Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Questions Continue Over Ortega's Landslide Victory in Nicaragua

Three days after the election of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, questions continue about the legitimacy of complaints over voting irregularities. An observation team from the European Union said that Nicaragua’s electoral authorities “were not completely independent or impartial.” This is a reference to Nicaragua’s main electoral observation commission, the Supreme Electoral Council (Consejo Supremo Electoral - CSE), widely perceived as controlled by Ortega allies. The Chamber of Commerce agreed, calling the vote a “non-transparent” process. Also weighing in from the U.S. was Congresswoman Ileana Ross-Lehtinen (R-Florida), who called the vote a “farce” and made similar strong statements about how Ortega’s re-election represents a so-called setback for democracy in the region.

For a more balanced perspective than Ross-Lehiten’s, at Americas Quarterly analyst James Bosworth asks what may lie next for Nicaragua, considering the number of complaints, as well as the fact that the government limited both international and civil society bodies from properly monitoring the election. Bosworth examines cases of other contested election results -- seen in Peru, Venezuela, Mexico and Honduras -- and concludes:

“The government will want to move on with its next term; the opposition will want concrete actions that punish the government and reject its legitimacy. It’s up to the international community to look for where they can compromise to help preserve and build Nicaragua’s peace, prosperity, stability and democracy.”

According to EFE, protesters sympathetic to the opposition rallied in Managua Tuesday, but were soon broken up by police. Local newspaper El Nuevo Diario also reported on violence which greeted opposition protesters elsewhere in the country. Ortega’s closest competitor, Fabio Gadea, has rejected the election results, as did another opposition candidate, former president Arnoldo Aleman.

An editorial by Confidencial argues that Ortega’s political maneuvering through Congress and the Supreme Court, in order to legitimize a second run at the presidency, is evidence that the electoral process was marked by “irregularities” from the beginning. Finally, some perspective from InfoLatam and the Latin American Herald Tribune on the similarities and differences between the Guatemala and Nicaragua presidential elections.

News Briefs

  • For more analysis on what the death of top FARC leader “Alfonso Cano” means for the rebel group, a spokesperson for think-tank International Crisis Group argues in Foreign Policy that it provides an opening for the government to negotiate a peace settlement. Semana notes that Cano’s death, so soon after the election of former M-19 guerrilla Gustavo Petro as mayor of Bogota, points to the FARC’s fatal error in choosing war over politics as their primary means of achieving power. The magazine also published an opinion piece by a representative from think-tank Nuevo Arco Iris, who argues that from the guerrillas’ perspective, it is in their interest to continue fighting for the next decade. One clear sign that the FARC may be willing to enter dialogue is if they move to release their remaining 21 political hostages (as well as an unknown number of hostages held for extortion). This will be a key development to look out for in the coming months. Meanwhile, Reuters gives a general profile of the rural population most affected by clashes between the FARC and government forces.
  • The Wall Street Journal examines what the election of Otto Perez Molina means for Guatemala, noting that one challenge that president-elect faces is budgeting the cash needed for his proposed “iron fist” (mano dura) security policies. Guatemala has one of the lowest tax-collection rates in the world, making it tough for the government to fund ambitious security operations, the newspaper says. Plaza Publica, meanwhile, analyzes what the return of conservative, military rule in the president’s office may entail.
  • Meanwhile, Guatemala authorities announced the arrest of a member of crime family the Lorenzanas. The capture of Elio Lorenzana, reportedly coordinated with the assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), is the third arrest of a Lorenzana family member since 2010, reports ElPeriodico.
  • The assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement, William Brownfield, told the Associated Press that he predicts drug trafficking routes will eventually shift away from Central America and back to the Caribbean. These maritime routes were most frequently used in the 1970s and 1980. Due to law enforcement pressure, trafficking patterns then shifted into Mexico and the Northern Triangle.
  • President Evo Morales clarified yesterday that despite the restoration of ties between the U.S. and Bolivia, the Andean nation will not allow DEA agents to re-enter the country. Morales expelled the anti-drug agency in 2008, citing the violation of national sovereignty.
  • The Miami Herald has a feature on Guantanamo, the “most expensive prison on earth.” The newspaper calculates that U.S. taxpayers pay $800,000 a year in order to maintain the 171 detainees in Guatanamo.
  • Brazil’s labor minister is facing down accusations of corruption and may yet become the seventh cabinet official to step down this year, reports Reuters. The news agency also has some analysis on how President Dilma Rousseff may be benefiting politically from her perceived hardline stance against these corrupt officials. The Financial Times provides a brief timeline of the corruption scandals seen so far, several involving officials which Roussef inherited from the previous administration.
  • Reuters examines the political implications if President Felipe Calderon’s sister wins a state ballot vote for governor of Michoacan next Sunday, a significant win for the PAN and a blow against the PRI if it happens.

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