Monday, November 29, 2021

Castro leads by 20 points in Honduras (Nov. 29, 2021)

 Xiomara Castro is strongly in the lead to become Honduras' next president, after an election day that was largely peaceful and orderly. Castro declared herself the winner last night, despite orders from the National Electoral Council to political parties to await official results, reports the Associated Press

As of this morning, Castro has a 20 point lead over second-place candidate Nasry Asufra, the National Party candidate who also declared himself victor last night. (La Prensa) With more than 1.8 million votes counted, Castro held a margin of more than 350,000 votes. A landslide win could be key in avoiding accusations of irregularities.

If Castro wins, it will be the first time in 12 years the country is not governed by the National Party -- since Castro's husband, former president Mel Zelaya, was ousted in a 2009 coup. Castro won the support of a broad swathe of Hondurans tired of corruption and the concentration of power that grew under the National Party, reports Reuters.

“We’re going to form a government of reconciliation, a government of peace and justice,” she said in a speech to cheering supporters last night. She also promised to work “hand in hand” with the private sector, and to enlist help from the UN to strengthen the fight against corruption. She has vowed to legalise abortion in some cases.

Today Castro said she wanted to open conversations with all sectors of society and international organizations to seek solutions for the Central American country.

Electoral authorities said turnout was more than 68 percent, a turnout 10 points above that in 2017. The chief of the Organization of American States’s electoral observation mission, Costa Rica’s former president Luis Guillermo Solís, called the vote “a beautiful example of citizen participation,” noting the high apparent turnout.

Many analysts concur that the elections represented a sort of "referendum." For the Guardian, it is a response to the "corruption that has allegedly permitted drug traffickers to infiltrate the government all the way to the top," while for Foreign Policy it is a referendum "on the chaos that has ensued since the 2009 coup." The three presidents who have governed since then, as well as local mayors, legislators, police and military commanders have been linked to drug trafficking in what U.S. prosecutors have described as a narco-state, reports the Guardian.

"The elections represent a chance to reinstate the rule of law after eight years of systematic dismantling of democratic institutions by the departing president," reports the New York Times.

For the U.S., migration is a major point of concern, and a lot of analysis has focused on whether the election results would increase flows of people seeking to enter the U.S. After the 2017 election, in which JOH won a second mandate in elections marred by irregularities and followed by massive protests and repression, migration to the U.S. spiked, and the caravan format became more common, reports Foreign Policy.

Yesterday's smooth elections are in marked contrast to the 2017 vote, notes Reuters. The peaceful voting was marred by the outages of the electoral council’s website, which was down for most of the day, breeding fraud conspiracies among the already suspicious population, reports the New York Times.

Though the results of congressional elections also held yesterday are not clear yet, there have been no preliminary results published, but the outcome will be significant for Honduras: The next congress will have the opportunity to reshape a troubled justice system by electing a new supreme court, attorney general and state auditors, all of whom will serve for terms that extend beyond a single election cycle. (Guardian)

If she wins, Castro could face a congress controlled by the opposition National Party, or could be forced to make alliances with other parties.

News Briefs

  • The latest Cadem poll in Chile put Gabriel Boric ahead of rival José Antonio Kast by 6 points -- 39 to 33 -- ahead of next month's second round presidential vote. The poll found that 38 percent of people who voted for third-way candidate Franco Parisis are now favoring Boric, 23 percent Kast, and 39 percent are undecided, reports EMOL. (See last Monday's post.)
  • The United States will revoke its designation of the FARC as a foreign terrorist organization tomorrow, while two breakaway groups -- La Segunda Marquetalia and FARC-EP --  would be designated as foreign terrorist organizations as such, the U.S. State Department announced on Friday. (Reuters, see last Wednesday's briefs.)

