Friday, November 26, 2021

Hondurans head to the polls (Nov. 26, 2021)

Hondurans head to the polls on Sunday to choose a new president, new lawmakers, new mayors and new city council members. A lot is riding on the outcome, but analysts warn that the results might be close and challenged, possibly leading a repeat of violently repressed post-electoral protests in 2017. (See Tuesday's post and Wednesday's.)

The winner-take-all competition for presidency on Sunday is between Xiomara Castro, who represents a broad coalition of leftist parties, and ruling party candidate Nasry Asufra. If Castro wins, she will upend Honduras' establishment parties' grip on the presidency, and will become the country's first female leader.

But "opinion polls point to tight races for both the presidency and Congress," warns a Crisis Group report, and "it is unclear whether the recently reformed electoral system will effectively ensure transparency or resolve disputes."

Castro rose to prominence in politics when her husband, former president Manuel Zelaya, was ousted by a military coup in 2009. Her campaign bid this year was boosted by the support of Salvador Nasralla, who nearly won the 2017 presidential election (current President Juan Orlando Hernández's reelection, which was tarnished by accusations of significant irregularities and post-election repression of protests) and backed Castro's bid in an effort to oust the ruling National Party. (Reuters)

Castro's promise to switch Honduras' diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China has provoked diplomatic jostling between Beijing and Washington, reports Reuters. An aide backtracked on a campaign platform promise to do so, this week after a visit from a high level U.S. state department official, and said Castro hasn't made a final decision on China. China’s Foreign Ministry accused the United States of “arm-twisting” in Honduras ahead of the vote.

“There’s a competition underway in the Americas for influence,” said Dan Restrepo, who was U.S. national security adviser for Latin America under former President Barack Obama.

More Honduras
  • The youth vote could prove particularly important in Sunday's election, reports El Heraldo.
News Briefs

  • Haitian Interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry named a new cabinet on Wednesday. Ministers will be tasked with assisting Haiti to adopt a new constitution and elect a new president, parliament and local mayors, said Henry, who obtained the country's leadership following a power struggle after the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. “With the installation of a new government, we are entering a decisive new stage in the interim period,” he said. (Miami Herald)

  • But the new list consists of only eight new changes in the 18-member cabinet, leaving some to speculate that two months after the signing of a political pact between Henry, political parties and other organizations, he still has not fully found a consensus on who should be in his interim government, reports the Miami Herald.

  • Key files in the Moïse murder investigation are missing, unknown individuals broke into the Court of First Instance of Port-au-Prince and carted away a heavy safe in the clerks’ vault, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Covid-19 cases are climbing back up in the Americas; there was a 23 percent spike in coronavirus cases across the region last week. Health leaders called for caution ahead of the holidays, and pointed to a surge in Europe as a potential "window into the future for the Americas." (Washington Post)

  • Tourism plays a big role in most of the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean, until it returns, their finances will suffer, warns the Economist's Bello column.
  • Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva received an exuberantly warm welcome from European leaders during a visit last week, who treated the likely presidential candidate "as if he were a leader in power," according to former foreign minister, Celso Amorim. “I think if they could vote, they would vote for Lula,” Amorim told the Guardian, and believes it is likely a desire for stable diplomatic relations in reaction to tension with the current Bolsonaro administration.
  • Carlos Arthur Nuzman, the head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee for more than two decades, has been sentenced to 30 years and 11 months in jail for allegedly buying votes for Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Olympics, reports the Associated Press. Former Rio governor Sergio Cabral, the businessman Arthur Soares and Leonardo Gryner, who was the Rio 2016 committee director-general of operations, were also sentenced to jail in the case.
  • Chile's presidential and legislative elections last weekend will have a moderating effect on the ongoing Constitutional Convention, according to La Bot Constituyente. The incoming Congress, which will be fractured and evenly split between right and left-wing lawmakers, will be in charge of creating regulations based on the new constitution.

  • Should conservative José Anontio Kast win the presidency, the situation could be even more complicated for the new constitution, as the next president will be in charge of the transition to a new constitution and the implementation of its norms, according to La Bot Constituyente. Kast, who opposed efforts to rewrite the magna carta, said he would not hesitate to oppose approval of the new constitution in a plebiscite, if "the project is bad."

  • This week constitutional delegates held sessions in Bío Bío region, focused on how to implement plurinationality, a change with broad support in the convention, reports La Bot Constituyente.

  • The finalists in Chile's presidential election come from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum (see Monday's post) what they "have in common is that they reject the centrist consensus that has held sway since the dictatorship," reports the Economist.
  • Five years after Colombia signed a peace deal with the FARC, violence has gone way down in the country. But armed groups continue to cause havoc as they fight over former guerilla territories, and government bungling and political chaos encourage lawlessness, reports the Economist.

  • U.S. court found that Colombian paramilitaries operated in a “symbiotic relationship” with U.S.-funded Colombian security forces, a landmark ruling reports The Intercept.
  • Argentine cabinet officials said they would support Economy Minister Martín Guzmán's negotiations with the IMF, aimed at reaching a deal to restructure debt payments. (Ámbito)
  • Martha Izquierdo is an unlikely TikTok star: the 49-year-old journalist, survived sexual abuse, kidnapping, two bouts with cancer and two heart attacks, has taken the social media network with messages about positive attitude, reports the New York Times. "In a digital era where everything is photoshopped glamour, Ms. Izquierdo’s very ordinariness, whether exercising, driving to work or dancing to cumbia music in her backyard, has made her extraordinary."

  • Only about 10 vaquitas remain in the world -- scientists say the survival of Mexico's elusive porpoises depends on Mexico's government effectively limiting use of illegal gill nets that entangle the vaquitas and drown them, reports the New York Times.

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

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