Monday, May 17, 2021

Chilean voters punish political parties (May 17, 2021)

 Chilean voters punished traditional political parties in this weekend's election for representatives to rewrite the country's constitution. President Sebastián Piñera said his government and other traditional political parties should heed the “loud and clear” message that they had not adequately responded to the needs of citizens.

The results reshuffled Chile's political scene, and will impact November's presidential election, reports La Tercera.

Preliminary results indicate that independent candidates picked up 30 of 155 seats. The anti-party Lista del Pueblo, which built on demands from the 2019 protests and social unrest, obtained 22 seats. The ruling right-wing coalition obtained 39 seats. A leftist coalition that includes the Communist Party and the Frente Amplio obtained 28 seats, while the Apruebo list -- which many of the leftist Concertación participated in -- obtained 25 seats. The results put the Frente Amplio at the head of the country's leftist forces, reports La Tercera.

About 43.4 percent of eligible voters participated, more than in recent municipal elections, but less than the amount that voted in the plebiscite that launched the new constitutional process last October. (La Tercera)

The Constituent Assembly's diversity will present a challenge in putting together a new charter for the country, as proposals will need two-thirds approval in order to pass, reports El País. This means Piñera's coalition will have to forge new alliances in order to reach the one-third of delegates required to block new proposals.

The result – and defeats for Chile Vamos candidates in mayoral, gubernatorial and municipal elections held at the same time – bode ill for the ruling coalition ahead of general and presidential elections in November, reports Reuters.

For the first time, a national constitution will be drafted by a body that has gender parity. (AFP, see Friday's post.)

News Briefs

  • Colombian national strike leaders, unions, university students and other social movements presented a list of demands to the government over the weekend, including an end to violence against demonstrators by police and security forces, as well as to sexual violence against women. Thousands of people marched again, peacefully, in Colombian cities yesterday. The country is entering its third week of protests. The National Strike Committee was expected to meet with government representatives again this afternoon, reports Deutsche Welle.
  • Entering the third week of protests, demonstrators and human rights groups have repeatedly accused police officers of killing civilians, excessive use of force, sexual abuse and the use of firearms, both during current protests and previous ones. Members of Colombia's national police force who are responsible for abuses or acts of violence amid ongoing protests will be punished to the full extent of the law, the head of the force said, yesterday. (Reuters)
  • In recent gruesome episode, a young girl accused police of sexual violence while they detained her in Popayán -- the next day she killed herself. (La Silla Vacía)
  • Colombia's violent response to the protests has tarnished its international image,and the diplomatic disarray is compounded by the exit last week of foreign minister Claudia Blum, reports La Silla Vacía.
  • Fifty-five U.S. lawmakers called on the U.S. government to denounce police brutality in Colombia, and suspend direct aid to Colombian National Police. They also called for an end to U.S. commercial sales of weapons, equipment, services, or training to ESMAD (Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios) riot police; and a freeze on any grants or sales of riot or crowd control equipment to all Colombian public security forces, police, and special units until concrete and clear human rights benchmarks are established and met.
  • The protests also underscore "the urgent need to help Latin America return to growth and bring the pandemic under control," according to a Bloomberg editorial.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden must drop his opposition to engagement with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in order to take advantage of a rare diplomatic opportunity that has emerged in the years-long standoff between the two countries, according to U.S. Representative Gregory W. Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Meeks told the Washington Post he would be willing to make contact with the Maduro government on behalf of the Biden administration in order to broker a dialogue that could lead to free and fair elections in the country.
  • Opposition leader Juan Guaidó confirmed that the Norwegian government had visited Venezuela twice this year, and suggested that Norway may be well positioned to mediate potential negotiations with the Maduro government. Italian news agency Agenzia Nova reported that the Vatican may be willing to act as an intermediary in political negotiations between the Maduro government and the Guaidó opposition. (Venezuela Weekly)
  • Maduro said the opposition's continued control of Venezuelan-owned U.S. refiner Citgo would be a key point in any eventual dialogue process, reports Reuters.
  • Peru's presidential runoff candidates -- union-leader Pedro Castillo and right-wing Keiko Fujimori -- are virtually tied, just three weeks ahead of the June second round vote, according to an Ipsos voter simulation. Castillo, virtually unknown before coming in first in April's first round, has sought to soften his stance, after causing market jitters with promises to nationalize mineral resources. Fujimori has pulled ahead in urban areas, while Castillo is strongest with rural voters. (Reuters)
  • "The public perception that there is disorganization within the Castillo campaign and rivalries among potential advisors is absolutely true," according to James Bosworth's Latin America Risk Report. But the plan Castillo's campaign released yesterday for his first 100 days in office shows the center and center-left won the internal battles. The plan "is significantly more moderate than the one Vladimir Cerrón wrote and published prior to the first round. In a change many will find positive, unlike the previous plan, the first paragraph of the new plan doesn’t defend Marxism."
  • Castillo said, yesterday, that he would raise mining sector taxes and royalties, and renegotiate the tax contracts of large companies if elected in next month's runoff, reports Reuters.
  • Mexico is facing an escalating humanitarian emergency caused by what authorities and advocates call an unprecedented increase in migrant families traversing its territory, reports the Los Angeles Times. The Mexican government has failed to develop a strategy to care for the tens of thousands of migrants, instead authorities have relied on an over-stretched patchwork of private and religious charity outfits, medical aid organizations and sundry good Samaritans.
  • Violence against women in Ciudad Juárez has gotten worse during the pandemic, the issue is considered the “Achilles heel” of public policy in Chihuahua, reports Pie de Página.

  • Shocking images shared on Brazilian social media this week have cast a spotlight on a spiral of violence, malnutrition and disease that threatens fresh devastation for the Yanomami people and their ancestral territory in the Amazon state of Roraima, reports the Guardian.
  • Brazil is struggling to secure enough Covid-19 vaccine doses to cover its population, and failing in its race against the pandemic clock, reports AFP. President Jair Bolsonaro's government is facing criticism for failing to secure more vaccines, including its refusal of offers to purchase millions of doses and diplomatic tension with China that may be slowing the import of vaccine ingredients.
  • Covid-19 appears to be killing babies and small children at an unusually high rate in Brazil, a new twist in the pandemic nightmare. Since the start of the pandemic, 832 children 5 and under have officially died of the virus. The number is probably a substantial undercount, as a lack of widespread testing means many cases go undiagnosed, reports the New York Times.
  • A new experiment will vaccinate the entire adult population of the Brazilian city of Botucatu, population 150,000, with the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, to analyze the efficacy of mass-vaccination. (Infobae)
El Salvador
  • Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele’s approval ratings have hovered around 90 percent, even as he has veered toward autocracy. The key, according to the Los Angeles Times, is his efficient distribution of food and vaccines, as well as a reduction in homicides that experts say is based on a secret deal with the country's violent street gangs.
  • Ecuador's National Assembly elected  Guadalupe Llori, a representative of the Pachakutik indigenous political party,  as its president for the next two years, with the support of allies of conservative President-elect Guillermo Lasso. The alliance between Pachakutik and Lasso's CREO party effectively sidelined the left-wing UNES party, which won the most seats in the congress in elections earlier this year but fell short of an outright majority, reports Reuters.
  • President Andrés Manuel López Obrador will mark the 1911 massacre of 303 Chinese people in the city of Torreón, a chapter that history has glossed over. -- Guardian 

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