Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Hondura heads to tense, high-stakes election (Nov. 24, 2021)

Hondurans head to the polls on Sunday in a country where democracy is a guise, writes CESPAD head Gustavo Irías in Newsweek. (See yesterday's post.) It "may be Honduras’s most consequential election since the country’s return to democracy in 1982," according to the Guardian

But, while the presidential vote is a chance to restore democracy, "there is concern about recent fear tactics intended to intimidate voters. More than 30 people were murdered this year alone for political reasons, including four political leaders," writes Irías.

Polls favor Xiomara Castro, who is heading a broad opposition coalition aimed at ousting the National Party that has ruled the country since her husband, former president Mel Zelaya, was ousted in a 2009 coup. It is a winner takes all election, if results are close, there could be a repetition of violently repressed protests that followed the 2017 presidential election in which President Juan Orlando Hernádez was declared the winner despite serious allegations of irregularities. (See yesterday's post.)

Former Partido Liberal candidate Luis Zelaya urged supporters not to vote for his party's candidate -- Yani Rosenthal, who recently completed a prison sentence in the U.S. for money laundering -- and instead support Castro. He specifically suggested that people vote for candidates who can govern "without links to the drug trafficking and corruption that has done so much damage to the country." (El Heraldo)

"Hondurans’ enthusiasm about this election—and democracy—are low," notes an AS/COA explainer out this week.

More Honduras
  • Rosenthal said if he becomes president he would be open to extraditing the current leader to the U.S., where he was cited as co-conspirator in various drug trafficking trials. (CNN)

  • Hernández could be shielded from extradition if his National Party wins, or by taking shelter in one of the Zones for Employment and Economic Development (a kind of private city) his government has fostered, explains a Crisis Group report.

Argentina newspaper attacked

A group of hooded attackers threw eight Molotov cocktails at the entrance of Argentina's largest media conglomerate, Grupo Clarín, on Monday evening. No people were injured, nor was the building significantly damaged in the attack, which was repudiated by all of Argentina's leading political figures. (ClarínInfobaePágina 12)

The attack against a major newspaper with a track record of conflict with the governing Frente de Todos coalition -- particularly vice president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, whose government spearheaded an anti-monopoly media law that directly impacted Clarín -- caused concern, though nobody has claimed authorship. President Alberto Fernández condemned the attack, and said that "violence always alters democratic coexistence." The Kirchnerist Campora political movement also condemned the attack and the promotion of "hate speech," a message retweeted by Fernández de Kirchner. (Infobae)

The case is under investigation under the crime of "public intimidation." Perfíl reports that one hypothesis links the attack to the killing last week of a young footballer, Lucas González, who was shot by plainclothes police in a case that has sparked outrage and questions regarding Buenos Aires city police violence. Clarín had reported on the modus operandi of plainclothes officers with the city force that regularly harass residents in poor neighborhoods. This week an opposition lawmaker elect, Leandro Santoro, requested a judicial investigation into a possible illicit association between police and Buenos Aires city officials.

La Nación said investigators hypothesize a link to anarchist groups, and mentions an attack in August against a gendarmerie building in relation to a protest against previous episodes of alleged security force involvement in the disappearances of Santiago Maldonado and Facundo Astudillo.

More Argentina
  • A Mapuche Indigenous man, Elías Garay, was killed and another gravely injured in a clash related to Quemquemtreu community protests over land, this weekend. The shots were fired by two men in civilian clothing, though some in the community say there was involvement by local police. There have been rising tensions in relation to Mapuche Indigenous land claims and territorial occupations in Argentina's Rio Negro province, in recent months. (La NaciónLa NaciónPágina 12)
News Briefs

El Salvador
  • Prosecutors raided the offices of seven charities and groups in El Salvador, a move rights activists say is meant to intimidate them and forms part of a broader crackdown by the Bukele administration against civil society. Officials said the raids, which took place at the offices of charities working on education, human rights and women’s rights on Monday, were part of an inquiry into the embezzlement of public funds, reports the Guardian

  • The raids on Monday came as the country’s Legislative Assembly ​​considered a bill that would require any groups or individuals who receive funding from abroad to register with the Interior Ministry as foreign agents, reports the New York Times. The bill would impose a 40 percent tax on foreign donations for these groups, which could silence critical voices like El Faro. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • The U.S. is expected to remove the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) from its international terrorist list. The move comes five years after the guerrilla group demobilized, after a peace accord with the Colombian government, and formed a political party. The announcement is expected to bolster the struggling peace process, reports the Guardian.

  • The U.S. designation of the FARC as a Foreign Terrorist organization has complicated the implementation of the peace accord. U.S. officials have been prohibited from funding programs aimed at advancing any accords in which former combatants participate or benefit. The U.S. will issue new designations for at least one of the splinter groups that have broken with the FARC and still consider themselves at war with the government, reports the Washington Post.
  • United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is visiting Colombia ahead of the peace deal's fifth anniversary this week. He visited Llano Grande, the site of a reintegration centre for former members of the FARC, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Venezuela’s regional elections on Sunday were distorted by an uneven playing field, violence and injunctions against opposition leaders, European Union election observers said, though they noted they were conducted under the best conditions in years. The leader of the European Union observation mission, Isabel Santos, said she could not say whether it was free and fair. But asked if the results of the election were “technically” reliable, Santos replied that based on “the voting system, the conclusion of everything we’ve studied … yes.” (Washington PostNew York Times, see Monday's post.)
  • Chile's lower chamber of Congress approved a measure to legalize marriage and adoption by same-sex couples. The bill already has Senate approval, and now awaits only final modifications related to the rights of same sex couples. President Sebastián Piñera has indicated he will publish it into law, reports the Associated Press.

  • Chile's presidential election on Sunday showcased a culture war with similar themes to those that took Trump to the White House, writes Anthony Faiola in the Washington Post. (See Monday's post, and yesterday's briefs.)

  • The results of the congressional elections are comparatively much more moderate than the presidential vote on Sunday, according to the Latin America Risk Report. The center right and center left coalitions (Chile Podemos and Nuevo Pacto Social) performed the strongest overall, far better than the coalitions for Kast or Boric. Both houses of congress are split relatively evenly between parties on the left and right.

  • A Chilean court increased the prison sentence for six former soldiers convicted in one of the most notorious killings by the former military dictatorship — the kidnapping, torture and murder of folk singer Víctor Jara— as well as that of a government official, reports the Associated Press.
  • Guatemala has decreed a state of emergency in El Estor, an eastern town of mainly Indigenous people in conflict with a Swiss-owned nickel mine they accuse of polluting their lake. (AFP, see Oct. 29's briefs.)
  • Peruvian prosecutors found $20,000 stashed in a bathroom inside the presidential palace. Bruno Pacheco, who resigned from his post as President Pedro Castillo's chief of staff on Friday, told investigators that the money was his but denied any wrongdoing. (BBC)
  • A Mexican government measure to expedite infrastructure projects will undermine the public tender process, according to critics. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador defended the move, which he said aims to streamline bureaucracy. (Reuters)
  • Supporters of Bolivian President Luis Arce set out on a march to La Paz that is meant as a show of strength in the face of recent opposition protests, reports EFE.
  • There's been a lot of media coverage of China's pandemic medical diplomacy in Latin America, but the press has "oversold its impact compared to the United States and obscured varying levels of support between countries," writes Christopher Kambhu at the Aula Blog. In fact, Washington has provided more regional assistance than Beijing.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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