Tag Archive | "elections"

Uruguay: Campaigns Close Ahead of Sunday’s Presidential Run-Off

Presidential candidate Tabaré Vázquez (photo: Pepe Delloro/Télam/ema)

Presidential candidate Tabaré Vázquez (photo: Pepe Delloro/Télam/ema)

Presidential candidates Tabaré Vázquez (Frente Amplio) and Luis Lacalle Pou (Partido Nacional) will close their campaigns today, ahead of Sunday’s presidential run-off.

Vázquez and his running mate Raúl Sendic will participate of a festival at Parque Battle, outside the Centenario stadium, in Montevideo. The event will begin at 6.30pm with the performance of the murga Reina de La Teja and will finish close to midnight with a set by candombe musician Rubén Rada. At 8.30pm, Sendic and Vázquez will address the crowds for the last time before the election.

Meanwhile, the Partido National will hold a rally in the city San Carlos, district of Maldonado, where Lacalle Pou and his vice-presidential candidate Jorge Larrañaga will give their final speeches at 8pm.

The latest polls show Vázquez well ahead of Lacalle Pou, with between 53 and 55% of the vote against the Partido Nacional’s 40 to 42%. This result would give the Frente Amplio its third consecutive government, with Vázquez becoming president for the second time.

Luis Eduardo González, director of pollster Cifra, told Uruguayan newspaper El País: “This last month of the electoral campaign has been odd by Uruguayan standards: there was little mobilisation, a relatively low amount of publicity, few appearances by the candidates. But even with this campaign at half throttle, the most likely outcome is that Vázquez will win by a broader margin than its predecessor [President José Mujica], and will become the third Uruguayan to be elected president twice.”

The reasons behind the support for the Frente Amplio, according to the polls, would be a good economic performance by the current government and the good image of President José ‘Pepe’ Mujica.

Vázquez came ahead in the first round of the election, on 26th October, with 47.17% of the vote, followed by Lacalle Pou with 30.55%.

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The Indy Guide to October’s Elections in South America

October is set to be a decisive month in South American politics, with more than 150m people in Brazil, Bolivia, and Uruguay set to cast their vote in presidential and legislative elections. While the vote is something of a formality for the supremely popular Bolivian leader Evo Morales, the contests in Brazil and Uruguay are set to be decided in tight, second round run-offs.

Here we provide a quick guide to the elections in each country, including a look at the key candidates and campaign issues.


BRAZIL: 5th October

What: General Elections to choose president, national congress, state governors, and state legislatures.
Run-off: If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in presidential and gubernatorial races, a run-off will be held on 26th October.
Term: New president will be sworn in on 1st January 2015, members of congress on 1st February 2015.

South America’s largest country goes to the polls amid an economic downturn that has sparked growing criticism of incumbent Dilma Rousseff, now seeking a second term. Rousseff remains favourite, but renewed competition from environmentalist Marina Silva could lead to a tense run-off at the end of the month.


640px-Dilma_Rousseff_-_foto_oficial_2011-01-09Dilma Rousseff, Worker’s Party (PT)
VP: Michel Temer (PMDB)
Coalition: With the strength of the people
Current ranking in the polls: 38%

Incumbent Dilma Rousseff, 66, Brazil’s first female president, is running for re-election. Rousseff became a socialist during her youth and under the military dictatorship she was captured and jailed between 1970 and 1972, and was reportedly tortured. She was one of the founders of the Democratic Labour Party (PDT) in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, and worked her way up the ranks to become state Energy Secretary. In 2000, after an internal PDT dispute, Rousseff deflected to the Worker’s Party (PT). In 2002, Rousseff joined the committee responsible for the energy policy of presidential candidate Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva, who, after winning the election, invited her to become Energy Minister. In 2005 she became Lula’s Chief of Staff, a post she held until 2010 when she resigned to run for president, winning in the second round.

Rousseff has continued many of Lula’s social policies, and until mid-2013 had popularity ratings equal to that of her predecessor, regularly topping 80%. However, in June last year things changed when over a million people took to the streets to vent anger at the escalating prices of public services and corruption among politicians, as well as what was seen to be excessive spending on the stadiums for this year’s football World Cup.

