Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Peruvians disapprove of Fujimori's electoral challenges (June 23, 2021)

Peru's electoral tribunal will start hearings on contested presidential votes today. (La República) But the consensus is that Pedro Castillo won June 6's presidential runoff, with a razor-thin -- but fair -- margin of about 44,000 votes out of nearly 19 million. A majority of Peruvians disapprove of candidate Keiko Fujimori's post electoral moves, including her attempts to disqualify 200,000 votes from poor, rural areas that overwhelmingly supported Castillo, according to a poll carried out by Instituto de Estudios Peruanos for La República. Rejection of the second-place candidate is even higher -- 76 percent -- in rural Peru, but is significant in urban areas, and -- 61 percent -- even in her stronghold, metropolitan Lima.

Most Peruvians believe Fujimori's allegations of irregularities are baseless, aimed solely at reverting the electoral results. The view is shared by authorities who found no evidence of fraud, and international observers who lauded the electoral procress. Yesterday the U.S. State Department said that Peru's recent presidential election was "a model of democracy." (Reuters)

Fujimori's efforts imitate former U.S. president Donald Trump's playbook, and her attempt at an "electoral coup" is "pushing Peru’s democracy to the brink of collapse," write Steven Levitsky and Alberto Vergara in a New York Times guest essay. "In an increasingly polarized climate, these tactics could lead to violence and even military intervention."

La República notes in an editorial that "Castillo's vote is built from hope in change" while "Fujimori's vote is fed by fear of communism or any of the threats that were built from the stores of Fuerza Popular."

Fujimori has capitalized on fear of Castillo that "exceeds the bounds of reason. It has transformed legitimate opponents of Mr. Castillo into dangerous opponents of democracy," warn Levitsky and Vergara. "Rather than sacrifice democracy on the altar of anti-leftism, Peru’s elites should use democratic politics to moderate or block Mr. Castillo’s more extreme proposals."

Some of the fears about Castillo's governance plan are founded on the shadowy figure credited with his sudden political rise: Vladimir Cerrón. "For many critics, Castillo, a teacher and union leader with no experience in elected office, is just a Trojan horse for Cerrón, a Marxist former governor whose conviction on corruption charges kept him from running for president himself," writes Brendan O'Boyle in Americas Quarterly. But it is far from clear that Cerrón would control a Castillo government, according to experts. Castillo's platform became notably more moderate in the latter half of the presidential campaign, and he forged an alliance with progressive Verónika Mendoza, whose advisors bolstered Castillo's more improvised team.

More Peru
  • Fujimori isn't just fighting for the presidency, she's fighting to stay out of jail. A Peruvian judge declined a prosecutor’s request to return Fujimori to remand prison for allegedly failing to comply with her bail conditions for the charges of money laundering and corruption that she faces. (Al Jazeera)

Cuba's homegrown vaccines

Cuba announced yesterday that two of its nationally developed coronavirus vaccine candidates showed high efficacy rates in late-stage trials. BioCubaFarma, the government-owned pharmaceutical company, that its three-dose Abdala vaccine candidate had an efficacy rate of 92.28% in phase III of clinical trials, while the state-run Finlay Institute of Vaccines said its Soberana 02 had completed phase III trials with an efficacy rate of 62% after two out of three recommended shots. Both vaccines are expected to be granted emergency authority by local regulators shortly. (Miami Herald, Reuters)

Cuba's authorities have already started administering the experimental vaccines en masse as part of "intervention studies" they hope will slow the spread of the virus. About a million of the country's 11.2 million residents have been fully vaccinated to date.

However, some are concerned about a lack of transparency and data about the trials. Cuba hasn’t provided any information about its vaccines to the World Health Organization. Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, Bolivia and Vietnam, among other countries, have expressed interest in buying Cuban vaccines.

The vaccine news was seen as a rare cause for celebration on an island hammered economically by the pandemic's impact on tourism and U.S. economic sanctions, reports the New York Times. Cuba is currently experiencing its worst coronavirus outbreak since the start of the pandemic. It reported 1,561 new cases on Monday, a record.

News Briefs

  • Journalist Carlos Chamorro left Nicaragua after police raided his home on Monday, part of a broadening crackdown on government opponents and critics. Chamorro, the country's most prominent journalist and editor of El Confidencial, said the raid unleashed harassment by security forces against the homes of family and fellow journalists, including police presence outside the home of his mother, former Nicaraguan president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. (Guardian, Confidencial100% Noticias, see yesterday's post.)
  • Nineteen people, including Chamorro’s sister and four other potential candidates in November’s presidential elections, have been arrested this month. Most have been held under sweeping legislation granting the government the power to classify citizens as “traitors to the homeland.” Michelle Bachelet, the UN human rights chief, described the arrests as “arbitrary” and said Nicaragua's rapidly deteriorating human rights situation "makes it unlikely that Nicaraguans will be able to fully exercise their political rights in the elections." (Guardian, Reuters)
  • In a joint statement yesterday, 59 countries at the United Nations Human Rights Council, urged the Ortega's government to roll back the crackdown that has targeted opposition leaders, journalists, human rights activists and prominent business executives for harassment and arrest, reports the Washington Post.
  • The U.S. State Department condemned President Daniel Oretega's "ongoing campaign of terror in the most unequivocal terms," yesterday. Spokesman Ned Prices said the United States would "use all diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal" to promote fair elections. (Reuters)
Regional Relations
  • The Biden administration's efforts to implement development policies in Central America remain too limited -- focused on the Northern Triangle and on migration -- which will offer incomplete solutions for the region's deep-seated problems, argues Laura Chinchilla in a New York Times Español guest essay. Repeating past mistakes will only worsen the region's social and migration crisis. Instead U.S. assistance in the Northern Triangle must be articulated, and form part of regional cooperation platforms, with impact on economic and commercial issues, organized crime and climate change.
  • The Berta Cáceres trial in Tegucigalpa will be an important test of the U.S. Biden administration's commitment to rule of law in Honduras and the region, argues Laura Carlsen in Foreign Policy In Focus
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it would start considering migrants whose cases were terminated under the Migrant Protection Protocols, a Trump-era program that gave border officials the authority to send asylum seekers back to Mexico to wait for their cases to be assessed. The change could affect tens of thousands of people, reports the New York Times.
  • Nearly 3,300 migrants stranded in Mexico since January due to a US border policy have been kidnapped, raped, trafficked or assaulted, according to a new report by Human Rights First. The number of cases has jumped in recent weeks from roughly 500 such incidents logged in April to 3,300 by mid-June. (Reuters)
  • Brazilian federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into a contract worth $320 million for 20 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine made by India's Bharat Biotech, reports Reuters.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's conspiracy theories about international challenges to Amazon sovereignty has tapped into a deep seated fear of foreign meddling in the rainforest, reports CNN.
  • Brazilian pop star Anitta joined the board of Latin American financial start-up Nubank to help market its credit cards, loans and checking accounts, reports Reuters. But the choice of a Bolsonaro critic angered his supporters. 
  • U.S. actor Michael B. Jordan backtracked on plans to name his rum brand "J'Ouvert," after backlash over what many considered cultural appropriation of a term that signals the start of carnival in the Caribbean and is a cornerstone of tradition in Trinidad and Tobago. (Guardian)
  • The lost cities of the ancient tropics still have a lot to teach us about how to live alongside nature. "Extensive, interspersed with nature and combining food production with social and political function, these ancient cities are now catching the eyes of 21st-century urban planners trying to come to grips with tropical forests as sites of some of the fastest-growing human populations around the world today."  -- Guardian Long Read
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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