Nicaragua's farcical elections this Sunday kick off a series of votes in the region this month that showcase a range of Latin America's democratic woes -- from authoritarian governments, to endemic corruption, to deep dissatisfaction with political elites. According to a regional survey of over 20,000 people by polling firm Latinobarometro, less than 50% of Latin Americans polled in 2020 say democracy is preferable to any other form of government and more than one in ten openly advocate for an authoritarian regime. Support for authoritarianism is strongest in younger generations, showed the poll, with 49% of people aged 16-25 saying they either support an authoritarian regime or are indifferent to the form of government. (CNN)
Nov. 7 -- Nicaragua
Nicaragua's opposition has called on citizens to boycott this weekend's presidential election. President Daniel Ortega is up for his fourth reelection, which he seems likely to win, having detained all of his potential challengers over the past six months. The election is a complete farce, reports El Faro: without campaigning, debates, serious opposition candidates, international observers, or press scrutiny. There will be five other candidates alongside Ortega on the ballot, but none are considered real contenders by the opposition or international community. (See Tuesday's post, Wednesday's briefs and yesterday's.)
A survey conducted by polling firm Cid Gallup and published in Nicaraguan daily Confidencial last Sunday found that 76% of Nicaraguans believe that Ortega’s reelection to be illegitimate. (El País)
U.S. lawmakers approved legislation calling for more sanctions and other punitive measures to ratchet up pressure on Ortega, earlier this week. The bill calls for sanctions on Nicaraguans deemed responsible for unfair elections, increased coordination of such measures with the European Union and Canada and expanded U.S. oversight of international lending to Managua. (Reuters)
Nov. 14 -- Argentina midterm elections
The legislative elections are considered key to the future of the Fernández administration, which was castigated by voters in September's open primaries, which serve as a litmus test for the vote. President Alberto Fernández will struggle to implement his agenda should the governing Frente de Todos lose control of Congress. Additionally, September's electoral upset brought out significant fractures within the governing Frente de Todos coalition, another challenge for Fernández moving forward. (See Sept. 20's briefs, AS/COA)
Annual inflation has risen above 50 percent since the president took office, and 42 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The government froze prices on household goods in the lead-up to the election, and has sought to increase social spending ahead of the vote. Argentina’s central bank ordered local financial institutions to not increase the amount of reserves held in foreign currency this month, amid foreign exchange rate uncertainty ahead of this month's congressional elections. (Reuters, El País)
Nov. 21 -- Chile presidential election:
Chile’s leftist presidential candidate Gabriel Boric contracted Covid-19 sending four of his opponents into quarantine and forcing campaigning to go virtual.The candidates had all been in close contact with Boric recently and have since tested negative for the virus, they said on social media. But Chile's regulations mandate that any close contacts isolate for at least seven days regardless of test result. (Reuters, Bloomberg)
Two years after massive social unrest shook the country and propelled a constitutional rewrite dominated by independent and leftist delegates, Chile's far-right presidential candidate José Antonio Kast is in the lead in the latest Cadem poll with 24% of support from voters, while Boric, the former front-runner, has 19%. (Bloomberg) Other polls put Kast and Boric at a statistical tie, or with Boric in the lead. (AS/COA)
Kast, a social conservative who has been compared to Trump and Bolsonaro,wants to reimpose order, slash taxes and refocus government efforts on growth -- arguing that economic growth is the answer to the country's social unrest, reports Bloomberg.
Crime and health are voters’ top concerns, with pensions not far behind; immigration also is of rising concern.
Nov. 21 -- Venezuela regional elections
Venezuela will elect 23 governors and 335 mayors, councilors and local deputies. It will be the first time since 2017 that opposition candidates appear on the ballot, after anti-Maduro parties decided to participate as a good-faith measure in negotiations with the Maduro government. It will be the first time in 15 years that there will be international observers from the European Union and the Carter Center, one of the opposition's conditions in negotiations to participate This was one of the conditions that the opposition laid out to guarantee transparency in the electoral process. New members of the National Electoral Council (CNE), which is responsible for maintaining transparency during elections, were sworn in in February, and for the first time, two of the five rectors have not government allies.
"Elections—even fraudulent ones—provide a unique civic moment for democrats to engage with the public and build their party institutions by selecting candidates and communicating with the people," argues Christopher Sabatini in Global Americans.
Yet, despite the importance of these elections, the opposition has done little to encourage voter participation, notes El País.