Under Rousseff the country’s growth has slowed down, largely due to the impacts of the global economic downturn, but also, according to some analysts, due to policies that her administration has implemented, and her “economic micromanaging”. Brazil is currently in a recession, although unemployment remains historically low at 4.9% and household incomes have managed to keep up with the high inflation. However, it is thought that were Rousseff to win re-election she would not encourage confidence in foreign investors, which could affect the country’s long-term growth.

Marina_Silva2010Marina Silva, Brazilian Socialist Part (PSB)
VP: Beto Albuquerque (PSB)
Coalition: United for Brazil
Current ranking in the polls: 29%

Marina Silva, 56, only officially became the PSB candidate six weeks ago, after the original PSB candidate, Eduardo Campos, was killed in a plane crash in Santos on 13th August and Silva, who had been Campos’ running mate, was chosen to succeed him.

Silva is as known for her background as an environmentalist as she is a politician. Growing up in the Brazilian Amazon, Silva comes from humble origins, and only learned to read and write at the age of 16. She was a colleague of activist Chico Mendes, who was killed for defending the rainforest in 1988, around the time Silva became a member of the Worker’s Party (PT), a membership she continued until 2009. She served as former president Lula’s Environment Minister from 2003, but frequently clashed with then Energy Minister Dilma Rousseff, and resigned in 2008. In 2010 Silva ran for president as a Green Party candidate, obtaining 19.4% of the votes, the highest ever figure for a Green Party candidate, far exceeding expectations. In 2013, she attempted to create new party Sustainability Network, but after failing to gather the required number of signatures to create the party, she changed her affiliation to the PSB. In April, Campos named her as his running mate.

The PSB is traditionally a centrist party with market sympathies, and Silva had to work hard when inheriting the ticket to convince the party’s traditional base that she wasn’t a radical reformist. She has outlined a market-friendly plan that both businesses on the ground in Brazil as well as foreign investors believe will spur productivity and encourage investment, both of which have tailed off under Rousseff. Silva has also said she would reinstate fuel tax and allow more fluctuation in prices of things that are currently regulated. She would also give the central bank more independence, and her policies underscore an ideology of fiscal rectitude, tax reform, and more robust inflation-targeting. Socially, Silvia is seen to be conservative – due to her religious faith, she retracted Campos’ support for gay marriage, although her campaign has since come out to say she is a supporter of LGBT rights and human rights in general. Her posture has led Rousseff to claim she is continually switching sides and affiliations, something which could prove to be her Achilles’ heel.

Aécio_Neves_2014-02-20Aécio Neves, Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB)
VP: Aloysio Nunes
Coalition: Change, Brazil
Current ranking in the polls: 18%

Economist and politician, Aécio Neves, 54, is currently a senator representing Minas Gerais state. Since entering politics in the 1980s, he has only been defeated once, when he ran for mayor of Belo Horizonte in 1992. He was elected four times to Brazil’s lower house between 1987 and 2002, before becoming governor of Minas Gerais from 2003-2010, the first to be elected outright in the first round and also the youngest in the state’s history. As governor, Neves introduced the “Management Shock”: a set of sweeping reforms designed to bring the state budget under control by reducing government expenditure and promoting investment.

Neves, a centre-right candidate, is the market’s favourite, and a win would bring back into power the party that Lula’s Worker’s Party beat in 2002, and which has remained in the wings for the past 12 years.


BOLIVIA: 12th October


What: General Elections to choose president, vice-president, renew 130 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 36 in the Senate. There will also be seven new ‘special’ seats for indigenous leaders in the lower house.
Run-off: If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote – or at least 40% and a 10 percentage point lead over the nearest rival – in presidential race, a run-off will be held on 7th December.
Term: New president will be sworn in on 22nd January 2015.

