Ortega "sweeps" municipal elections
Nov. 8, 2022
Nicaraguan electoral officials claimed total victory in municipal elections that critics and international organizations said failed to meet minimum conditions of fairness. The sweep in 153 municipalities cements Sandinista National Liberation Front’s single-party status. Though President Daniel Ortega’s party already controlled 141 municipalities, Sandinistas also wrested control of the remaining 12 from other parties considered collaborationist by exiled opposition politicians. (Confidencial)
Opposition leaders believe the result will consolidate Ortega’s near-total control of local government. The opposition Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco coalition said Ortega carried out this “farce” in order to “secure his absolute control” of Nicaragua. (Deutsche Welle)
In practise, Nicaraguans now have no alternate political choices to the ruling party. (Confidencial) Sunday’s elections take place following a years-long authoritarian crackdown on dissent by the Ortega government, with more intense repression leading up to the vote. In a report, the civic group Urnas Abiertas said 17 people had been arrested prior to or during the elections, and reported 700 cases of political violence in the week before. The U.N. office on human rights wrote on Twitter that it was “concerned” about the “arbitrary arrests,” and said “we call on the government to guarantee the political and civic rights of the Nicaraguan people and stop the repression.”
The government has shutdown about 2,000 nongovernmental groups and more than 50 media outlets. Some 100 civil society organizations were closed Friday, reports the Associated Press. Last year the government imprisoned leading opposition figures for months ahead of presidential elections in which Ortega won a fourth consecutive term. Activists fear this latest consolidation of power will lead to further repression.
Election officials said the abstention rate yesterday was 42%, but Urnas Abiertas said the true number is 82%, slightly higher than the number of voters who stayed home during last year’s presidential election. (Confidencial)
In addition to the crackdown on dissent ahead of the vote, Urnas Abiertas denounced that the government pressured public employees and families to remain in polling stations to disguise low voter participation and block opponents from casting votes. (Confidencial)
An abrupt change in U.S. policy towards Venezuelan asylum seekers has left thousands in limbo after perilous journeys, creating a new humanitarian crisis, as shelters from Panama to Mexico are filled to capacity, reports the Guardian.
Many families were caught on both sides of the border by the sudden modification to asylum regulations, which has become an “inadvertent family separation” policy, reports the New York Times.
The change, which uses a pandemic health policy to summarily expel people arriving at the border, is aimed at curbing surging numbers of Venezuelan asylum seekers. Just this year, 150,000 Venezuelans have arrived at the southern U.S. border — four times as many as in the year prior, reports Axios.
Latin America’s new wave of leftist governments are acknowledging the failure of the U.S.-backed “interim government” in Venezuela to achieve regime change, and moving to recognize President Nicolás Maduro in some form, reports the Financial Times.
Maduro’s campaign to win the release of ally Alex Saab from U.S. custody suffered a blow, yesterday, when U.S. prosecutors introduced documents casting doubt the businessman’s claim of diplomatic immunity from prosecution, reports the Associated Press.
OAS chief Luis Almagro is facing growing calls for an external probe into possible misconduct tied to his intimate relationship with a subordinate, reports the Associated Press.
The negative economic context means the latest crop of Latin American leftist leaders has less runway to carry out ambitious social agendas, Brian Winter told the Los Angeles Times.
Brazilian president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva delayed the announcement of a multibillion-dollar social spending plan, yesterday. Lula’s team must find a way to maintain the current administration’s temporary increase for a cash-transfer program for Brazil’s poorest families, and also to fund Lula’s campaign aid promises, reports Bloomberg.
A weak economy will leave “Lula with little money to spend on the kinds of poverty-alleviating projects he invested in during his first run as president … about 90 percent of Brazil’s federal budget is now devoted to mandatory spending,” writes Ian Bremmer in TIME.
Hopes that Lula’s election will attract a flood of interest from international investors spooked by current Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental record ignore the fact that “most investors never left Brazil over environmental, social and corporate governance concerns,” writes Michael Stott in the Financial Times.
And Lula will have to reconcile his environmental commitments (see yesterday’s post) with competing interests, particularly members of the deforestation coalition, which will oppose any costly transition to a low-carbon economy, argue Matias Spektor and Guilherme Fasolin in Foreign Affairs.
Twitter Brazil suspended the accounts of several high-profile, right-wing names, including three politicians recently elected to congress — Elon Musk promised to look into it. (Guardian)
A U.S. grand jury indicted seven Haitian gang leaders with armed kidnapping in Washington D.C., yesterday. Three suspects wanted in the abductions of 16 U.S. citizens last year are among those charged, reports the Miami Herald.
Riot police dispersed anti-government protesters with teargas in Lima on Saturday. Demonstrators wanted embattled President Pedro Castillo to resign over allegations of corruption, reports the BBC.
A split between the CJNG and the Los Mezcales cartel earlier this year is behind a surprising uptick in violence in Mexico’s Colima state, according to the Latin America Risk Report.
Thanks to Mexican conservation efforts, the jaguar is making a comeback in the Yucatán Peninsula, reports the New York Times.