Nov. 28 -- Honduras presidential elections:
Independent candidate Santos Rodríguez Orellana was arrested yesterday in Tegucigalpa on money laundering charges -- he was one of the first to publicly accuse President Juan Orlando Hernández’s brother of ties to drug trafficking, reports the Associated Press. The president’s brother was later convicted of drug trafficking charges in the United States and sentenced to life in prison. Hernández has also been implicated in drug trafficking by U.S. prosecutors.
The main candidates all face accusations of corruption and drug trafficking. Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasry Asfura from the governing National Party, and leftist Xiomara Castro, the wife of former president Manuel Zelaya are currently in the lead for the presidency. Rodríguez is not a frontrunner and Hernández is prevented from running again by term limits. (AFP)
- Two members of Chile’s Indigenous Mapuche community have died and three others injured in clashes with security forces. The violence broke out in country's Arauco province on Wednesday. The area has been under a state of emergency since last month, in response to rising tensions with Mapuche groups demanding rights to their ancestral lands. (Al Jazeera, AFP)
- Peru’s cabinet won a vote of confidence in the opposition-led congress, providing a respite for President Pedro Castillo, reports Bloomberg.
- Txai Suruí, a 24-year-old Indigenous climate activist from Brazil, spoke at the opening of COP26, where she drew attention to Amazon devastation and told world leaders that their time frames are inadequate to stave off disaster. President Jair Bolsonaro accused Suruí of traveling to Glasgow just to attack Brazil and said other countries did not face such attacks from their own citizens. (BBC, Globo)
- Bolsonaro's government is aware that its negative climate record is a hurdle to improved ties with Europe, the Vice President of the European Union Josep Borrell said yesterday. (Reuters)
- The Brazilian government's green rhetoric at COP26 this week clashes with inaction at home, notes the Economist.
- Rising global temperatures are disrupting traditional ecological cycles and causing sharp changes in weather over the Amazon rainforest. Floods may destroy communities one year, but the next year is marked by severe drought, reports the Financial Times.
- The Covid‑19 pandemic has worsened the already precarious state of employment for women in Brazil, reversing the modest progress they made in recent years and deepening gender inequalities, writes Cristina Pereira Vieceli at the Aula Blog. Pandemic economic effects have mainly hurt the poorest populations, including women.
- Brazil's lower chamber of Congress narrowly passed a measure that would allow Brazil's government to increase spending next year. The measure must pass three more votes in order to allow President Jair Bolsonaro to bypass a constitutional spending cap and ramp up welfare spending in a presidential election year. (Reuters)
- El Salvador’s government needs to recalibrate some of its policies in order to advance any discussions toward a program with the International Monetary Fund, according to IMF officials. (Reuters)
- Local politics in Central American border enclaves like Ciudad Pedro de Alvarado and Moyuta in Guatemala is something of a combat sport, reports Vice News, in a profile of cartel leader Marixa Lemus.
- Two people were killed by cartel operatives who stormed a Cancun resort hotel, yesterday. (Guardian)
- Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) President Mauricio Claver-Carone told Axios he’s “in a race” to secure green investment financing for Latin America and the Caribbean. A coalition of financial institutions announced that they would mobilize up to $100 trillion in investments by 2050 to help countries reach “net zero” emissions. “If I get 10%, that’s $5.3 trillion, the size of Japan’s GDP — we just transformed the region from an investment perspective,” said Claver-Carone.
- Organized crime groups in Latin America continue to expand into illicit synthetic drug production, including mass manufacturing of methamphetamine and fentanyl in Mexico, and experiments with synthesizing party drugs in Brazil, according to a new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (InSight Crime)
- A slowdown in China and winding down of U.S. stimulus threaten a much-needed regional economic rebound, writes Otaviano Canuto in Americas Quarterly.
- Venezuela's crisis has fueled the rise of an illiberal right in Latin America, from Kast in Chile, to Milei in Argentina, Manini in Uruguay, and epitomized by Bolsonaro in Brazil. "Not all of the new rightists represent a clear threat to democracy itself. But some do. All of them are less conciliatory than the old conservative parties. Minority groups have reasons to worry," according to the Economist.
- Social media platforms are allowing far more misinformation to spread in other languages than they are in English -- and some of the worst lies are in Spanish, writes Stephanie Valencia in the Washington Post. "Spanish-language misinformation narratives often start on Facebook or YouTube, but then conversations or viral content move to closed WhatsApp groups where there’s less of a chance for fact-checkers to intervene."
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...