President Evo Morales (left) and opposition candidate Samuel Doria Medina

President Evo Morales (left) and opposition candidate Samuel Doria Medina


Evo Morales (Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS-IPSP)
VP: Álvaro García Linera
Current support in opinion polls: 52-55%

Incumbent Evo Morales, 54, is expected to win another landslide election – his third – in the first round. Bolivia’s first indigenous president, a former cocalero in power now since 2006, has managed to combine a socio-economic revolution with relative political stability, and fervent anti-capitalist rhetoric with pragmatic macroeconomic management. The results are impressive: The nationalisation of key energy, mining, and communication sectors would normally draw the ire of neo-liberal observers, but even the IMF has praised a track record of strong growth, moderate inflation, low debt, and balanced budgets. At home, his approval ratings hover around the 70% mark. At the heart of the model is the indigenous concept of Suma Qamaña (good living), the idea that community bonds and living in harmony with la Pachamama (Mother Earth) are just as important for well-being as an increase in income.

However, it has not all been plain sailing for Morales. While enjoying huge support among the country’s majority indigenous population, he has faced regular challenges by opposition in the economic wealth province of Santa Cruz. Morales says this unrest is deliberately provoked by the local business elite and supported by the US embassy, which last year he threatened to shut down after his presidential plane was rerouted and grounded by European authorities who accused him of smuggling Edward Snowdon out of Russia. However, he also faced a major crisis in 2010 after raising the price of state-subsidised gas, a decision he eventually reversed after a week of widespread protests (the ‘gasolinazo’). Meanwhile, the plan to construct a major international highway running through the TIPNIS indigenous territory sparked major protests in 2012 and created some divisions within the party’s support base.

Other challenges remain if he is elected, as expected, for his third term. Poverty levels have fallen by around a third since 2005, but at around 40% are still high in regional terms. After easing some of the country’s worst economic ills, the long-term future will require greater industrialisation and diversification to reduce the heavy dependence on primary exports from extracting oil, gas, and minerals. Finally, the government is facing growing pressure to tackle social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, which are both prohibited.

Samuel Doria Medina (Frente de Unidad Nacional, FUN)
VP: Ernesto Suárez
Coalition: Concertación Unidad Demócrata (FUN+MDS)
Current support in opinion polls: 14-17%

The business magnate will run against Morales for the third time. In 2005 and 2009 he came third with less than 8% of the vote, though opinion polls this time rank him as a comfortable second. Despite being involve in politics for more than 20 years, Doria Medina is still better known for his business exploits. Since 1987 he has been the president and main shareholder of the Sociedad Boliviana de Cemento (SOBOCE), one of the largest companies in the country, while his portfolio has expanded to include the local franchise of fast food outlets such as Burger King and Subway.

Doria Medina says he offers an alternative to Morales’ authoritarian style and unsustainable economic model, proposing more market-friendly policies including providing foreign investors with a greater share of Bolivia’s oil wealth in return for an injection of capital. He also calls for more investment in renewable energies, technology, and services, which he claims this will provide more jobs and help reduce crime. However, Doria Medina he has failed to unite the opposition – which includes ex-president Jorge Quiroga (Partido Demócrata Cristiano, PDC) and leftist challenger Juan del Granado, of the Movimiento Sin Miedo (MSM) – behind his cause.


URUGUAY: 26th October

What: General election to choose president, vice-president, and complete renewal of both legislative houses in the General Assembly.
Run-off: If no presidential candidate achieves an absolute majority in the first round, a run-off will be held on 30th November.
Term: New president and legislators will be sworn in on 1st March 2015.

From left to right, Tabaré Vázquez, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, Pedro Bordaberry  (Photos via Wikipedia)

From left to right, Tabaré Vázquez, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, Pedro Bordaberry (Photos via Wikipedia)

José “Pepe” Mujica has won the hearts and minds of the global media as “the world’s poorest president” who legalised marijuana, but he is forbidden by the constitution for seeking re-election. His predecessor and Frente Amplio colleague Tabaré Vázquez is currently favourite to return for his second term, though latest polls suggest a second round run-off is likely and could be a close call. Education reform and crime are two of the key campaign issues.


Tabaré Vázquez (Frente Amplio, FA)
VP: Raúl Sendic
Support: 40-43%

Oncologist Tabaré Vázquez, president between 2005 and 2010, is looking to secure another five-year term at the age of 74. The country’s situation has changed significantly since he first came to power a decade ago: poverty has fallen from around 40% to just over 10%, while unemployment is at historic lows. The country has also become one of the world’s most socially progressive after decriminalising abortion, legalising same sex marriage, and regulating the market for legal marijuana.

