Low turnout for Mexican referendum (Aug. 2, 2021)
A referendum that asked Mexican voters whether to investigate former presidents drew few voters yesterday. Only about 7 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, far short of the 40 percent participation rate needed to be legally binding.
Sunday's referendum asked voters to reject or back "a process of investigation of political decisions taken in past years by political actors" that would be aimed at "guaranteeing justice and the rights of possible victims." Mexico's National Electoral Institute said that, according to a preliminary count of nearly 99% of ballots, 97.7% of participants supported the proposal of putting the decisions of previous political leaders under investigation.
Experts say President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is attempting to salvage his anti-corruption promises, without necessarily actually going after former leaders. AMLO never believed the referendum would pass, rather he hoped "to garner political points for promoting popular participation while seeking political cover for his refusal to truly investigate Peña Nieto and the military’s top ranks," argued Denise Dresser in Americas Quarterly last week.
Indeed, the vote had more to do with measuring AMLO's power than an actual legal question, according to El País. Indeed, the design of the referendum did not make it clear what the effect of a binding result would be.
The referendum was further undermined by a judicial decision that amplified the scope of the question, which wound up being: “Do you agree or not that, within the constitutional and legal framework, actions should be carried out to clear up the political decisions made by politicians in the past, with the aim of guaranteeing justice and the rights of potential victims?”
AMLO's Morena party blamed electoral officials for the low turnout.
(Reuters, Associated Press, Animal Político, Aristegui Noticias)
The referendum is a missed opportunity to jumpstart AMLO's stalled promise to create a truth commission and transitional justice mechanism in response to human rights and corruption allegations against previous governments. (Animal Político)
AMLO announced a plan to free prison inmates who have been tortured, those who are older than 75, and those who have been in pretrial detention for over a decade for minor crimes. The policy will largely benefit Mexico's 95,000 pretrial inmates, 43 percent of the prison population, reports El País.
Hundreds of Peruvians rallied against the country's newly installed President Pedro Castillo on Saturday. Demonstrators, many allied to the opposition Popular Force party, denounced newly appointed Prime Minister Guido Bellido as a “terrorist” and a sympathiser of the Shining Path, reports Al Jazeera. On social media, some who had supported Castillo's bid against Keiko Fujimori felt the president betrayed his promise to appoint political moderates to his cabinet. Centrist lawmakers have led calls for Bellido’s resignation as prime minister.
On Friday evening Castillo swore in moderate leftist economist Pedro Francke as finance minister, somewhat soothing anxiety over his cabinet, reports the Guardian.
Francke wants to retain the central bank president after the two men spoke, and said he’s been given room by the new government to implement his economic policies, reports Bloomberg.
Haitian judicial officials two court clerks and an investigative judge who collected evidence in President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination, are now in hiding after receiving death threats, reports the New York Times. The allegations of irregularities regarding the investigation are mounting: "experts and defense lawyers said they had never seen such systematic violations of due process in a high-profile case."
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's crackdown on opponents, coupled with pandemic economic downturn, are fueling a new migration wave to the United States, reports Vice.
The European Union slapped sanctions on Nicaraguan first lady and Vice-President Rosario Murillo and seven other senior officials accused of serious human rights violations or undermining democracy, amid a crackdown on opposition politicians in the Central American country, reports the Associated Press.
Nicaragua said it granted nationality to former Salvadoran president Salvador Sánchez Ceren and some family members, following an arrest order by El Salvador as part of a money laundering and corruption probe, reports Reuters. (See also Confidencial.)
China's soft power policies harbor a great contradiction between the country's outward looking globalization efforts and inward authoritarianism, writes Jorge Carrión in a New York Times Español essay.
The U.S. government announced new sanctions against Cuban officials, in response to the crackdown on anti-government demonstrations in July, reports the Washington Post. President Joe Biden promised Cuban-American leaders more actions were coming, reports Reuters. Separately, the United States is seeking ways to provide Internet access or wireless phone access for Cubans to get around government censorship.
"The recent nationwide protests in Cuba are symptomatic of a much deeper underlying condition than decades of scarcity and a systemic lack of civil liberties. The Cuban political system is cracking. The structures upholding its authority have been slowly but steadily weakening for the past three decades," writes Jorge Felipe-Gonzalez in the Atlantic.
About 3,000 demonstrators in Rio de Janeiro rallied this weekend in support of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's call to change the country’s electronic voting system, which has been in use for more than 20 years. Authorities say the current voting system is completely transparent, but Bolsonaro has alleged without evidence that fraud marred the 2018 presidential election that he won. Experts believe he is setting the stage to challenge the results of next year's presidential election in the event of a loss, reports Al Jazeera.
Polls suggest Bolsonaro would lose to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2021, if the former president chooses to run. (Guardian)
Venezuelans across the political spectrum can agree that health care is one of the country's most pressing needs -- and many share an admiration for José Gregorio Hernández, known nationwide as Venezuela’s "Doctor of the Poor," who died a century ago and was recently beatified by the Vatican. (New York Times)
A Spanish court has reopened an investigation into whether Banco de Chile helped former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet launder money. The plaintiffs are led by the President Allende Foundation and represent more than 20,000 victims of the Pinochet dictatorship. Spain was chosen for the legal case because it has pioneered efforts over the past three decades to hold autocrats worldwide accountable for their crimes in jurisdictions other than their own countries, reports the New York Times.
Alma Guillermoprieto speaks to El País about the challenges facing Latin American journalism.
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