Archive for the ‘elections’ Category

Panama: Martinelli strikes back

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Well, after Mary O’Grady wrote about Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli choosing his wife to run for vice-president, Martinelli tweeted,

This WSJ journalist once interviewed me because she was a close friend of Jimmy Papadimitriu, who now advises Varela,”

The WSJ didn’t take the tweet sitting down:

He is referring to Juan Carlos Varela, who is Mr. Martinelli’s vice president and former foreign minister. Mr. Varela broke with Mr. Martinelli and is now running to succeed him as the presidential nominee of a competing party. We don’t know if Mr. Papadimitriu advises Mr. Varela, but we can say that Ms. O’Grady is not and has never been a friend of Mr. Papadimitriu. She did interview Mr. Martinelli—in 2010 when Mr. Papadimitriu was his chief of staff.

No doubt Mr. Martinelli was upset that Ms. O’Grady called out his electoral power play. Panamanians remember, and not fondly, military dictator Manuel Noriega, who was removed by U.S. troops in 1989. If Mr. Martinelli has designs on becoming one more caudillo, he ought to man-up and tell the voters rather than hide behind his wife’s illegal candidacy.

Why does this matter to the US?

Because Panama, especially following its canal expansion, remains a key trade partner to the Americas, and especially to the US. A true democracy, engaged in free trade, is best for the hemisphere.


Panama: The Mrs. next?

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Of the women presidents in Latin America, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Isabel Peron of Argentina, and Mireya Moscoso of Panama became presidents because of their husbands. Now Panama may get a wife as VP, coupled with lack of transparency:
Panama’s King Moves the Queen
President Martinelli can’t run for re-election, so he’s picked his wife to be the candidate for VP.

Center-right Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli is an outspoken critic of Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro. Back home in Panama, though, Mr. Martinelli is laying the groundwork for a power grab of his own. If he prevails the region will take another step backward on the freedom trail, yet the Obama State Department remains silent.

Mr. Martinelli’s term ends on July 1 and the constitution bars him from re-election. But the wealthy supermarket magnate is not letting go so easily. He has made his wife, Marta, the vice-presidential candidate on his Democratic Change Party (CD) ticket for the May 4 presidential election. The presidential candidate is José Domingo Arias, his former housing minister.

The Panamanian Constitution anticipates the caudillo who tries “moving the queen,” as this tactic is known elsewhere in the region, to get around a prohibition on re-election. Its Article 193 states that relatives within “the second degree of marital relations of the President of the Republic” may neither be president nor vice president immediately following his term.

A constitutional challenge to Mrs. Martinelli’s candidacy has been brought to the Supreme Court. But the president seems to be betting that the five—of nine—judges who regularly vote in his favor will do so again.

The Panamanian democracy is on the ropes once more. This time Mr. Martinelli has asphyxiated it by waving money under the noses of the political class.

Sometimes it feels like I could replace the dates in old news articles, doesn’t it?

The Goodbye, Columbus Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, March 10th, 2014

LatinAmerWhile more important stories were in the headlines, Cristina Fernandez took the cake by attempting to remove all traces of Christopher Columbus from the royal palace executive mansion, no matter that Columbus never set foot in the Country, and the Italian-born navigator shared a native land with millions of Argentinians.

ARGENTINA
Ted Turner Hospitalized In Argentina For Undisclosed Ailment
A security guard at the Instituto Argentino de Diagnostico y Tratamiento confirmed to The Associated Press that Turner was hospitalized there.

Pope Francis: the priest of the slums
Peter Stanford, author and former editor of the Catholic Herald, retraces the trip Pope Francis used to take to the outskirts of Buenos Aires to try to understand the man who was known as ‘the priest of the slums’

BOLIVIA
Footbridge collapses at Bolivian parade killing at least four people
Three musicians among the dead as an overloaded metal footbridge collapses during the opening parade of carnival in highlands city of Oruro

BRAZIL
Dilma Rou$$eff

Fresh deal to end Rio rubbish strike
Rio de Janeiro officials and street cleaners say they have reached a deal to end a strike which has left litter piling up in the Brazilian city.

CHILE
Chicago Latino Film Festival to honor Chilean actress Paulina Garcia
The Chicago Latino Film Festival will confer its career-achievement award on Chilean theater, film and television actress Paulina Garcia, organizers said.

Incoming Chilean Finance Minister Promises to Boost Investments
Alberto Areas Says New Bachelet Administration Will Take Over Slowing Economy
: expect more government spending, more debt.