Vázquez says a third successive Frente Amplio government would be “committed to improving even further the life of every Uruguayan citizen” by consolidating these social and economic advances and tackling problematic areas. One of his key electoral promises is to increase education spending to 6% of GDP (from around 4.5% currently), another the introduction of a Nordic-style ‘national care system’ to increase state support for families with dependants (infants, disabled or elderly relatives).

If triumphant, however, Vázquez will face a challenge to keep the more radical leftist factions of the Frente Amplio coalition in line, especially if a weak parliamentary majority or direct minority results in new concessions to a rejuvenated centre-right opposition (he has already made overtones about reaching “broad agreements”).

Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou (Partido Nacional, PN)
VP: Jorge Larrañaga
Support: 29-33%

Son of former president Luis Alberto Lacalle (1990-1995), 41-year-old Luis Lacalle Pou was a surprise winner in the primaries, something that is considered an advantage for the main event as his rivals were preparing to face a different candidate (Jorge Larrañaga, who has since become Lacalle Pou’s running mate). His campaign has sought to play up his image as a fresh and youthful alternative to Vázquez, and he has promised a renewal of politics with “action, not reaction”, preferring to talk about policy management rather than ideological concerns.

Lacalle Pou has said that education, security, and infrastructure were three “emergencies” that his administration would treat.

Pedro Bordaberry (Partido Colorado, PC)
VP: Germán Coutinho
Support: 11-15%

Another son of an ex-president, though this time former dictator Juan María, Bordaberry represents the country’s traditional right-wing Colorados. Bordaberry has promised deep education reform, including a guarantee for a 200-day school year and decentralising decision-making. He has also put security at the heart of his camping, pledging to reverse the legalisation of marijuana, lower the age of criminal responsibility for serious crimes, and use the military to support police operations.

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Brazil: Marina Silva to Replace Dead PSB Candidate

PSB presidential candidate Marina Silva (photo: José Cruz/ABr)

PSB presidential candidate Marina Silva (photo: José Cruz/ABr)

Former senator and environmental activist Marina Silva was appointed yesterday as the presidential candidate for the Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB), after the death of party leader Eduardo Campos in a plane crash last week.

Silva’s joining of the presidential race changes the political landscape, complicating the so far comfortable position of favourite Dilma Rousseff. A recent poll for Datafolha, conducted after the death of Campos, shows that President Rousseff could obtain 36% of the votes in the first round on 5th October, whilst Silva comes second with 21% (12 points more than Campos), and Aecio Neves of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB) a close third with 20% of the vote. However, in the event of a second round on 26th October -which would be held if no candidate reaches 50% of the votes- the poll suggests Silva could beat Rousseff by 47% to 43%.

Silva will be joined by vice-presidential candidate Luiz Roberto ‘Beto’ de Albuquerque, a deputy representing the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Albuquerque has been linked to the agribusinesses that environmentalist Silva opposes, which have contributed funds to his political campaigns. He is expected to mediate between Silva and the representatives of the rural sector.

Silva’s campaign team has decided to not accept funds from companies that produce tobacco, arms, and alcoholic beverages. She has also announced she will not campaign in districts where she disapproves of the local alliances established by the PSB, such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Santa Catarina, and Paraná.

A “Black Woman of Humble Origins”

Marina Silva was born in 1958 in the city of Rio Branco, capital of the state of Acre, near the border with Peru and Bolivia. The descendent of black slaves and Portuguese immigrants, her father worked in the rubber plantations in the countryside and her mother died when Marina was 14.

At age 16, Silva moved to Rio Branco to get treatment for hepatitis, and there she learned to read and write. She then worked as a maid, obtained a history degree in university, and became involved in politics and unionism. In 1985, together with union leader Chico Mendes, she founded the local branch of the Unified Workers’ Central (CUT) and became a member of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT).

In 1988 Silva obtained the only left-wing seat in the local Rio Branco council, and in that same year her friend Chico Mendes was murdered. In 1990 she was elected to the state congress of Acre, and in 1994 to the federal Senate in representation of her state. In 2003, she was appointed by the newly elected president Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ Da Silva as Environment Minister.

