Monday, April 4, 2022

Chaves wins Costa Rican presidency (April 4, 2022)

Economist Rodrigo Chaves won Costa Rica's presidency, adding to the ranks of anti-establishment leaders in the region. Preliminary results give Chaves 52.9 percent of votes, over his opponent in yesterday's runoff election, former president José María Figueres, who obtained 47.1 percent. Figueres conceded defeat last night, though final results will be announced later this week. (El País)

The election upends decades of political consensus in Costa Rica, reports Reuters. "The election was a referendum on decades of politics defined, by Central American standards, by relative stability and pluralism, but also marked by transcendent regional issues like economic inequality, bitter polarization about women’s and LGBTQ rights, and disenchantment with political parties," reports El Faro English. Chaves, whose conservative party, Social Democratic Progress, has followed parts of El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele's playbook in billing himself as a break from the political establishment

Absenteeism was at 43 percent, indicating widespread disgust among Costa Rican voters with the candidates -- both of which have been linked to scandals during the campaign -- and the political establishment in general. Chaves returned to the country in 2019 after decades abroad and rose rapidly by presenting himself as a maverick outsider, skillfully exploiting discontent, reports the New York Times.

Chaves has been implicated in a campaign financing scandal, and he has fought to minimize and misrepresent a World Bank sexual harassment investigation of him. Figueres was accused of corruption relating to his presidency in the 90s. But for voters, unemployment and an economic crisis dominated the campaign. Chaves will take office next month with the major challenge of reigniting an economy in crisis, reports AFP.

Chaves party will have only 10 seats in Costa Rica's 57 person Congress, which will hinder his ability to carry out campaign promises, including to increase social spending. His ability to build alliances will be hindered by the aggresive tone of the presidential campaign, according to El Faro.

News Briefs
  • Campaigning for Brazil's presidential election is formally barred until August, but both President Jair Bolsonaro and front-runner Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are deep in candidate mode, reports AFP. (See last Friday's post.)

  • Former Brazilian judge Sergio Moro is not ruling out a presidential bid, he said on Friday, one day after he said he was no longer a candidate for the Podemos party and had joined the right-wing Union Brazil. (Reuters, see last Friday's post.)

  • Many Brazilian companies have started to explicitly seek out Black and Indigenous workers to diversify their ranks, in response to the country's deep inequalities. LinkedIn initially removed such listings, but changed its corporate policy in response to pressure from activists and prosecutors, reports the New York Times.

  • "The case was the latest illustration of how a handful of American tech companies exert enormous influence in foreign countries, enforcing global policies that often clash with those cultures or bring strife, abuse or other unintended consequences," reports the New York Times.
  • Peru's government announced fuel and food tax cuts as protests led by farmers and truckers have intensified across the country, reports Bloomberg. The government decided to reduce a selective consumption tax for fuel by 90% and will propose a bill to exempt basic food items like chicken, eggs, flour and noodles from sales tax.
  • At least 20 inmates have been killed in Ecuador's latest jail riot, yesterday. Officials said the clashes in El Turi jail had stopped after 1,000 members of the security forces were deployed, but that the inmates had yet to be disarmed, reports the BBC.
  • Industrial policy can rescue Latin America from its commodities trap, argues Amir Lebdioui in Americas Quarterly.
  • A new poll suggests a tightening race between leftist Gustavo Petro and his main rival, conservative candidate Federico “Fico” Gutierrez for Colombia's presidency in next months' elections, reports Bloomberg.
Regional Relations
  • Chilean President Gabriel Boric travelled to Argentina today on his first state visit. The countries plan to collaborate on issues of energy, gender, science and technology, and a unified voice in international fora, Boric told Página 12.

  • British-Argentine relations will be stifled so long as the UK refuses to engage in discussions about the future sovereignty of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, or if both sides continue to act as if the war happened only yesterday, Argentine foreign minister Santiago Cafiero wrote in the Guardian, on the anniversary of hostilities between the two countries. (See last Friday's briefs.)
  • Petroleum exports from Venezuela declined about 4 percent in March from the previous month as its state-run oil company Pdvsa dealt with crude cargoes returned by customers over poor oil quality, reports Reuters.
  • Mexico's government said it will use the extra revenue it collects from higher oil prices to subsidize domestic gasoline and diesel prices, reports Reuters.

  • Sixteen police officers have been killed in Zacatecas in the first quarter of 2022, another grim reminder of the soaring violence in Mexico's central state, reports InSight Crime.
  • Two members of the Mighty Diamonds, a Jamaican trio that helped lead the wave of roots reggae arising from the streets of Kingston to international acclaim in the 1970s, have died within days of each other. Tabby Diamond, whose birth name was Donald Shaw, was shot and killed outside his home in Kingston on Tuesday. He was 66. Bunny Diamond, born Fitzroy Simpson, died on Friday at a hospital in the same city. He was 70. (New York Times)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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