COSTA RICA
Governing Party Candidate Pulls Out of Costa Rica’s Presidential Campaign
Sinking in the polls a month before Costa Rica’s presidential election, Johnny Araya, the candidate for the country’s governing party, pulled out of the campaign on Wednesday

CUBA
At least 8 new political prisoners in Cuba in February

French Banks Investigated for Sanctions Violations

ECUADOR
TWO Capt. Louis Renault moments:
1. Presidente plantea enmienda constitucional sin que se llame a referéndum

2. Ecuadoran President Correa Blasts NY Fed Judge’s Ruling for Chevron

EL SALVADOR
Leftist party ahead in El Salvador polls
Elections in El Salvador will decide whether the incumbent leftist government will gain a mandate for another five years. The winning party must tackle gang violence and address the country’s economic problems.

LATIN AMERICA
The Economist: iPhonenomics
One phone, many countries
Costly Brazil, dysfunctional Argentina, bureaucratic Mexico. Our correspondents go shopping for the same Apple product

MEXICO
Court Setback for Mexican Drug Kingpin
A Mexican judge has denied the drug kingpin Joaquín (El Chapo) Guzmán Loera an injunction against any extradition to the United States.

Andres Oppenheimer: Mexico’s new friend: Castro’s Cuba

If Peña Nieto wanted to keep Cuba and Venezuela from firing up Mexico’s left, he could have done the same with polite diplomacy, without the need to praise as a “moral leader” a dictator who is responsible for thousands of deaths and has not allowed a free election in five decades. In an effort to distance himself from his predecessors, Peña Nieto has gone overboard.

ANALYSIS: FORMER MEXICAN CARTEL LEADER KILLED AGAIN

NICARAGUA
Busted in Nicaragua: ex-Rep. David Rivera’s pal, Ana Alliegro, in FBI custody over campaign scheme

PANAMA
Panama demands Venezuela pay $1bn debt
President Martinelli asks Caracas not to use decision to cut diplomatic ties with Panama as “excuse” to not pay debt.

PARAGUAY
’7 Boxes’ review: fast-paced thriller from Paraguay

PERU
Peru to ‘eliminate’ key environmental rule for oil and gas firms, says minister
Announcement that seismic tests won’t need Environmental Impact Assessments sparks controversy and concern

PUERTO RICO
Felix Salmon on Why Puerto Rico’s bonds are moving to New York: it all comes down to default protection for the bondholders.

VENEZUELA
Venezuelan president to visit Iran next month

La libertad en las calles
PIEDRA DE TOQUE. Venezuela ya no es un país democrático y la gran movilización popular es para que haya todavía elecciones de verdad en ese país y no rituales operaciones circenses como son las de Cuba

Scenes from Venezuela, 3/8/14 #8M #SOSVenezuela

Venezuela’s Opposition Is United Against Maduro, But Internally Divided

A Growing Crisis in Post-Chavez Venezuela

Los Guayabitos: The Venezuelan town where La Revolución reigns supreme

Venezuelan Crisis Plays Out On The Floor Of The United Nations

Large Protests Continue As Venezuelan Government Celebrates OAS Victory

Late Friday in Washington, the Organization of American States approved a declaration that rejected violence and called for justice for the 21 people the government says have died in weeks of street protests. The resolution also offered “full support” for the Venezuelan government’s peace initiative, in which the opposition has so far refused to participate.

The week’s posts:
Don Mario se quita los guantes y le cae encima al fascista Maduro: En español: Vargas Llosa a puño limpio

Argentina: Goodbye, Columbus

Colombia: Congressional elections tomorrow

Marco Rubio at #CPAC2014: “America must be involved in leading the world”

Argentina: Still in the hole for $185 million

Venezuela: Waiting to buy food

Cuba: Mario Díaz-Balart explains to the dense why Cuban oppression is bad

Venezuela: Door-to-door raids, AWOL colonels, Panama out

Venezuela: Hugo Chavez is still dead

Ecuador: Donziger guilty of fraud against Chevron

En español: Terapia intensiva

BREAKING NEWS Ecuador: Chevron wins

Venezuela: Big shoes and misreports

At Da Tech Guy:
Marco Rubio at #CPAC2014: “America must be involved in leading the world”

Ecuador: Donziger guilty of fraud against Chevron

Colombia: Congressional elections tomorrow

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Former president Álvaro Uribe is favored to win, while the coalition of president Juan Manuel Santos will likely to retain its majority in both chambers.

Uribe has been scathing in his criticism of the peace talks held in Havana.

The headlines are interesting:
Colombia to Elect New Congress in Gauge of Peace Talks Support

Voters will elect all 102 Senators and 166 Lower House Representatives on March 9, in an election that pits Santos’ allies against former President Alvaro Uribe, whose Democratic Center Party opposes the negotiations with the rebels.