During her term at the Ministry, Brazil reduced the rate of deforestation in the Amazon, created new natural reserves, and arrested hundreds of people for environmental crimes. However, she lost the battle against the expansion of transgenic crops and nuclear energy. Her relationship with other members of Lula’s government, such as then-minister Dilma Rousseff, was difficult, and she also denounced receiving pressure from some state governors who opposed her measures against deforestation in the Amazon. She resigned on 13th May 2008, citing differences with the Lula administration’s environmental outlook, and returned to her seat in the Senate.

In 2010, Silva ran for president in representation of the Partido Verde and obtained almost 20m votes (19% of the total). Back then, she expressed her desire to be “the first black woman of humble origins” to reach the Brazilian presidency.

Upon the announcement of her candidacy, Silva said that, if elected, she plans to favour technological development in the rural sector in order to increase productivity whilst decreasing the exploitation of natural resources and ratified her commitment to economic measures such as inflation goals, a floating exchange rate, and fiscal responsibility.

In terms of social policies, she has rejected reforms such as the legalisation of abortion, drugs, and homosexual marriage, based on her evangelical faith. Her religious views could cost her votes amongst the Catholic majority and socially progressive sectors, though they could attract the growing number of Evangelical Christians.

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Colombia: Campaigns Close Ahead of Presidential Run-Off

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos  (Photo: Facebook official account)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is running for re-election (Photo: Facebook official account)

Election campaigns officially ended in Colombia yesterday, a week before Sunday’s presidential run-off, which sees incumbent Juan Manuel Santos, up for re-election, face right-wing opposition candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga.

The race looks to be a tight one, with three of the five polls putting Santos as victor, whilst two give the next presidential term to Zuluaga. The first round saw the opposition candidate, backed by former president Álvaro Uribe, beat the incumbent, winning with 29.3% of the votes, to Santos’ 25.7%. However, in the first round, absenteeism hit 60%, and both candidates used yesterday’s final acts to encourage people to get out and vote. 

Tonight the pair will face off in their final televised debate before Sunday’s elections.

The ballot is seen to be a referendum on peace talks with left-wing guerrilla group FARC, which could end Colombia’s five decade-long conflict. During a second term, Santos aims to bring peace to Colombia, continuing the peace talks with FARC, which began last year in Havanna, Cuba. Zuluaga, who had initially run on a platform of ending the talks with FARC, has changed his stance since the first round, and now says that under his mandate peace would continue to be negotiated, but under the condition that FARC offer a ceasefire.

On Saturday, FARC announced a ceasefire for the elections, which would last from 9th to 30th June. The group undertook a similar ceasefire during the first round of the elections. The announcement came on the same day that the government and FARC made a joint announcement to “recognise their mutual responsibilities” to victims of the civil war. The announcement is seen to be a landmark, and likely to boost Santos’ campaign, as it is the first time both sides have officially not only recognised victims, but also both sides’ debt to them.

Although the peace talks have dominated both candidates’ campaigns, the polls indicate that Colombians are more worried about unemployment, crime, improving health services, and the quality of education. The country has been growing at a rate of 4%, but a third of the population of 47m lives in poverty.



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Uruguay: Parties Choose Presidential Candidates in Primaries

Ex-president Tabaré Vázquez casts his vote (photo: AFP PHOTO/Miguel Rojo/Télam/ddc)

Ex-president Tabaré Vázquez casts his vote (photo: AFP PHOTO/Miguel Rojo/Télam/ddc)

Uruguayans took to the polls yesterday to choose the candidates that will participate in October’s presidential elections. The three main parties will be represented by ex-president Tabaré Vázquez (Frente Amplio), Luis Lacalle (Partido Nacional), and Pedro Bordaberry (Partido Colorado).

Partido Nacional was the party which obtained the most votes, with 43% of the total, whilst Frente Amplio got 28% of the vote and Partido Colorado 14%. Vázquez and Bordaberry both beat their party rivals by a landslide (obtaining around 80% and 75% respectively), whilst Lacalle’s victory was tighter, beating rival Jorge Larrañaga by 54% to 46%.