  • More than 100 people sustained eye injuries in a violent crackdown on mass protests this year by the Colombian security forces, notably the country’s anti-riot squad (ESMAD), according to a new report by Amnesty International. More than 80 people – mostly young student protesters – were killed and many others suffered serious injuries in clashes between protesters and security forces at demonstrations that started in late April and lasted over a month. (Al Jazeera)
  • Peruvian opposition lawmakers presented a motion to impeach President Pedro Castillo last Thursday. The petition, supported by Keiko Fujimori's Fuerza Popular party, cited “moral inability” to govern. It will need 52 votes from the 130-seat body to begin impeachment proceedings. A vote is not yet scheduled. A final vote to remove Castillo would eventually require 87 votes. (Al Jazeera)

  • A 7.5 magnitude earthquake shook the remote Amazon region of northern Peru yesterday. It destroyed 75 homes but no deaths were immediately reported. (Reuters)

  • Peru's federal public prosecutor's office opened an investigation into Ernesto Cabral, a journalist for the award-winning investigative outlet OjoPúblico, last month. The office alleges that Cabral, whose work exposed Peruvian prosecutors’ misconduct in the sprawling Car Wash probe, committed a crime by revealing the identity of a protected cooperating witness, a crime that could carry a six-year prison sentence. (The Intercept)

  • Peru's per capita death rate from COVID is now the worst in the world, twice the rate of the United States. A "perfect storm" of factors contributed to the pandemic's impact on the country, including Peru's dependence on imports, report NPR.
  • Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is poised for a dramatic comeback to politics. Blocked from his presidential bid in 2018 due to a controversial corruption sentence, judicial rulings returned his political rights, allowing him to "again make the case that he’s the only way forward for a nation grappling with rising hunger, poverty and a deepening political divide," reports the New York Times.

  • Physical violence against Indigenous communities in Brazil, fomented by the Bolsonaro administration, comes at a huge environmental cost in addition to the human toll, reports The New Republic.
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has dismissed as “spies” members of a European Union electoral observation mission sent to observe last week’s regional polls, reports Al Jazeera. (See last Wednesday's briefs.)
  • Former Nicaraguan vice president Sergio Ramírez’s latest novel, Tongolele no sabía bailar "is a grim, wildly funny, surrealistic account of the grievous events of the spring of 2018, when student protests broke out in Managua and other cities around the country, and the repression served up by Ortega and Murillo left three hundred dead," writes Alma Guillermoprieto in the New York Review of Books. "The novel’s account of the events of May 2018 is accurate, but it is when Ramírez’s narrative invention runs wildest that his portrayal of Nicaragua under the thumb of the improbable Ortega-Murillo duumvirate is most truthful."
  • Barbados is set to become a republic tomorrow, the 55th anniversary of its independence from the United Kingdom. It is the first Commonwealth realm in nearly three decades to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, reports the Washington Post. The move from constitutional monarchy to republic enjoys broad support on the island, and gained momentum last year amid the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and growing demands for reparations for slavery on the island.
  • A stowaway hidden in the landing gear compartment of an American Airlines jet survived a flight from his home country of Guatemala to Miami, where he was turned over to U.S. immigration officials and taken to a hospital for evaluation, reports Reuters.
  • Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said approval of a potential debt renegotiation deal between Argentina and the IMF will depend on Congress. She appears to be distancing herself from the decision to approve the government’s proposal to reschedule payments for a loan amounting to more than US$40 billion, reports Bloomberg.

  • She made the statements in an open letter, her first statement since Argentina's governing coalition lost mid-term elections earlier this month, and emphasized that President Alberto Fernández is in command of the government. (Infobae)

  • Argentina’s judiciary has agreed to open a genocide case brought by Rohingya victims of atrocities committed by Myanmar’s military. The case was brought under universal jurisdiction, the principle under which exceptionally grave crimes can be tried anywhere. “We will be looking for concrete results in terms of accountability and punishment for those who participated directly and indirectly in the genocide,” Tomás Ojea Quintana, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, told the Financial Times.
     (See also Infobae and Nov. 19's briefs.)

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


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