Tag Archive | "elections"

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.

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Latin America News Roundup: 26th February 2014

President Rafael Correa talks to the press (photo: Government of Ecuador)

President Rafael Correa talks to the press (photo: Government of Ecuador)

Ecuador – President Announces Cabinet Reshuffle: After Sunday’s electoral defeat in key districts, president Rafael Correa announced upcoming changes to his cabinet and his party, Alianza País (AP). “I will ask all cabinet ministers to hand in their resignation [today],” said Correa in a press conference yesterday, as he stated that his cabinet needs “some oxygen.” The changes, he said, had been decided previous to the election. The president said that it “hurt” to have lost in important districts such as the capital Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, but added that “the shake-up was welcome, because I think we were stagnating -not the government, but the political organisation at the local level.” Changes in local leadership positions within AP are expected to follow.

Guatemala – Minister Warns About Climate Change Effects: Agriculture Minister Elmer López warned that over a million Guatemalans could suffer from the effects of climate change on crops in the second half of the year. Talking to local newspaper La Hora, López said: “Right now we have a million people living in the Dry Corridor, who may reach a crisis point if the situation turns extreme due to climate change. This means we could have over three weeks without rain in the hottest period of summer. And if this period extends to more than three weeks, the crops could die.” The minister also informed that the country will soon start receiving grains from the World Food Programme to face the impending shortage, and that the government has earmarked Q62m (US$8m) from its budget to purchase food from the current harvest and for projects aimed at assisting small producers. According to official estimates, 933,000 families were affected by seasonal food shortages last year. Malnutrition is a perennial problem in Guatemala.

Venezuela – Opposition Rejects Calls for Dialogue: The Venezuelan opposition rejected president Nicolás Maduro’s call for a “national dialogue” today. Maduro made the call on Monday, and so far the Catholic Church and business representatives have agreed to participating. In a letter sent to vice-president Jorge Arreaza, however, the opposition coalition Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) said they would not attend what they consider “a simulation” and “mocking our fellow countrymen.” They also blamed the government for the situation the country is in, after two weeks of protests which have left 14 people dead.

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Latin America News Roundup: 3rd February 2014

Salvador Sánchez Cerén, El Salvadorian presidential frontrunner (photo: wikipedia.org)

Salvador Sánchez Cerén, frontrunner in the El Salvadorian presidential elections (photo: wikipedia.org)

El Salvador Presidential Elections go to Second Round: With nearly all the votes counted, results indicate yesterday’s presidential election in El Salvador will go to a run-off on 9th March. Current vice president Salvador Sánchez Cerén from the governing left-wing FMLN party received 48.9% of the votes, and will face conservative Norman Quijano from the Nationalist Republican Alliance, ARENA, who took 38.9% in the first round. The winner will take power on 1st June and will govern the country for the next five years. Both candidates accepted the results and announced their willingness to form alliances with other political parties. Sánchez Cerén has already reached out to the UNIDAD movement’s candidate, Elías Antonio Saca, to work together in the next government. Sunday’s election had a turnout of just 53%, according to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, almost ten percentage points lower than the 2009 elections.

Costa Rica Elections: Residents of Costa Rica also went to the polls yesterday to vote in the country’s general elections, choosing new representatives in congress, new governors, and a new president. With no outright winner, the two leading presidential candidates will face a run-off on 6th April. The governing Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN)’s candidate, Johnny Araya, who obtained 29.5% of the vote, will face Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC)’s Luis Guillermo Solís, who obtained 31% of the vote. Neither candidate has so far spoken of potential alliances, but it seems likely the winner will have to form some kind of coalition to govern, as they will face a divided congress when they take power on 8th May. PLN received 18 of the 57 legislative seats, PAC took 13, with the remainder divided between five other parties.

Honduras – Diplomatic Relations Re-established with Latin American countries: The governments of Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador officially recognised Juan Orlando Hernández’s government in Honduras at last week’s Celac summit in Cuba. Following this, the three countries announced at the weekend they would re-establish diplomatic ties with the Central American nation after almost five years, when a coup ousted democratically-elected Juan Manuel Zelaya, leading to a political crisis in the country, and a diplomatic crisis in the region.

Cuba has Highest Literacy Rate in Latin America: According to a UNESCO report published on Saturday, Cuba has the highest literacy rate in Latin America. The annual report, entitled ‘Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality for All‘, highlighted the Caribbean island’s achievements, noting that 13% of the country’s GDP goes towards education, compared to a regional average of 5.5%. The report looked at countries’ progress under the Education for All global commitment to provide basic education for all children, youth, and adults, as agreed at the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000. At the forum, 164 governments pledged to work towards six goals to be met by 2015, and are working with development agencies, civil society, and the private sector to achieve the targets, under the coordination of UNESCO. In Latin America, around 10% of children of school age are not achieving basic standards in reading and writing, and 30% are lacking in mathematics. Standards varied widely by country, and within social groups within national borders, with the poorest often faring the worst. For example, in Haiti only 42% of young people from a poor background know how to read and write, compared to 92% of their better off compatriots. The report highlighted that if current trends continue, developing countries will not achieve their targets until 2072.

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Latin America News Roundup: 31st January 2014

Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff (Photo: wikimedia commons)

Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff (Photo: wikimedia commons)

Brazil – Cabinet Reshuffle: Ahead of the upcoming elections this year, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced a number of changes to her cabinet yesterday. Chief of Cabinet Gleisi Hoffmann will be replaced by current Education Minister Aloizio Mercadante, as she will take the Senate seat she won in 2010. It is expected that this could serve as a platform for Hoffman to run for governor of the southern state of Paraná. Mercadante, in turn, will be replaced by his vice-minister, José Henrique Paim. Health Minister Alexandre Padilha will also step down as he prepares to campaign for the governorship of the state of São Paulo. Rousseff had announced impending changes to her cabinet last month, which she indicated would take place between January and March, so that some of the ministers could participate in the elections. More changes are expected in the coming weeks.

Bolivia – US Withdraws Aid: The US embassy in Bolivia informed that its government will no longer fund cooperation projects in the Andean country, after the expulsion of USAID. Business attache Larry Memmott said that “our economic aid has always been delivered through USAID and, at the request of the Bolivian government, it does not work in the country anymore [therefore] economic aid is no longer an issue between the two countries. We do not provide economic assistance in Bolivia at the request of the Bolivian government.” Bolivian President Evo Morales replied to Memmott’s statement saying that his country “does not need charity” and that it is the obligation of the US government to contribute, as part of a shared responsibility, on the fight against drug trafficking. Morales expelled the US aid agency on 1st May 2013, accusing it of conspiring against his government.

Guatemala – Teachers’ Strike Lifted: The Guatemalan Congress approved yesterday an increase of 1.5bn quetzals in the budgets for education and health. The government had requested the budget increase, which was passed by 135 votes to two. After the news became known, teachers blocking roads around the country, including access to the capital, in demand for more resources in these areas ended their protest. The teachers’ demands also include that the funds allocated to the education budget are used to hire 5,000 teachers, increase salaries by 10%, bring back school meals, repair schools, and pay overdue bills.

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