Smaller parties such as Partido Independente and Asamblea Popular also participated in the primaries, though with only one candidate each.

The country’s electoral tribunal reported a very low participation rate, with only between 30 and 35% of the electorate casting their vote. Mónica Xavier, president of Frente Amplio, said politicians should “reflect about the reasons why people don’t feel compelled [to vote]” and to “think about the parties’ responsibility in the low levels of participation.”

President José Mugica, also of the Frente Amplio, was one of many analysts who considered that the high absenteeism was due to the predictability of the results.

Presidential and legislative elections will be held in Uruguay on 26th October. The latest polls show that Frente Amplio candidate Tabaré Vázquez is favourite to succeed Mugica.


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Colombia: FARC, ELN Begin Unilateral Ceasefire for Elections

The FARC peace delegation (photo courtesy of FARC-EP)

The FARC peace delegation (photo courtesy of FARC-EP)

Colombia’s two main guerrilla groups, The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC-EP) and National Liberation Army (ELN), began a unilateral ceasefire today in preparation for Sunday’s presidential elections.

The ceasefire, which was announced on Sunday in a joint press release, came into effect at midnight and will last until the end of Wednesday 28th May.

“The insurgency does not believe in the electoral regime,” read the statement. “We think, like millions of our compatriots, that the corruption, clientelism, fraud, and all kinds of underhand tactics make the results illegitimate.”

However, the guerrilla organisations said that the “national clamour” for calm during the voting period warranted action.

On Friday, negotiators representing the government and FARC in peace talks in Havana announced that they had reached a preliminary agreement on combatting drug trafficking in Colombia, the third of five key issues that make up the framework of the peace talks. The agreement covers the substitution of crops where illicit plants are currently cultivated, programmes to tackle addiction and consumption, and tackling the illegal commercial drugs trade.

The next round of talks is currently set for 2nd June, in which the highly sensitive issue of the victims of the internal conflict, which has lasted more than five decades.

However, the future of the peace talks would become uncertain if President Santos is defeated in Sunday’s election, with rival candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga saying he would suspend the dialogue and demand that the FARC end all action as a condition to a peace accord.

The last opinion poll published before the close of campaigning showed Zuluaga with a narrow lead over Santos, though indicating that a second round run-off would be required.



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Colombia: Campaigns Close Ahead of Presidential Elections

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos  (Photo: Facebook official account)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is running for a second term
(Photo: Facebook official account)

Presidential hopefuls have closed their campaigns ahead of the Colombian elections on Sunday, 25th May. Incumbent Juan Manuel Santos is facing off four contenders to secure a second four-year term.

If no candidate receives 50% in the first round, the two leading candidates will face a run-off on Sunday 15th June.

Polls currently indicate that this will be likely, with leading candidates Santos, of Partido de la U, set to face Óscar Iván Zuluaga, of the Centro Democrático party, in a second round. Both candidates were polling at around 28% when their campaigns closed yesterday. 

Santos closed his campaign visiting six different districts of the capital Bogotá, reinforcing a message of peace, and emphasising the importance of keeping the peace talks with guerrilla group FARC on track. Peace talks began last year under Santos’ administration, and for the first time in over 50 years there is real hope that the country’s long-running civil war can be brought to an end.

Meanwhile, Zuluaga, who is backed by former president Alvaro Uribe, spent the weekend touring the country, visiting different municipalities. He used his public appearances to defend himself against a leaked video which appears to show his advisors conspiring with him to derail the peace talks. It was the latest scandal in what is considered to have been dirty campaigning from both sides. 

Nearly 33 million will take to the polls in Sunday’s election, with overseas voting beginning today.


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Latin America News Roundup: 30th April 2014

President Evo Morales (photo courtesy of Bolivian government)

President Evo Morales (photo courtesy of Bolivian government)

Bolivia – Presidential Elections Set for 12th October: The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) of Bolivia announced today that the presidential elections scheduled for this year will be held on 12th October. If required, a second round run off will be held on 7th December, while the new government term will begin on 22nd January 2015. Incumbent Evo Morales is widely expected to announce his candidature for a third term, after saying in February that he had “the strength to continue for another five years”. According to a court ruling last year, Morales is eligible to run despite a constitutional limit of two consecutive terms because his first term began before the constitution was reformed, in 2009. A recent opinion poll published in several local papers showed Morales with 38% support. This puts the president comfortably ahead of rival candidates, including Santa Cruz governor Rubén Costas. To win in the first round of voting, a candidate must either receive 50% of the vote, or win by a margin of 10%.

