Monday, November 25, 2019

Uruguay too close to call (Nov. 25, 2019)

Uruguay's run-off election is too close to call, according to electoral authorities, who will delay the official result of yesterday's vote until later this week. Conservative candidate Luis Lacalle Pou has a razor-thin lead -- 48.71 percent over ruling Broad Front candidate Daniel Martínez, with 47.51 percent. There are over 35,000 challenged votes, which could theoretically swing the result, though most would have to be for Martínez for that to happen. (El País)

The results bucked pre-electoral predictions, most of which estimated Lacalle Pou would win with a comfortable seven point lead. Analysts yesterday were struggling to explain Martínez's last-minute vote surge. Some pointed a finger at far-right politician, former general Guido Manini Ríos, who exhorted the armed forces to vote for Lacalle Pou on Friday, and might have pushed disgusted conservative voters towards the Broad Front. Martínez warned about “fundamentalist” policies taking Uruguay sharply to the right. (Infobae, Reuters

Lacalle Pou gave a sort of victory speech, in which he said the trend was irreversible and called for unity, noting the close results. Martínez did not concede, and asked to await the final count. Martínez won the October election, but not by a strong enough margin to win the presidency outright. Lacalle Pou formed an alliance with conservative candidates who lost in October, a unity coalition against the Broad Front. (See Oct. 28's post.)

Unlike other countries in the region, the Broad Front has not been afflicted by corruption scandals and economic crises -- rather voters follow the pattern of dissatisfaction with the status quo that has brought down ruling parties around Latin America, reports the New York Times. The opposition capitalized frustration with growing crime rates, while the Broad Front was perceived as slow to respond to citizen concerns. Nonetheless, last month, voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have permitted a more militarized public security policy.


Colombian protests intensify

Colombians have been protesting for four straight days, after what was initially billed as a one day anti-government strike last Thursday. Protesters maintained significant presence in Bogotá, Medellín Cali and Baranquilla. (Semana, Semana, see Friday's post.) 

Three people have died so far in protests that started out peacefully, but were increasingly marked by excesses -- 300 people have been injured so far. Hundreds of people defied a curfew imposed on Friday. On Saturday security forces dispersed protesters in Bogotá with tear gas and seriously injured a teenage protester. Several videos circulating on social media show episodes of significant aggression by security forces against protesters. A car bomb in the western region of Cauca killed at least three police and left 10 others wounded on Friday, though authorities say the episode was unrelated to the protests. (El Espectador, El PaísAssociated Press, Wall Street Journal)

In the midst of unrest, Duque launched a process of national dialogue yesterday that he said will include citizens in a discussion of critical issues, including inequality and corruption. The conversation had originally been scheduled for later this week, but Duque pushed it forward in light of ongoing protests. (Associated Press, El País) Protest leaders rejected the move, saying that Duque has not addressed demands regarding protection for social leaders, economic reforms, and corruption. (Al Jazeera

News Briefs

  • Bolivians will hold a new presidential vote in 120 days, under a bill passed by lawmakers this weekend. Former president Evo Morales and his vice-president, Álvaro García Linera will not participate, but their MAS party will. The new law gives the Legislative Assembly 20 days to pick new electoral authorities, who would then have just 48 hours to approve a final electoral calendar. The new electoral authorities will have a six-year mandate. (La Razón)
  • A dialogue table agreed on the electoral law, but has stumbled on accords over the role of the armed forces moving forward and detainees. There are currently hundreds of detainees in relation to protests. The MAS party vice president and a provincial governor were arrested over the weekend. While some MAS lawmakers sought to shield former government officials from criminal prosecution, the interim government has promised to block any such attempt. (El PaísLa Razón, Infobae)
  • Bolivia's interim president Jeanine Áñez was virtually unknown before taking power earlier this month, but the story behind her rise is indicative of the stunted political parties and a bitterly divided society that gave rise to the country's current crisis, reports the New York Times.
  • Former president Evo Morales is living on a Mexican military base, where he spends most of his days fielding calls for Bolivians asking for help. Nonetheless, he seemed to acknowledge in a New York Times interview that his presidency is really over.
  • Not that discourse is calming down, Bolivia's interior minister promised to arrest Morales for life, reports the Guardian.
  • At least 23 people have been killed in Chile's ongoing protests, and 2,300 injured -- including dozens of people blinded by non-lethal projectiles. The carnage is such that experts say its part of a deliberate security strategy to quell unrest. Gen Enrique Bassaletti of the carbineros gave a radio interview on Friday in which he likened the use of shotguns to chemotherapy, saying that “they kill some good cells and some bad ones." (Guardian)
  • The Carabinero police force is increasingly questioned, and yesterday President Sebastián Piñera said he would ask lawmakers to approve a bill that would allow him to deploy the armed forces for internal security without declaring a state of emergency. (Ambito)
  • The makings of the current unrest have been in the works for years, and Chilean governments have tried and failed to address inequality problems, reports Foreign Policy.
  • Photojournalist Albertina Martínez Burgos was found dead -- brutally beaten and stabbed -- in her Santiago apartment. Friends and family said her equipment -- camera and computer -- were stolen, but it's not clear whether there is a relation to the protests. (Infobae)
  • Nicaraguan journalist Carlos F. Chamorro returned to his country, after 10 months in exile. Chamorro had been working from Costa Rica, after significant threats to his safety by the Ortega government last year. However, he is emphatic that the situation hasn't improved -- in fact, it has worsened in many ways. (ConfidencialArtículo 66)
  • A group of mothers on hunger strike in Masaya lifted their protest after nine days under siege in a church by government forces, due to health issues. (Confidencial)
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro leads an authoritarian movement that seeks to endanger press freedoms and democratic order not just rhetorically, but also with violence, writes Glen Greenwald in a powerful New York Times op-ed.
  • U.S. Homeland Security officials will expand the Migration Protection Protocols -- known as Remain in Mexico -- to Tucson, one of the last areas of the border that has not been diverting asylum seekers to Mexico to await their U.S. immigration court hearings, reports the Washington Post.
  • In the meantime, migrants stuck in limbo on the Mexican side of the border have grown desperate in inhumane living conditions and are sending their children back across the border alone in hopes of obtaining refuge for them, reports the Washington Post.
  • A right-wing group led by Steve Bannon and other allies of U.S. President Donald Trump are building the much discussed -- but never approved -- border wall between Mexico and the U.S. They might not have permits, but We Build the Wall has been praised by senior Department of Homeland Security officials, reports the Washington Post.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...  


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