Friday, November 19, 2021

Elections in Venezuela and Chile (Nov. 19, 2021)

Venezuela’s opposition will contest regional elections -- governorships and mayoralities are on the table -- on Sunday for the first time since 2017. Voting is by electronic ballot with some 38 parties taking part. Turnout is expected to be low among the 21 million registered voters in the country.

Opposition parties have refused to participate in elections for years, arguing that to do so would legitimize the increasingly autocratic Maduro government. The about-face in this case is meant to rally a disillusioned electorate ahead of a future presidential vote, which should legally take place in 2024, reports the New York Times.

Opposition parties have little faith in the fairness of the election, and have failed to create a united front, notes Al Jazeera. The main opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) still insisted the elections “won’t be fair or conventional” due to “serious obstacles” placed by the government. Opposition leader Juan Guaido, meanwhile, has not spoken openly in support or against participation in the vote.

Though the playing field is far from level, there are several key differences between Sunday's election and previous ones boycotted by the opposition. The most important, according to Efecto Cocuyo, is a new national electoral council (CNE) that includes two non-chavistas with opposition roots. Sunday’s vote will be a test of the new CNE's impartiality, reports Reuters.

Another improvement is the inclusion of international observers, including a European Union mission who will be present at 1,000 of the 14,400 voting centers. The 100-strong team deployed across the country yesterday. Also, a group of 10 electoral experts audited the country's electronic voting system in the lead up to the election, certifying vote secrecy in particular. 

Among the advantages the government has baked into the competition, Efecto Cocuyo lists state media and government institutions as campaign tools.

More Venezuela
  • Opposition parties hoping to energize their supporters and revive the floundering pro-democracy movement -- but critics note that they have largely overlooked women as potential candidates, reports the Washington Post. Of the 182 candidates running in gubernatorial or mayoral races in capital cities, only 30 are women, according to an analysis by Efecto Cocuyo.

  • An InSight Crime investigation exposes how the Maduro government's attempts to control Venezuela’s mining heartland in the state of Bolívar have led to criminal chaos, as guerrilla groups, heavily armed gangs and corrupt state elements battle over the country’s gold.
Chilean Elections

Chileans vote for president on Sunday. Polls predict a runoff between ultra-conservative José Antonio Kast and leftist former student leader Gabriel Boric. It's the "the most polarized election since the country's return to democracy in 1990," according to Reuters.

(Americas Quarterly has a full rundown of candidates and their platforms.)

The likely runoff would contrast a candidate representing the demands of 2019 protesters, and a candidate representing Chilean backlash to those protests, who has focused on order and security, reports the Economist. A Boric win would align the presidency with the Constitutional Convention drafting a new magna carta for Chile, and dominated by leftist independents. Kast, on the other hand, opposes a radical transformation project for Chile.

The two front-runners offer voters antithetical agendas, reports the Guardian. While Boric espouses an egalitarian, feminist and ecological future for Chile, Kast has centred his campaign on conservative social values, security and migration.

While Chile's centrist candidates are unlikely to make the runoff, center-left Christian Democratic party candidate Yasna Provoste and center-right ruling coalition Sebastián Sechel could play roles as kingmakers in an expected second-round, reports Reuters. But it’s unclear how moderate voters would lean in a run-off.

More Chile
  • Nearly 1.5 million of Chile's 19 million inhabitants are migrants, an exponential growth over the past decade that has prompted xenofobia and restrictive policies that make life hard for Venezuelans and Haitians, reports the Economist.
News Briefs

  • Ultraconservative groups have campaigned against minority rights in Latin America for over a decade -- but during the pandemic several tightened their alliances with extreme right wing political organizations, like Vox, and increased their online presence. A new investigation coordinated by Ojo Público explores the lobby and fundamentalist strategies of the anti-rights agenda in the region.

  • Global South countries face the climate crisis from a disadvantaged position, but they could be decisive in bringing about a paradigm shift that combines ecology and social justice, argue Rodrigo Echecopar and Pedro Cisterna Gaete in Nueva Sociedad.

  • T"he deeply rooted dynamics of violence and corruption in the countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America continue to represent one of the greatest challenges to ensuring the implementation of effective policies focused on human rights, the rule of law, and citizen security, and enabling an adequate and comprehensive approach to the structural causes that continue to generate unprecedented levels of migration of persons fleeing Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador," according to WOLA's Central America Monitor.

  • Carbon credits for fighting deforestation were left in flux at COP26 — but including credits for land-use and land-cover could be key for the climate and Brazil’s economy, writes Joachim Levy in Americas Quarterly.
Regional Relations
  • U.S., Canada and Mexico leaders met yesterday in a Washington summit in which they sought to present a united front, and avoided thornier questions like trade disputes or the surging numbers of migrants, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's post.)

  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador urged his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden to reduce imports and to loosen immigration restrictions in order to ease labor shortages, reports Bloomberg. (See yesterday's post.)

  • Biden's options in response to Nicaragua's sham election are limited by his wariness to further destabilize the country and increase outward migration, reports the Economist.
  • Satellite data revealed that deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rose by nearly 22 percent from last year to reach its highest level in 15 years. With the rate of destruction not slowing, critics questioned whether Brazil can meet its COP26 target, reports the Washington Post. Some accused Bolsonaro’s administration of delaying the release of the latest deforestation benchmark until after the U.N. summit.