The government has been holding peace talks in Cuba since 2012 with guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in a bid to end a civil conflict that began half a century ago. A strong showing for Uribe’s allies will make it “rough going” for Santos if he wins a second four-year term in presidential elections in May, said Michael Shifter, President of the Inter-American Dialog in Washington.

Uribe and his supporters oppose any deal that would give FARC leaders immunity for crimes, or which would allow them seats in Congress. Uribe also advocates a tougher line on the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, whose country he has described as a “paradise” for terrorists and drug traffickers.

Electoral test for Colombia peace talks as Uribe eyes comeback

The WSJ went with the Uribe-as-Juan Valdez campaign photo:

Ex-Colombian Leader Declares War on Peace Process
Álvaro Uribe is expected to face off against his successor President Juan Manuel Santos from the Senate seat he’s expected to win on Sunday.
(emphasis added)

Mr. Santos is pursuing a peace agreement with Latin America’s last powerful insurgency, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, talks that have strong support from the Obama administration. If approved, that agreement would likely include pardons for guerrilla commanders and allow them to enter politics, people close to the talks say.

The talks and the concessions are loudly opposed by Mr. Uribe and his allies, who continue to advocate for a military and judicial approach to end the war.

“There has to be justice,” Mr. Uribe said in a recent speech. “If it’s necessary to give the FARC reduced jail sentences, then fine. But we can never agree to impunity.”

It is worth pointing out that Santos himself has stated that he believes Colombians would accept a deal granting unelected guerrilla leaders seats in Congress if it brings an end to a conflict that has left 220,000 dead.

Voters would pass a referendum containing unpopular measures such as the transformation of the FARC into a political party and special treatment in the justice system for crimes committed by guerrillas, as part of a package that ends half a century of bloodshed, Santos said.

What Santos wants is to place unelected, guerrilla leaders in Congress after granting them amnesty.

No wonder Uribe’s upset.

Colombia politics predicts Uribe’s party will gain the most seats, but abstention and protest votes will emerge as the real winners on Sunday. Read their full post.

Left turns: El Salvador and Costa Rica

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Both countries held elections on Sunday, both go into runoffs in March, both favoring leftists:

In El Salvador, former FMlN leader and current vice-president Salvador Sánchez Cerén is ahead:
El Salvador: former leftwing guerrilla takes lead in presidential election
Salvador Sanchez Ceren was rebel leader in bloody civil war but with nearly half votes counted he is favourite to win March run off
. Otto Reich sees a grim future if Sánchez Cerén wins (emphasis added):

Sánchez Cerén is no ordinary contender. For example, he has admitted to participating in the brutal execution of members of his own guerrilla force, the Popular Liberation Forces, or FPL, who did not comply with his orders and rules.

Witnesses and survivors accuse him of ordering the torture and subsequent murder of hundreds of alleged “traitors” and of guerrilla soldiers accused of desertion. Anywhere else in the world, Sánchez Cerén would be condemned for his record on human rights. In El Salvador, he is at the top of some polls.

Like [current president Mauricio] Funes, Sánchez Cerén paints a rosy picture of reformist, democratic rule. But Sánchez Cerén is being backed by the Venezuelan government through a multimillion-dollar enterprise called ALBA Petroleos. That enterprise was set up with Venezuelan money to provide FMLN mayors and officials exclusively with valuable products such as gasoline and toilet paper, which are scarce in Venezuela, in order to generate political goodwill for the FMLN party. ALBA Petroleos is managed by José Luis Merino, another former FMLN fighter, top official in the Salvadoran Communist party, and one of Sánchez Cerén’s closest advisers.

According to U.S. and Colombian intelligence and counter-narcotics agencies and international press reports, Merino has ties to the Marxist Colombian FARC army, to multinational drug cartels, and even to the Italian Mafia. It is persons like Merino who would staff a Sánchez Cerén government, or else stay outside and continue to manipulate resources that should go to the poor but instead are used to illicitly enrich FMLN party and government officials.

Likewise, in Costa Rica Luis Guillermo Solís is ahead: Leftist Costa Rica outsider leads election, run-off expected

Luis Guillermo Solis, an academic who has never been elected to office, had a slim lead over ruling party candidate Johnny Araya despite trailing in pre-election polls and early vote returns.

Araya was seen as the front-runner ahead of the vote, but his campaign was hurt by corruption scandals that plagued President Laura Chinchilla’s administration.

Solis, who ran on an anti-corruption ticket, won 30.9 percent support on Sunday compared to 29.6 percent for Araya with returns in from around 82 percent of polling centers.

