Thursday, October 30, 2014

Evo's MAS Gets a 2/3 Majority in Bolivia

It took two and a half weeks, but Bolivia’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has finally released the final vote count for the country’s October 12 general election.  According to the TSE President Evo Morales not only won re-election, but his Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party also secured a solid two-thirds legislative majority.

La Razon reports that the TSE found that the MAS obtained 61.36 percent of the vote, while opposition leader Doria Medina’s Democratic Unity (UD) party received just 24.23 percent, followed by 9.24 percent for the Christian Democrat Party. Both the Movement without Fear (MSM) and Bolivian Green Party received less than 3 percent of the popular vote, meaning that they will both lose their formal legal status.

Electoral officials’ breakdown of legislative seats for the 2015-2020 period show that the MAS will control 25 of the Senate’s 36 seats and 88 out of 130 (the Associated Press reports 89) in the Chamber of Deputies, giving Morales the two-thirds supermajority he hoped for going into the vote.

This is a major victory for Morales, as his party’s two-thirds majority was upset in 2011 when five lawmakers broke from the MAS coalition in opposition to the TIPNIS highway project.  

The MAS’ solidified control in Congress is also sure to raise questions about whether the party will use it to alter the constitution to allow Morales to run again once his current term expires in 2020. So far the Bolivian president has denied that he is considering it, telling BBC Mundo’s Ignacio de los Reyes that “neither re-election nor reforming the Constitution to stay in power until 2025 are on the agenda.”  

However, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa also made similar remarks before ultimately coming out in support of a measure allowing indefinite re-election earlier this year.  Only time will tell whether Morales follows this path, but his decision will have major implications for Bolivia’s democracy for years to come, as journalist Martín Sivak wrote recently in a New York Times op-ed.

News Briefs
  • Advocates of the U.S. improving its ties to Cuba, especially regarding humanitarian work in Ebola-stricken countries, should be pleased: yesterday Nelson Arboleda, the Central America director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), attended an ALBA summit on Ebola in Havana, Cuba. According to Reuters, Arboleda was invited by the Pan-American Health Organization.
  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto continues to fumble his government’s response to the disappearance of 43 students of Iguala, Guerrero. Yesterday, the president met with the parents of the missing for six hours inside the Los Pinos presidential residence, joined by Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam and Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong. Following the meeting, the administration released a 10-point agreement detailing its commitment to finding the victims and prosecuting those responsible, and announced the creation of a special commission to pursue the case. However, Animal Politico reports that immediately after the document was published the victims’ relatives held a press conference to announce that the president’s response was unsatisfactory.  The AP also offers some insight into the length of the meeting, noting that human rights officials said that families were “refusing to leave until Pena Nieto signed a document that would satisfy everyone.”
  • Following Semana magazine’s report alleging that Colombian military intelligence had gathered a list of emails of journalists, human rights activists and peace negotiators with an apparent intent to spy on them, the New York Times has picked up on the story as well, noting that a former NYT reporter was also on the list. For its take on the story, La Silla Vacia suggests that it could be a product of fears within the military of a post-conflict Colombia in which officers could be investigated or lose their positions due to downsizing, among other things.
  • Salvadoran news site El Faro looks at recently declassified Argentine intelligence documents, which show that the junta in Argentina had close security ties with the Salvadoran government in the 1970s and 1980s. Among other things, documents show that analysts in the Argentine embassy in San Salvador were closely watching the “subversive” activities of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
  • The Miami Herald reports that the Obama administration is sending State Department official Thomas Shannon to Haiti today to speak with pro-government and opposition lawmakers there to end the gridlock that has held up long-overdue legislative and local elections.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports on Bolivia’s recent law that allows children as young as 12 to work under contract with parental consent, and as young as 10 to receive payment for work if they remain in school. The paper offers a good report on the controversy surrounding the measure, with supporters describing it as a recognition of an unfortunate reality and critics calling it formalized child abuse.
  • According to The Guardian, the grandson of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is rallying supporters of the late ruler around a new political party, the Orden Republicano Mi Patria. While the party is right-wing and opposes marriage equality, it is in favor of legalizing marijuana and making other reforms to the Pinochet-era constitution.
  • In a rare sign of progress in Guatemala’s battle against impunity, El Periodico reports that a judge in the country is pursuing charges against three former police officers accused of killing the main investigator into the 1990 murder of human rights advocate and  anthropologist Myrna Mack.
  • The AP reports on a Chilean pilot project sponsored by the Daya Foundation and the Santiago municipality of La Florida to grow cannabis for medicinal purposes, a bid to provide some 200 cancer patients with cannabis oil to alleviate pain and side effects of their treatment.