  • Brazil’s government launched Auxílio Brasil, a new welfare program designed by the Bolsonaro administration to replace the prestigious, 20-year-old cash transfer Bolsa Familia program. The new program increases the monthly stipend for each beneficiary and also will raise the number of recipients, but has worried experts because funding and other details have yet to be determined, reports the Associated Press. Analysts say Bolsonaro is essentially rebranding an existing program for electoral purposes, but in the process has raised investor hackles about government spending.
  • Jamaica's government declared a state of emergency in seven police districts on the island on Sunday, in response to increases in violent crimes, ranging from 16 to 57 per cent. Jamaica's homicide rate is among the highest in the world -- in a country with a population of nearly 3 million, more than 1,240 Jamaicans were murdered in the first ten months of the year despite no-movement days and nightly curfews brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, notes the Jamaica Gleaner. (See more at today's Just Caribbean Updates.)
  • Haitian gangs' decision to finally ease fuel supply blockade only underscores the levels of criminal governance these groups have amassed, reports InSight Crime. (See Tuesday's briefs.) The easing of the blockade follows the announcement of a truce made between the gang alliance, G9 an fanmi (G9 and family), and the local government in Cité Soleil, a district of the capital Port-au-Prince.

  • A suspect in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse died while being transferred to a hospital from pretrial detention after suffering coronavirus symptoms, reports Reuters.
  • "Patria y Vida," a rap song that become a Cuban protest anthem this year, is nominated for two Latin Grammys, including song of the year, and will be performed on the show. The song is a rare instance of Cuban artists directly taking on the regime, reports the New York Times.
El Salvador
  • El Salvador President Nayib Bukele proposed a "foreign agents" law last week that would require people and organizations who receive foreign funding to register as “foreign agents,” following the lead of countries like the United States, reports the Associated Press. (See Nov. 11's briefs.) The rules would apply to a broad range of organizations and individuals, including media outlets and individual journalists, according to that report and a copy of the proposed legislation obtained by El Faro.

  • The bill would hamper civil society’s work by imposing high taxes on foreign donations and requiring NGOs and media receiving funding from abroad to submit to a special government registry. 

  • El Salvador’s congress should reject the proposed law that would require media outlets and journalists receiving funding or payments from abroad to register as “foreign agents,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said this week.

  • German Minister of State Niels Annen voiced concern over El Salvador's proposed foreign agent law, saying it would interfere in cooperation between organizations of civil society in both countries. (Deutsche Welle)

  • The International Monetary Fund said current virtual meetings with a delegation from El Salvador are not about a support program with the Fund, reports Reuters.
  • Colombia is the world’s deadliest place for environmentalists and others defending land rights, a reality that clashes with President Iván Duque's environmentally committed stance at COP26, argue Blanca Lucía Echeverry and Andrew Miller in a New York Times guest essay.

  • A year after Hurricane Iota devastated the Caribbean islands of Providencia, San Andres and Catalina, the archipelago's reconstruction is far behind the 100 days promised by Colombian President Iván Duque. While the Colombian government has rebuilt nearly 900 homes on Providencia, residents still rely on a field-campaign tent hospital, and about 800 more homes are still unfinished, reports El País.

  • But organizations of civil society say lack of information by official entities in charge of reconstruction on the islands doesn't permit a real balance on the advances over the past year, reports El Espectador.

  • The World Bank approved a US$500 million loan today aimed at supporting the Colombian government’s strategy for the social and economic integration of Venezuelan migrants in that country.
  • Mexican gangs have been blamed for recent violent prison massacres in Ecuador, but the actual scale of the involvement of Mexico’s leading cartels in Ecuador is difficult to prove as it has been in much of the region, warns InSight Crime.
  • Mexico will deploy a battalion of National Guard troops to its Mayan Riviera in the wake of a spate of shootings that threaten the area's tourism industry. (Associated Press)
  • The case of a 17-year-old youth killed by police this week in Buenos Aires has put a spotlight on the national debate over punitivist policies. Futbol player Lucas González was apparently killed in a chase by plainclothes police in an unmarked vehicle, an episode that follows a midterm election campaign in which several conservative candidates called for shoot-first policing policies. (Infobae)

  • Argentina plans to agree a new long-term economic plan with International Monetary Fund staff before submitting it to Congress, Reuters reports, as talks continued to secure a deal to roll over $45 billion owed to the IMF.

  • "The IMF is likely to accept a less-than-rigorous program, but it will have to include some reduction of the deficit," according to the Economist.

  • An Argentine federal court is due to determine whether it will take the case of human rights atrocities committed against Rohingyas in Myanmar, an effort to obtain justice for victims under universal jurisdiction, reports Infobae. It is not an isolated attempt to bring the case to an arbitrary court, but part of a U.N. integral strategy to investigate the genocide of the Rohingya, explained lawyer Tomás Ojea Quintana.

  • "Universal jurisdiction gives any country the ability to try those who have committed a very small number of heinous and hard to prosecute crimes, even if they were committed abroad or by nationals of another country," explains Naomi Roht-Arriaza in a blog post for Due Process of Law Foundation. "There are some powerful reasons to go forward with an independent investigation, at least for now.  The case can provide a measure of redress and legal recognition of the atrocities committed against the Rohingya.  Argentina has been a pioneer in international justice and has contributed much to the field from its own reckoning with its past. Allowing this case to proceed honors that tradition."
Happy Friday!


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