Thursday, October 15, 2020

Bolivia's presidential election re-do (Oct. 15, 2020)

Bolivia's oft-delayed elections this weekend are a chance to move beyond the polarized legacy of Evo Morales and the botched interregnum of interim president Jeanine AƱez. But Bolivians don't necessarily trust electoral authorities, which have been renewed since last year's questioned presidential vote. "The best reason to be hopeful is that those suspicions are groundless," according to the Economist.

MAS party candidate Luis Arce and former president Carlos Mesa are ahead in the polls. Polls currently put MAS party candidate Luis Arce within reach of a first round win -- requiring 45 percent or a 10 point lead. Alternatively, the two could head to a run-off election in November, in which Mesa could unify an anti-MAS vote. (AFP)

In terms of Bolivia's protracted political crisis, a lot will ultimately hinge on the credibility of results, and a narrow win for either Arce or Mesa -- particularly one that is too close to call on election night -- could be rejected as irregular by their opponents, notes James Bosworth. (Latin America Risk Report)

News Briefs

  • The vice-leader of Brazil's governing coalition in the Senate was found with about $5,000 in his underwear during a police raid for suspected embezzlement of COVID-19 funds. Chico Rodrigues, the Brazilian president’s deputy leader in the senate, reportedly clenched the wad of bills so hard that some were stained with feces. (Guardian) The embarrassing episode is, of course, a gift from the gods for jokesters. #PropinaNaBunda (A Bribe up the Bum) is the viral hashtag. 
  • It comes just a week after President Jair Bolsonaro declared that governmental corruption has been resolved and dissolved the country's largest anti-corruption investigation. (See last Thursday's briefs.) Bolsonaro's move against the probe responds to his "pursuit of a comfortable relationship with the establishment figures he so derided during the campaign," argues Celso Rocha de Barros in Americas Quarterly. Bolsonaro was actually elected on a wave of anti-establishment rejection spurred by Lava Jato, and he attempted to move against the country's institutions -- Congress and the Supreme Court. "Brazil’s institutions have proven resilient, to the point that Bolsonaro now sees the need to make amends. Breaking Lava Jato is his way to prove he means business."
  • The owner of Brazilian JBS, the world’s largest meat packer, pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court yesterday to paying nearly $180 million in bribes to top Brazilian officials in exchange for state-backed financing, reports the Associated Press. As part of the settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, Sao Paulo-based J&F Investimentos must pay fines of $256 million — half of which will be discounted from hefty penalties it has already agreed to pay to Brazilian authorities for the previously disclosed bribe payments.
  • The Guatemalan government has announced it would launch an investigation into allegations that  US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel engaged in an “unauthorised” operation in Guatemala, rounding up Honduran migrants, reports Al Jazeera. (See Tuesday's post.)
  • Central American migration to the U.S. was largely halted this year due to coronavirus restrictions -- but pandemic's economic impact has reactivated the region’s complex migration machinery, creating what could become a lightning rod political issue for the next U.S. administration, reports Reuters.
  • Mexico said it has identified two women who may have been operated on without their consent while they were detained by U.S. immigration authorities. Mexico’s Foreign Ministry announced the findings in a statement over the weekend as part of an investigation into allegations of medical misconduct experienced by migrant women at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reports NBC News.
  • The United Nation's envoy for Colombia called for improved protection for former combatants who continue to be killed “in alarming numbers,” and he complained of rising violence and massacres by other groups that have cropped up since the 2016 peace accord, Al Jazeera.
  • Venezuela is ramping up its production and export of coal to European nations, as it seeks new sources of foreign currency amid tightening U.S. sanctions, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs on the impact of oil sanctions on the country's deepening humanitarian crisis.)
  • Estimates of the Covid-19 impact in Latin America are fairly apocalyptic -- but there are reasons to hope that the next decade will not be a lost one, argues Brian Winter in Americas Quarterly. He points to a few under-appreciated reasons for optimism, despite the admittedly gloomy scenario, including the region's improving education levels, mobile technology, and resilient democratic institutions.
  • The infodemic and disinformation virus has been as difficult to combat as the virus itself, especially in Latin America. In addition to pandemic-related concerns, false news deepens confirmation biases and contributes to the impoverishment of public debate, writes Carlos Fara at Latino America 21.
  • The IMF's latest loan agreement with Ecuador demonstrates the significant gap between the lending institution's rhetoric and actions regarding austerity and inclusion, argues Lara Merlin in Open Democracy
  • Faced with daunting economic challenges, Argentina's government will need the "political determination" to overcome its economic crisis, according to IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva. (AFP)
  • Lucrative forests on former indigenous territories are at the heart of growing conflict between Chilean authorities and the Mapuche -- there are hopes that a new constitution would help defend indigenous rights, reports Bloomberg.
  • The trailer for a Mexican film, New Order, depicts a violent uprising of Mexican underclass against the elite. The director said it is a dystopian warning against rampant social injustice. But critics are incensed by images of darker-skinned violently attacking lighter-skinned protagonists. The trailer comes as the country is grappling with issues of class and race, notes the Guardian.
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always.


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