Thursday, October 4, 2012

Election day looms in Venezuela

With just three days remaining before Venezuelans head to the polls to vote in presidential elections, media coverage is reaching fever pitch.

In a Miami Herald opinion column Andres Oppenheimer suggests that win or lose challenger Henrique Capriles “will put President Hugo Chavez’s 14-year-old regime against the ropes.” Oppenheimer believes Chavez is unlikely to see out his term if he wins due to his ill-health, in which case new elections should be called offering Capriles the chance to build on a strong showing in Sunday’s vote.

Oppenheimer also argues Capriles is unlikely to cry fraud without hard proof as to do so may undermine the opposition’s chances in the coming governor’s elections in December and mayoral elections in April as supporters may conclude there is no point voting in rigged elections.

James Bosworth in Bloggings By Boz agrees that the opposition is likely to make gains in those elections if Capriles can hold his base together, saying “those of us who have seen the detailed internal numbers know that Chavista candidates are getting crushed in the polling on local elections.”

Boris Muñoz writes at Newsweek of the boost Chavez has received through his “miraculous” recovery from Cancer, even going so far as quote speculation that “Chavez’s long battle with cancer is really an elaborate charade masterfully orchestrated in complicity with the government of Havana

Bloomberg also looks at the implications of Chavez standing down through ill-health at a later date as well as providing an analysis of the economic context of the election.

Elsewhere Mark Weisbrot from the Center for Economic and Policy Research argues in the Guardian that doubts expressed in the Western media over the legitimacy of Venezuela’s democratic process stems from the U.S. government’s antipathy towards an independent leftist government, concluding “Venezuela – is probably the most lied-about country in the world.”

Also in the Guardian is a portrait of challenger Enrique Capriles, while the The Miami Herald analyses what a Chavez defeat could mean for Cuba following Capriles’ statement that he would end programs swapping oil for doctors and teachers and the Nuevo Herald looks at “the fear factor” in the elections.

News Briefs
  • Honduras Culture and Politcs reports on the Supreme Court ruling finding the law enabling plans for “model cities” in Honduras (see Tuesday’s Pan-American Post) unconstituional.
  • Former Peruvian President  Alberto Fujimori may ask for a pardon for his conviction for human rights abuses later this week, according to Americas Quarterly.
  • The New York Times reports on education cuts in Cuba, which have seen student numbers fall by 27% in schools and 50% in universities between 2008 and 2011. According to the Times there has also been a reduction in the study options available to Cubans as the government looks to channel people into skilled trades to “boost stagnating production” at the expensive of professional subjects and the arts.
  • In other news on Cuba, the Inter Press Service takes a look at the island’s “fragile” power grid, which, it says will struggle to cope with demand without serious investment, suggesting turning to renewables may be the answer. 
  • The WSJ reports that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ prostate cancer surgery was a success. A Colombia Reports article on the subject includes Santos’ first post-op tweet thanking well-wishers for their support.
  • Insight Crime analyzes allegations that the Beltran Leyva cartel were behind an attack on CIA agents in Mexico carried out by Mexican Federal Police. The accusations came from a “senior U.S. official” who spoke to the AP.
  • The L.A. Times has a feature looking at the prospect of peace in Colombia ahead of talks between government and the FARC guerrillas, concluding that the country remains optimistic despite the considerable challenges ahead.
  • The Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog looks at the growing african palm industry in the Peten region of Guatemala. Locals claim that they are being forced off their lands through pressure and intimidation  to make way for palm plantations and that the much vaunted jobs the industry creates pay poverty wages that are below the national minimum wage.
  • The Inter Press Service features an interview with Dr. Ana Guezmes - the UN-Women regional director for mexico, Central America, Cuba and the Dominican Republic about her violence against women in Latin America. Dr. Guezmes argues that violence against women is a problem of “pandemic proportions” and that young people and men must be drawn into the “historic cause” against domestic violence.
  • The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has a detailed analysis of Brazil’s “chaotic” transport system and infrstructure, looking at the role played by the private sector and  the “dearth of appropriate planning and complex regulatory environment” brought in by the government.” According to COHA, “the whole transportation matrix of the country needs to be remodeled.”