Monday, October 24, 2011

CFK Wins Argentine Elections

With more than 97 percent of the vote counted, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner has emerged as the clear winner of the country’s presidential elections, gaining 53.8 percent of the vote and avoiding a runoff.  Her closest rival, Hermes Binner of the Broad Progressive Front, trailed behind by 36 points, gaining only 16.9 percent of the votes. As El Clarin points out, Fernandez’s win was the largest in the country’s history, surpassing the 1983 victory of Raul Alfonsin with 52 percent.

As Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research points out, the New York Times and much of the other English-language press has been highly critical of Fernandez, framing her victory as simply the result of clever populist maneuvering. From the NYT:
Still, by re-electing Mrs. Kirchner, 58, voters seemed willing to look past some troubling signs. Inflation has soared to over 20 percent in the past year, second only to Venezuela’s among major Latin American economies, economists said. And the government has continued to govern with a heavy hand and little tolerance for opponents, including among the news media.
Coverage in the Wall Street Journal and L.A. Times is similarly tilted, although less blatant. The wire agencies, on the other hand, do a good job of putting Fernandez’s victory in perspective, focusing on her government’s emphasis on poverty reduction and welfare spending. The AP notes:

The goal of this "project" is to profoundly change society by using Argentina's resources to raise incomes, create jobs, restore the country's industrial capacity, reduce poverty and maintain an economic boom that has seen the country grow and reduce poverty.
Ever since her husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner took office in 2003, the income gap between poor and wealthy in the country has been reduced by half. Meanwhile, unemployment in the country is the lowest it has been in 20 years, and the Argentine economy has grown at a rate of about 8 percent a year. Ultimately, as Reuters points out, Fernandez’s victory is due more to “voters [crediting] her unconventional policies for a long economic boom,” than to the political machinations of her campaign.

News Briefs
  • The Washington Post reports on the reduced emphasis that the Calderon administration is placing on drug crop eradication in Mexico. Owing to a scarcity of resources and the domestic unpopularity of such efforts in rural areas, soldiers who were previously involved in eradication have been increasingly reassigned to focus on urban security in crime hotspots like Monterrey, Ciudad Juarez, and Tijuana. In 2010, security forces cleared 43,000 acres of marijuana, down from 77,500 acres of marijuana in 2005.
  • In response to major public outcry, Bolivian President Evo Morales has scrapped his plans to develop the controversial highway through the Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) region. Before meeting with a delegation of protestors on Friday, Morales changed the language of the proposed law in order to make it illegal to construct the highway, or any other major roadway, in the park. It is not yet clear whether the president will continue to pursue the Brazilian-funded highway project through another route.
  • The Economist’s Americas View blog takes a look at Leopoldo Lopez’ s legal battle to be able to run in the Venezuelan presidential elections next year. Although the country’s Supreme Court has ruled that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights decision to overturn a ban on Lopez holding public office is inapplicable, it has also said that it will not rule on whether or not Lopez can hold office until he wins. According to the author, “By leaving open the possibility that the ban might later be overturned, its president may be signaling a willingness to facilitate a transition to a post-Ch├ívez government if necessary.”
  • The Wall Street Journal reports on the increase in charter flights to Cuba, as airlines take advantage of looser travel restrictions. It is estimated that some 400,000 people will have taken charter flights between Cuba and the U.S. by the end of this year, up from 250,000 in 2010. Also by the end of the year, four of the largest U.S. airlines (American Airlines, JetBlue, United and Delta) will offer their planes for a combined 25 weekly flights to charter companies. The article claims this stems from optimism about the prospect of full-scale tourism being allowed to the island.
  • In other election news, Nicaragua’s Confidencial reports on alarming irregularities in the Nicaraguan electoral process. According to the non-governmental Institute of Development and Democracy, over 70% of Nicaragua's electoral registration lists contain the names of deceased individuals
  • Security forces in Colombia have registered their heaviest loss in once single incident in more than a year, with ten soldiers having been killed in a FARC ambush on Saturday in Tame, a municipality in the Arauca department.  As El Colombiano notes, the same number of soldiers was killed on Friday in the southwest of the country in a separate attack, indicating that the rebels may be attempting to cause a spike in violence in the leadup to local elections on October 30.  
  • In other election news, Nicaragua’s Confidencial reports on alarming irregularities in the Nicaraguan electoral process. According to the non-governmental Institute of Development and Democracy, over 70% of Nicaragua's electoral registration lists contain the names of deceased individuals.
  • A new Freedom House survey on public perceptions of change Cuba was released on Friday, offering some surprising findings. According to the report, 41 percent of the 190 Cubans surveyed believe the country is “making progress,” compared to only 15 percent when Freedom House last conducted a survey in December 2010. Another major development is the fact that the most commonly-preferred reforms in Cuba have changed. Whereas economic reform has traditionally topped the list, this year respondents said listed freedom of expression and the freedom to travel above economic restructuring.
  • Security forces in Colombia have registered their heaviest loss in once single incident in more than a year, with ten soldiers having been killed in a FARC ambush on Saturday in Tame, a municipality in the Arauca department.  As El Colombiano notes, the same number of soldiers was killed on Friday in the southwest of the country in a separate attack, indicating that the rebels may be attempting to cause a spike in violence in the leadup to local elections on October 30.  
  • In other election news, Nicaragua’s Confidencial reports on alarming irregularities in the Nicaraguan electoral process. According to the non-governmental Institute of Development and Democracy, over 70% of Nicaragua's electoral registration lists contain the names of deceased individuals.