
  • Spain’s High Court agreed on Friday to extradite a woman close to the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Claudia Diaz served as Chávez's nurse, and is wanted in Venezuela on charges of money laundering and illicit enrichment. (Reuters)
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales a 14 point lead over former president Carlos Mesa ahead of January's presidential elections, according a new IPSOS poll. (TeleSur)
  • Chilean President Sebastián Piñera presented a proposal to boost pension payments. (Reuters)

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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