Monday, November 8, 2021

Ortega wins Nicaragua's sham election (Nov. 8, 2021)

 Nicaragua held what was widely regarded as a sham presidential election yesterday. President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, won their reelection as expected, having brutally repressed critics and imprisoned viable challengers to their bid. (See Friday's post.) Nicaragua's electoral authority declared them winners with 75 percent of the vote, today, with 65 percent of voters participating. (Confidencial)

But observers cast doubt on that level of participation. (El País) Without credible opposition candidates to vote for, Nicaraguans expressed their displeasure with the government by abstaining. El Confidencial reports there were relatively few voters, many state employees who were obligated to vote. The Wall Street Journal describes "an overwhelming presence of police, atop motorcycles and mounted on trucks. Paramilitary supporters of the presidential couple were deployed at poll sites."

Nicaraguan opposition figures, activists and international leaders condemned the election. Former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Laura Chinchilla, Juan Manuel Santos and Ricardo Lagos called on countries not to recognized the results and for Nicaragua to be suspended from the OAS. U.S. President Joe Biden called Nicaragua's elections a "sham". (ConfidencialEl PaísAxiosTico Times)

The vote represents a turn toward an openly dictatorial model that could set an example for other leaders across Latin America, warns the New York Times. “This is a turning point toward authoritarianism in the region,” said Human Rights Watch's José Miguel Vivanco.

The hemisphere has a short window to show another dictatorship will not be tolerated, writes Panama’s former vice president, Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado in Americas Quarterly.

But international pressure has failed to sway Ortega. “He has shown that political survival outweighs any possible internal or external pressure. It was a matter of life or death for him to ensure re-election on Sunday,” Tiziano Breda, of the Crisis Group told the Guardian.

  • For decades, the U.S. has accommodated corruption in Central America, now a government linked to drug trafficking cartels is challenging the Biden administration's foreign policy goals, writes Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker. Roberta Jacobson called the Northern Triangle “a poisoned chalice.” Efforts to tackle the root causes of migration need reliable partners, but the United States’ willingness to encourage despots has left the region largely in the hands of corrupt autocrats. As Jacobson told Anderson: “Who is there to trust?” 

  • In Friday's post on Honduras I quoted a media report that said all the main candidates in Hondura's presidential election have been accused of corruption -- but upon further delving I didn't find specific allegations against LIBRE candidate Xiomara Castro. On the other hand, the candidate for the ruling National Party, Tegucigalpa mayor Nasry “Tito” Asfura, has been named in a government investigation into the embezzlement of more than a million dollars in city funds and allegedly owned offshore accounts in Panama while in office. (Insight CrimeCESPADContracorriente) The Liberal Party candidate is Yani Rosenthal, a former government minister who served three years in a U.S. prison for laundering drug money. (Reuters)
  • Chilean President Sebastián Piñera asked lawmakers to extend a state of emergency in the country's south, and defended the deployment of military troops in the area after two Mapuche Indigenous people died in a clash with security forces in Arauco province. (See last Friday's briefs.) The clashes, along with a video allegedly featuring a heavily armed Mapuche group threatening security forces, "only confirm the need to maintain this constitutional state of emergency,” Piñera said. (EFEEFEPerfíl)

  • Constitutional Convention president Elisa Loncón called on lawmakers not to approve a second 15-day state of emergency in Araucania and Biobio. "Oppression is not perpetual, the peoples are liberated. And we are after that liberation." (Perfíl)

  • CIPER found that reports of "land occupations" by Mapuche groups in Araucania and Biobio increased as the Indigenous government agency reduced spending on acquiring land claimed by Indigenous communities.

  • Chilean conservative presidential candidate José Antonio Kast is in the lead in the latest Cadem poll ahead of elections on Nov. 21. The same poll also predicts Kast would win in a second round against leftist rivals Gabriel Boric or Yasna Provoste, reports Bloomberg. (See Friday's post.)
  • Chilean and Argentine authorities discussed concerns over Mapuche land claims and the potential for violent escalation on both sides of the border, last week, reports La Nación

  • Conservationists say a new project linking marine reserves in Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica (see last Wednesday's briefs) is an important step in limiting giant Chinese fishing fleets operating in the area, but enforcement will be challenging, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Brazil is set to back the U.K.’s push to keep alive the chances of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius at COP26, reports Bloomberg. Brazil's Bolsonaro administration hopes to burnish it's climate credentials in the international community. (See last Wednesday's post.)

  • Claudelice Silva dos Santos, a land defender from Pará, in the Brazilian Amazon, said armed men attacked a forest community she defends while she was at the Cop26 talks in Glasgow, reports the Guardian.

  • Twenty-one scientists awarded one of Brazil's highest honors, the National Order of Scientific Merit, rejected their medals Saturday after President Jair Bolsonaro withdrew the award from two colleagues who apparently made the administration uncomfortable, reports AFP.

  • Brazil's Mato Grosso state offers a glimpse of how international carbon markets could work and potential pitfalls, reports the Wall Street Journal.

  • Marília Mendonça, one of Brazil’s biggest singers, was killed in a plane crash on Friday en route to a concert. She was known for tackling feminist issues in her songs, such as denouncing men who control their partners, and calling for female empowerment, reports the Guardian.
  • Argentina's governing Frente de Todos coalition is likely to suffer a major blow in midterm legislative elections on Sunday. Polls show President Alberto Fernández could lose his Senate majority, reports Reuters. (See Friday's post.)
  • Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso's honeymoon is over, according to the Financial Times: he is under investigation by both Ecuador’s attorney-general and congress, after appearing in the Pandora Papers, and his decision to raise fuel prices last month sparked indigenous-led street protests.
  • Venezuela’s state oil company slashed its output target by one-third, reports Bloomberg.
  • The differing worlds of Cancun -- tourist paradise and disputed drug cartel territory -- collided last week in a gunfight in front of a luxury hotel, reports the Guardian. Organized crime dynamics on the Yucatan peninsula have shifted in recent years, from drug trafficking to extortion, reports the Guardian.

  • Former Mexican presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya faces charges of racketeering, bribery and money laundering -- but some experts say the case weak and part of a broader offensive by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to use corruption charges against those who stand in the way of his agenda, reports the Wall Street Journal.

  • At least 19 people were killed in an accident involving a transport truck that smashed into a toll booth and six other vehicles on a highway in central Mexico, reports the Associated Press.
  • Jamaica’s top diplomat in the UK has said he is “deeply concerned” about plans to send people who came to the UK as children back to the Caribbean island on a deportation flight next week, reports the Guardian.
  • The U.S. government has seen proof that at least some members of the 17 foreign missionaries kidnapped in Haiti last month are still alive, reports Reuters.

  • Former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Daniel Foote told CBS that while he didn't advocate for a large-scale U.S. military intervention in Haiti, he did propose sending "a company or so of U.S. special forces" into the Caribbean nation "to train an anti-gang task force within the Haitian national police."
Costa Rica
  • Costa Rica has become the first country in the world to make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for children, reports the BBC.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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