Left-wing lawmaker Jose Maria Villalta was in third place with 17.2 percent. His supporters could help carry Solis to victory in the run-off against Araya, although votes from a host of smaller parties who commanded around a quarter of the tally on Sunday will also be fought over.

A Solis victory in the run-off would mark another triumph for center-left parties which have gained ground in much of Latin America in recent years.

Federico Delgado wrote about how Costa Rica Flirts with Chavismo with Frente Amplio candidate Jose Maria Villalta; so far Villalta came in third in Sunday’s results.

Venezuela municipal elections results

Monday, December 9th, 2013

No surprises:

WSJ: Venezuelan Vote Reflects Deep Divide
Ruling Party Wins Most Seats in Municipal Elections, but Opposition Makes Gains

NYTimes: Venezuelan Mayoral Votes Show No Big Power Shift
Hundreds of mayoral contests in Venezuela on Sunday are seen as an early test of President Nicolás Maduro and his ability to carry the country further along a socialist path.

BBC: Governing party ahead in Venezuela poll
Venezuela’s governing United Socialist Party wins the greatest share of the vote in Sunday’s local elections, the National Electoral Council says.

Miami Herald: Venezuela’s ruling party on top in key municipal race

Honduras: What next?

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Honduras held its presidential election yesterday, and the Ruling National Party Appears Headed For Win in Honduran Vote
Leftist Coalition Has Yet to Concede Defeat in Presidential Elections

If Mr. Hernández is ratified as the victor, it would be a major setback for Mr. Zelaya and his wife, who had formed the Libre party as a protest vote against the country’s traditional politics, dominated for decades by two political parties, the conservative National Party and the center-right Liberal Party.

Mary O’Grady is not optimistic:
Turmoil Is Expected After Honduras’s Election
A Central American democracy is in trouble thanks to Obama’s foreign-policy choices.

The Obama administration tried to force Honduras to violate its constitution and restore Mr. Zelaya to power. All of the country’s institutions refused.

That crisis remains a rare moment in Central American history when a U.S. president joined Fidel Castro and his allies in an effort to strong-arm three legitimate branches of a friendly government. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even stripped the members of the Honduras Supreme Court of their U.S. visas. Just as rare, the rule of law prevailed.

Yet the bullying by Washington took its toll. The newly elected president, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, was keenly aware that Honduras was out of favor with the U.S. and other left-wing governments in the region. He set about to placate them. One of his most controversial decisions was to grant amnesty to Mr. Zelaya, who ought to have been tried for his high crimes and misdemeanors.

As the Diplomad puts it, The USA is now basically irrelevant to events in Latin America. Another triumph of the Obama foreign policy team.

And yet, compared to Saturday’s deal with Iran, it pales by comparison.

Chile: A step to the left

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

From The Economist:
[video below the fold, since it unfortunately starts right away]

(more…)

Colombia: Santos to run for 2d term

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Colombia Leader to Seek Re-Election
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that he would run for re-election next year.

Mr. Santos’ second bid for the presidency comes as the country’s growth accelerated faster than expected the second quarter, growing 4.2%. That was down 0.6 percentage points from the same period in 2012, but greater than the 2.8% expansion in the first quarter.

While Mr. Santos appears as the clear favorite in the 2014 elections, he does face some headwinds. His approval ratings plummeted in September, amid widespread strikes by agricultural workers that hindered the country’s food supply chain. People were also frustrated by what they saw as little progress in the peace process. His approval rating fell to around 20%, an all-time low.

Kevin Howlett:

Polls show that less than a third of Colombians want Santos back in the presidential palace come next August (when the possession takes place). However, with the state`s largesse at his disposal, the coalition votes in the bag, and the majority of the national media “on message”, public opinion will struggle to be heard. Santos` re-election has an air of inevitability.

The elections will take place next May.

Chile: Left turn coming up

Monday, November 11th, 2013

My contacts in Chile agree,
Chile Is Poised to Move Sharply Left
Michele Bachelet wants to amend the constitution and expand the welfare state.

Ms. Bachelet wants to expand the welfare state. To pay for it she wants to raise corporate tax rates and to tax shareholders on retained earnings along with the dividend taxes they already pay. She would restore a role for the state in the now privatized pension system and has called for an “exhaustive review” of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would deepen Chile’s commitment to free trade. Labor unions would get more power, and education spending would be sharply higher. Most troubling, the self-described admirer of Fidel Castro proposes changes to the constitution that would extend the reach of government and has not ruled out calling a constitutional assembly.

This, of course, would be disastrous not only for Chile, but also for the region.

The question then, is, how will Chile’s institutions hold up in the onslaught?