Peru elects fragmented congress (Jan. 27, 2020)
The vote count for Peru's legislative elections, held yesterday, are not final, but so far indicate a fragmented field that has favored centrist parties. At least 10 parties have won seats, none with more than 15 percent of the vote and many barely clearing the 5 percent threshold required for entry. Indeed, ahead of the vote many Peruvians were apathetic, and polls show that no party has been able to capture widespread anger at political elites and corruption, reports the Associated Press. (See Friday's post.)
A quick count carried out by Ipsos research firm suggest the Acción Popular party will emerge as the strongest, with just 10.2 percent of the vote. (BBC) The fragmentation means that President Martín Vizcarra will have to create alliances in order to pass anti-corruption reforms, but analysts are hopeful he will be able to push through proposals that include eliminating parliamentary immunity for lawmakers accused of crimes. (Financial Times)
If there is no clear winner, many articles agree that the clear loser is the main opposition party, Fuerza Popular, led by Keiko Fujimori. The Ipsos count suggests Fuerza Popular garnered 7 percent, which would mean about 12 seats out of the total 130 in Congress. The Fujimorista party had 73 seats in the previous congress, and used the space to block Vizcarra's reforms, ultimately pushing him to dissolve Congress last September. (See Oct. 1's post.)
The new parliament will govern for only 18 months, and new elections will be held next year.
Even without final results, La República celebrated a bettered legislative body, and that voters punished parties that had obstructed legislative efforts in the last congressional cycle.
Bolivian interim-president Jeanine Áñez announced her intention to run in the country's May presidential election, backtracking on earlier promises to stay out of the race. She said she was moved to run due to the country's fragmented political scene in the wake of President Evo Morales' ouster last year. Her announcement sparked criticism, even among previous allies, as she had previously said she sought only to guide the country towards new transparent elections. “A presidential candidacy disrupts her historic role and the credibility of the transition,” Carlos Mesa, the runner-up in the Oct. 20 vote and former Áñez ally said. (Reuters, Reuters)
The move sparked a storm within the interim government. Áñez asked her entire cabinet to resign yesterday, hours after Communication Minister Roxana Lizarraga resigned in protest of Áñez's candidacy. Áñez "has decided to ask for the resignation of all ministers to approach this new stage in the management of the democratic transition," said the presidency's statement, which added that it was "usual" in an electoral cycle to have "adjustments in the working team of the Executive." (Infobae, AFP, Nodal)
Luis Arce, the presidential candidate of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), denounced that Bolivia's interim government is trying to obstruct his participation in the next elections by filing allegations of corruption against him -- TeleSur.
Religious right-wing leadership -- Catholic and Protestant -- in Morales' ouster gives a glimpse into Bolivia's future and the current clash with the former president's indigenous supporters, reports the Guardian.
Critics have noted the similarities between Áñez's efforts to legitimize her administration and the 2009 ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. "The parallels were apparently not lost on the Bolivia’s new rulers," according to The Intercept, which reports that the administration has retained the services of the same Washington, D.C., consultants hired by the Honduran interim government to build American support -- CLS Strategies.
The United States announced that it will send an ambassador to Bolivia to help restore a "normal relationship" between the two countries for the first time in ten years, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale announced last week. (Reuters)
Bolivia suspended diplomatic relations with Cuba last week. Cuba's government accused the Áñez administration of seeking to sabotage bilateral ties ever since it took power last year, partly under pressure from the Trump administration. (Reuters)
Mexico's "iron-fisted" crackdown on a migrant caravan of over 4,000 Central Americans, last week, "was perhaps the biggest and most dramatic test to date of Mexico’s new resolve to get tough on illegal migration" in order to please the U.S. Trump administration, reports the New York Times. (See last Friday's briefs, and last Tuesday's post.)
Mexican authorities say that there are 3,300 asylum seekers waiting in Tamaulipas, on the Mexican side of the border, for U.S. adjudication of their applications. (Nodal)
A Salvadoran court ordered the detention, last week, of a man accused of promoting the formation of the latest migrant caravan from Central America towards the U.S. It is the first detention of its kind -- formally on immigrant human-trafficking charges -- reports the Associated Press. If he is found guilty, Raul Ventura could face an 8-year jail sentence, according to Televisa.
Guatemala will continue to receive asylum seekers sent by the United States as part of a controversial immigration agreement signed by the previous administration, said the new foreign affairs minister last week. (Al Jazeera)
At least 46 people have died in Brazil and more than 25,000 have been displaced due to widespread flooding following storms and heavy rains this weekend, reports Reuters.
The criminal case against journalist Glenn Greenwald -- Brazilian prosecutors charged him with cybercrimes last week -- has set off alarm bells about press freedom in Brazil. (See last Wednesday's post.) "Politicians, lawyers and human rights groups call the case a worrisome development at a time when the Bolsonaro administration has raised alarm by targeting other Constitutional protections, including the land rights of indigenous people and the enforcement of environmental regulations," reports the New York Times. (Indeed, "the case might also serve as a model for other nations eager to clamp down on press freedom," writes James Risen in a New York Times op-ed.)
There is little risk that Brazilians will wake up to a military coup of tanks on the street, but the risk of authoritarian creep on the country's democratic institutions is real and must be acknowledged, argues Pedro Abramovay, Open Society Foundations' regional director of Latin America and the Caribbean, in El País. "There is a clear change in society. An explicit defender of torture, dictatorship and homophobia would not be elected in a relatively recent Brazil. Something has changed in our society's tolerance for these anti-democratic values. The latent authoritarianism in our history has again become shameless - perhaps the result of strong polarization ... and there is no denying that this represents a much more fertile ground for attacks on democracy to leave deeper marks on our institutions."
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is taking the country's democracy to the brink, writes director Petra Costa in a New York Times op-ed. Her documentary on Brazil's troubled politics is nominated for an Academy Award, but has been attacked by government officials. "The film criticizes leaders who attempt to silence divergent thinking. Maybe this is the reason some authoritarian far-right politicians, in Brazil and abroad, want to brand journalistic efforts to unveil the truth as fiction and fake news."
Criticism towards Costa's film is just one part of the Bolsonaro administration's ideological battle to overhaul Brazil's cultural sector, reports Americas Quarterly. (See Jan. 8's briefs for more on the country's culture wars, and Jan. 17's on the culture minister who resigned after evoking Joseph Goebbels.)
Further south, a couple of opinion columns grapple with politicization of Argentina's justice system and the panorama under the country's new administration (which has promised judicial reform). Graciana Peñafort argues emphatically that a strict interpretation of constitutional guarantees -- especially the presumption of innocence -- must be the foundation of a better justice, in Cohete a la Luna. And Sebastián Fernández writes in Nuestras Voces that semantics aside, there has been a clear trend in Argentina towards judicial persecution of former government sympathizers.
In a similar vein, a strict interpretation of the law -- avoidance of an apparent political vengeance -- will be key in a post-Ortega scenario in Nicaragua argues Charles Call in an interview with Carlos Chamorro in Confidencial. He analyzes the impact of international anti-corruption missions in Guatemala and Honduras, and says the tool could be helpful in such an scenario.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...