Concern Over New Areas of Deforestation in Colombia: The Environment and Sustainable Development Ministry of Colombia issued a report yesterday showing eight new hubs of deforestation in various parts of the country. The study, compiled by the Hydrological Institute (Ideam), was based on information gathered from satellite images during the second half of 2013. The images showed a high concentration of deforestation alerts in eight zones, especially in the South-West of the country, that did not exist in earlier in the year. Environment Minister Luz Helena Sarmiento said the country should declare a “frontal assault” on the activities leading to deforestation, including illegal logging, mining, and the clearing of forests for agricultural expansion. The Ideam will continue to monitor the state of the country’s forests every six months. Approximately 55% of Colombian territory is covered by forest. Earlier in April, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said the country needed to take urgent to protect “some of the world’s richest forests and ecosystems”.

Yasuní National Park (photo: Joshua Bousel on Flickr)

Yasuní National Park (photo: Joshua Bousel on Flickr)

Ecuador – Yasuní Activists Say Referendum Petition ‘Manipulated': Campaigners seeking to prevent oil drilling in the Yasuní National Park claim the National Electoral Council (CNE) has tampered with the results of a petition to force a referendum on the issue. The group ‘Yasunidos’ said earlier in April that it had gathered over 700,000 signatures, more than the constitutional threshold needed to force a referendum on whether oil exploration should be carried out in the park. The campaign group said the CNE had illegally opened the sealed box containing the identification documents for some of the 1,000 volunteers who collected the signatures. Without ID verification, large numbers of signatures could be invalidated. President Rafael Correa, who has repeatedly said that the income from oil drilling was essential to tackle poverty in Ecuador, said in a press conference yesterday that it was “not in his government’s plan” to call a referendum on the issue. He added that the issue had become heavily politicised and rejected the accusations against the CNE, saying he was “not afraid” to face a referendum on any issue. The Yasunidos group has called for a protest march on 1st May in the city of Guayaquil.

The Yasuní-ITT initiative proposed the country refrain indefinitely from exploiting reserves in the national park, in exchange for 50% of the value of the income it would be forgoing from the world community. However, last August Correa announced that the plans had failed, after receiving less than 1% of the US$3.6bn target, and soon after the government approved plans to explore for oil. Controversy arose in February, when The Guardian newspaper revealed that the Ecuadorian government had been negotiating a secret US$1bn deal with a Chinese bank to drill for oil under the Yasuní national park as early as 2009, while publicly pursuing the Yasuní-ITT initiative.



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Latin America News Roundup: 28th April 2014

Agricultural Strike, Colombia (Photo: Agencia Púlsar)

Last year’s agrarian strike was lifted after an agreement with the government (Photo: Agencia Púlsar)

Colombia – Agrarian Strike Underway: With protests in 15 districts around the country, thousands of farmers began today an indefinite national agrarian strike. Protestors are demanding that the government complies with the agreements made in September 2013, which led them to lift a month-long protest. Despite fears by the government, which accused the FARC of infiltrating the farmers’ organisations and set up a massive security operative to prevent incidents, the protest has so far been peaceful. The main demands of the farmers seek to address what they see as the causes of a “crisis” in the agrarian sector: a renegotiation of free trade agreements, which they claim have greatly affected them due to the mass import of food, and measures to address the losses generated by them; control of the rising costs of agrochemicals; tighter control of mining activities and environmental protection; and policies supporting alternative crops, such as grains, in potato growing areas, in order to avoid an overproduction of potatoes that would bring their price down. Striking farmers have been joined by transport workers, who are demanding a decrease in the price of fuel.

