Thursday, August 21, 2014

Marina Silva is Officially in Brazil's Presidential Race

Brazil’s Socialist Party has confirmed that Marina Silva will take the place of the late Eduardo Campos as its presidential candidate, shaking up the country’s political landscape six weeks before general elections.

As O Globo reports, yesterday’s announcement came after a day-long meeting between the leaders of Campos’ Socialist Party (PSB) and Silva’s political movement, the Sustainability Network (RS). During the meeting it was reportedly settled that Silva would not be required to fully step in for Campos and campaign for candidates with whom she herself has no political affiliation, which includes PSB-aligned candidates in São Paulo, Paraná and Santa Catarina states.

Upon taking over the campaign, Silva also appointed Bazileu Margarido as her campaign’s finance coordinator. Margarido is a close confidante of Silva’s, and served with her as an environmental ministry official in the Lula administration. Sustainability Network spokesman Walter Feldman will take his place as joint director of the PSB-RS campaign, Estadão reports.

In a press conference Wednesday evening, Silva addressed concerns about her capacity to balance the interests of the PSB and her political movement. Saying she sees the two as “brothers,” she promised to treat differences between their agendas “with generosity,” even as she renewed her commitment to register the RS as an official political party in its own right.

PSB leaders named Congressman Beto Albuquerque as Silva’s running mate, a selection that Reuters notes may have been made as much for his PSB ties as his ties to the powerful agribusiness sector. Because of her stance on environmental issues, this is a likely weak point for Silva, especially compared with the industry’s support for the other main challenger to President Dilma Rousseff, Aecio Neves of the Social Democracy Party (PSDB).

As Monday’s Datafolha survey showed, Neves and Silva are tied in second place behind Rousseff at around 20 percent each, roughly 15 points behind the president. However, the most striking finding of the poll found that a hypothetical second-round Marina/Dilma matchup was a statistical tie.

This puts Rousseff in a tougher spot than before Campos’ death, and on Wednesday Reuters fueled the intrigue even further by reporting that a source from the Neves camp confirmed that the PSDB candidate would back Silva in the event of a runoff race with the president.

Still, as Cláudio Gonçalves Couto of the Fundação Getúlio Vargas is quoted in today’s New York Times, it’s worth remembering that the accuracy of Silva’s poll numbers at this point is unclear. As he notes, “We need to wait a couple of weeks for the emotions to settle from the death of Eduardo Campos.”

 News Briefs
  • The head of the Guatemalan military’s joint chiefs of staff, General Rudy Ortiz, died yesterday in a helicopter crash in the northwestern province of Huehuetenango. Prensa Libre reports that the official was on a routine visit to military installation in the area, and that the aircraft encountered bad weather.
  • At the Colombian peace talks in Havana today, the negotiating teams are slated to announce the makeup of the 12-member “Historic Commission of the Conflict and its Victims.” FARC rebels and the government have selected six members of the commission, as well one “rapporteur” each. Once it is convened, the body will be responsible for drafting a final report on the history and impact of the country’s armed conflict in four months’ time, as El Espectador reports.
  • A new poll by Uruguayan pollster Cifra  brings more bad news for the country’s governing Frente Amplio (FA) coalition, suggesting that the FA will likely lose its congressional majority, and potentially the presidency, in October’s general elections. The August survey showed 41 percent voter intention for the FA (two less than a month ago), the National Party with 32 percent (an increase of two points from July), and the Colorado Party steady at 15 percent.  El Pais has a roundup of other polls conducted so far this month, all of which suggest that a FA majority in congress is likely out of the question.
  • The National Security Archives has an analysis of recently-released documents by Mexico’s National Migration Institute, which shed light on the August 2010 San Fernando massacre of 72 migrants allegedly at the hands of the Zetas. The fact that the documents were released in accordance with a ruling that guarantees access to information on human rights abuses is significant, as it constitutes the first time that a Mexican federal agency has framed the massacre as such.
  • Peruvian President Ollanta Humala set off a diplomatic clash with neighboring Chile on Tuesday after presenting a map during an official ceremony that depicts contested territory as part of Peru. As the Wall Street Journal notes, Chilean authorities say that the map does not coincide with a January International Court of Justice ruling on their border dispute, because the court only ruled on their maritime -- and not land -- limits.
  • In Fidel Castro’s latest “Reflexiones” column, the AP notes that the retired Cuban leader claims that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro met with him on Tuesday, a belated birthday visit that was previously unannounced in Venezuela.
  • While Argentine President Cristina Fernandez has presented a plan to pay international creditors through the country’s national bank rather than a New York intermediary bank, as the Guardian reports, Reuters notes that financial analysts say there will likely be no resolution to the situation until after next year’s presidential election.
  • The Financial Times hosts an opinion piece by Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez, who argues that China’s increasing investment in the region is being accompanied by a political transformation, whereby traditionally populist systems are being replaced by something resembling “authoritarian capitalism.” As evidence, he cites the business friendly policies of Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, which he claims is accompanied by a heavy-handed approach to press freedom and judicial independence.
  • In response to continuing reductions in the number of international airline flights to Venezuela over payment disputes, the U.S embassy in Caracas has issued a warning to American travelers visiting the country that they could risk being stranded there. El Nuevo Herald reports that the scaled back flights, as well as a jump in prices to make international calls to the country, give the impression that the country is becoming “increasingly isolated” from the rest of the world.
  • In a column for El Tiempo, Latin American political analyst Juan Gabriel Tokatlian takes a look at Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ nuanced -- and occasionally contradictory -- position on drug policy reform. While Tokatlian notes that it’s unrealistic for the hemisphere’s drug reformers to expect the president to entirely reject prohibition, he suggests that Santos could show more leadership on the issue by embracing five proposed principles. These include: recognizing that eradicating drugs and drug use is impossible; putting people at the center of policies rather than substances; admitting that any drug policy should have medium and long-term goals rather than immediate ones; prioritizing a health approach over the traditional security-based one; and finally, recognizing that trial and error-based experimentation with drug policy alternatives is important and necessary.