Panama – Presidential Candidates Close Campaigns: With much fanfare, Panamanian presidential candidates closed their campaigns at the weekend, ahead of next Sunday’s general elections. Some 2.5m people are set to take to the polls to choose the country’s next president, vice president, the 71 members of the country’s National Assembly, as well as dozens of local mayors and councillors around the country. The six political parties legally recognised in the country will each present a presidential candidate, and for the first time some three independent candidates will also run, all hoping to replace Cambio Democrático’s Ricardo Martinelli, who will step down on 1st July. Polls indicate the frontrunners to be leftist PRD’s Juan Carlos Navarro, centre-right Cambio Democrático’s Jose Domingo Arias, and centrist PPa-PP’s Juan Carlos Varela. As the country’s electoral system requires just a simple majority to win, there is no second round, and so the person who will lead the country for the next five years will be named by the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal next week.

A Brazilian archer (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

A Brazilian archer (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Brazil to Host First World Indigenous Games in 2015: The capital of the state of Tocantins, located in the centre of Brazil, has been chosen to host the World Indigenous Games next year. In the first such international encounter, athletes from 30 different countries will gather in the city of Palmas in July 2015 to compete in various disciplines. Since 1996 Brazil has hosted the bi-annual National Indigenous Games, promoted by the Ministry of Sport and the Inter-tribal Committee of Indigenous Memory and Science. The last edition of the Games took place in October in Cuiabá, where dozens of tribes gathered to compete in competitions such as archery, kayaking, long-distance and sprint running, football, and river swimming. The international event hopes to build on the success of the local Games, bringing together hundreds of athletes to compete in dozens of disciplines.


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Latin America News Roundup: 18th March 2014

Peru's president Ollanta Humala with first lady Nadine (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Peru’s president Ollanta Humala with first lady Nadine Heredia (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Peru’s Cabinet Survives Confidence Vote: After a brief debate, Peru’s congress voted in favour of the country’s Cabinet, with 66 votes in favour, 53 against and nine abstentions. The vote came after days of crisis in the country’s political bodies, after a previous confidence vote in René Cornejo’s cabinet on Friday saw 73 members of congress abstain. But just hours before the vote in yesterday’s extraordinary session, Perú Posible and the PCC-APP alliance announced their support for the cabinet, ending the deadlock. Cornejo was sworn in as the country’s prime minister on 24th February, the fifth head of the cabinet since President Ollanta Humala took office in 2011. Many of Friday’s abstentions were seen as a protest agasint the cabinet changes, which were seen to reflect meddling from powerful First Lady Nadine Heredia, a leading adviser to her husband and a co-founder of the ruling Gana Peru party. Vice president Marisol Espinoza said that with the vote of confidence for the new prime minister’s cabinet, “democracy fundamentally won”.

Costa Rica: Government Candidate Still in Presidential Race: A week and a half after pulling out of the second round of presidential elections, PLN candidate Johnny Araya, has declared that he is still in the presidential race. The candidate, running for the party that is currently in power, met with his future cabinet last night and then appeared before the cameras to say: “I will respect the popular wish. There is no need to interpret what I have previously said, but know that I never stepped down from being a presidential candidate.” The second round is due to take place on 6th April, and will see Araya, who is the mayor of the capital San José, face leftist PAC’s Luis Guillermo Solís, who obtained 31% of the vote in the first round to Araya’s 29.5%.

Colombia: Bodies Found in Search for Missing Police: Colombian authorities have found two bodies which they believe to be those of the two policemen who disappeared at the weekend in the Nariño region, in an area under the influence of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The mayor of Tumanaco, in the country’s south-west, said that local farmers had found the bodies close the town and that preliminary studies indicated they belonged to Germán Méndez Pabón and Edilmer Muñoz Ortiz. It is believed that they were intercepted by the FARC, but so far this hypothesis has not been proven, and that officials from the Prosecution Investigation Body are heading to the area to carry out a full investigation. On 14th February two other police officers were shot dead in the departments of Cauca and Nariño. Authorities have blamed FARC for both killings.

Posted in Current Affairs, News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

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24th March marks the anniversary of the 1976 coup that brought Argentina's last dictatorship to power, a bloody seven year period in which thousands of citizens were disappeared and killed. Many of the victims passed through ESMA, a clandestine detention centre turned human rights museum

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