Americas This Week: February 18, 2023

February 18, 2023

A weekly review of news and analysis of elections in the Americas, usually posted on Saturdays and occasionally updated throughout the week.

A beach in Mochima National Park, Venezuela. Venezuela is due to hold a presidential election next year and the opposition has set its primary for October 22, 2023. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Alfredo Varela Guédez (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Americas Elections

Paraguay Presidential, Legislative, and Gubernatorial Elections: April 30, 2023

Paraguay’s election could result in yet another country switching its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the PRC. Incumbent president Mario Abdo from the conservative Colorado Party is ineligible to run for another term. Opposition candidate Efrain Alegre from the liberal PRLA has said that if he wins, he’ll recognize Beijing, while Colorado’s candidate, Santiago Pena, has said he will maintain relations with Taiwan.

Colorado has been in power most of the time since the 1950s.

Paraguay returned to democracy in 1989, following the collapse of the 35-year dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, but a number of issues remain. These elections took place in the context of political violence and attacks on candidates. As a result, it is rated Partly Free by Freedom House.

Anthony B. Kim, Washington Examiner (February 17, 2023): A greater Paraguay-Taiwan relationship matters to America in holding back China

AP (February 15, 2023): Paraguay leader praises Taiwan as ‘lighthouse of democracy’

Argentina Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 22, 2023

Reuters (February 13, 2023): Argentina’s Fernandez to replace Cabinet chief as election looms

Patrick Gillespie, Bloomberg (February 11, 2023): Argentina’s Dominant Political Force Looks Into the Electoral Abyss

Venezuela Opposition Presidential Primary: October 22, 2023 (presidential election due in 2024)

Venezuela’s politicalconstitutional, and humanitarian crises have been going on for years. The country became an authoritarian state under the now-deceased Hugo Chavez, who was elected in 1998 and completely transformed the country from a prosperous democracy to a leftist dictatorship. His successor, Nicolás Maduro, has continued on that path. Socialist economic policies have destroyed the economy. Although Venezuela is a major oil producer, 90 percent of Venezuelans cannot afford sufficient food and many have fled. Moreover, the capital, Caracas, has become one of the most violent cities in the world.

Nonetheless, Venezuela’s opposition is active and occasionally makes gains.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions, U.S. officials have begun to court the Venezuelan regime. Venezuela held regional and local elections on November 21, 2021. These followed the December 2020 legislative elections, which most of the opposition boycotted (opposition parties did participate in the 2021 local elections).

Reuters (February 15, 2023): Venezuela opposition to hold presidential primary on Oct. 22

Ana Paula Morales, Catholic News Agency (February 14, 2023): Venezuela is falling back into ‘extreme poverty,’ archbishop says

Reuters (February 12, 2023): Voter Apathy a Hurdle for Venezuelan Opposition as It Seeks to Unseat Maduro

Colombia Regional Elections: October 29, 2023

In 2022, Colombia elected its first-ever leftist president, Gustavo Petro. In concurrent legislative elections, however, no party won a majority and centrists did not perform well. Ironically given his name, Petro pledged to end oil exploration.

Colombian politics are polarized and the climate is tense.

AFP (February 15, 2023): Thousands protest against Colombian president’s reform plans

Joshua Collins, Al Jazeera (February 13, 2023): Colombia peace talks with ELN rebels resume amid tensions

Haiti General Elections: Long overdue, could happen in 2023 but don’t hold your breath

Dánica Coto and Rob Gillies, AP (February 16, 2023): Canada to deploy navy vessels to Haiti as violence worsens

Shawna Chen, Axios (February 14, 2023): 4 more charged in Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination

El Salvador General Elections: February 4, 2024

El Salvador has seen an increase in authoritarianism under President Nayib Bukele, a populist elected in 2019. Bukele, a millennial in a baseball cap, is not affiliated with either ARENA or the FMLN, El Salvador’s two dominant parties on the right and left respectively. 

In 2021, Bukele’s allies won the legislative elections in a landslide, allowing him to consolidate his hold on the country with a legislative majority. Since then, he has ramped up his attacks on critics and the press. He has announced that he is running for re-election in 2024, following a decision by the country’s Supreme Court to scrap a ban on presidents running for a consecutive second term.

Anna-Cat Brigida, Al Jazeera (February 17, 2023): El Salvador prisoner ‘rearrests’ fuel new concerns: Growing number of people detained in gang crackdown being ‘rearrested’, experts say, raising fears policy will not end.

Graham Keeley, Voice of America (February 15, 2023): Hostile Attacks, Surveillance a Threat to El Salvador’s Media

Canada Federal Elections: Due by October 2025 – snap elections possible (various provincial and local elections due between now and then)

Brian Platt, Bloomberg (February 17, 2023): China’s Alleged Election Meddling Creates Problem for Trudeau

Richard Raycraft, CBC News (February 17, 2023): Poilievre accuses Trudeau of ignoring election interference by China: Globe and Mail says a CSIS report details Beijing’s plan to support Liberals

Past Americas Elections

Ecuador Regional and Local Elections: February 5, 2023

Ecuador held local and regional elections on February 5, as well as a referendum on constitutional amendments backed by President Guillermo Lasso. Lasso, who is center-right, was elected in a close runoff in 2021 in one of the handful of Latin American elections that resisted the “pink tide.” He is up for re-election in 2025.

The elections dealt a blow to Lasso, with the leftist opposition winning most major cities, including the port of Guayaquil, the country’s biggest city, which the right had controlled since the 90s.

Sebastián Hurtado, Americas Quarterly (February 14, 2023 – podcast): Ecuador: President Lasso in Trouble?

Brazil General Elections: October 2, 2022

Naiara Galarraga Gortázar, El País (February 15, 2023): Bolsonaro says he will return to Brazil next month to lead the opposition

Nicaragua General Elections: November 7, 2021

Nicaragua held general elections on November 7, 2021. President Daniel Ortega, who has been in power for 20 years, sought and won another term after jailing his strongest opponents. Under Ortega’s rule, Nicaragua has become increasingly authoritarian, with rule of law and fundamental freedoms under assault.

Several opposition candidates were arrested before the election, including Cristiana Chamorro, who was seen by many as the opposition’s best chance of ousting Ortega (in fact, her mother, Violeta Chamorro, beat Ortega in the 1990 election, becoming Nicaragua’s first – and to date only – female president and ending 11 years of Sandinista rule).

AFP (February 16, 2023): Nicaragua yanks citizenship from 94 more dissidents

The Economist (February 16, 2023): Daniel Ortega expels 222 political prisoners from Nicaragua

Jessica Ludwig, George W. Bush Presidential Center (February 14, 2023): Now is not the time to let up on Nicaragua’s Ortega regime

AP (February 12, 2023): Catholic bishop’s 26-year prison sentence in Nicaragua draws concern from Pope

Peru General Elections: April 11, 2021 (early elections could be set for April or December 2024)

Soufan Center (February 17, 2023): Peru’s Political Crisis Deepens as Congress Fails to Set New Elections

John Polga-Hecimovich, GIS (February 16, 2023): Peru’s cycle of instability continues

Bolivia General Election Re-Run: October 18, 2020

Bolivian politics are turbulent, polarized, and chaotic. In the October 2019 elections, left-wing populist President Evo Morales ran for a controversial fourth term and declared himself the winner, after defying a referendum on presidential term limits. Officials annulled the results in the face of credible evidence of vote-rigging. The election was re-run in October 2020, but during the interim, conservative opposition leader and then-Senate vice president Jeanine Áñez declared herself interim president.

Subsequently, socialist Luis Arce won the October 2020 re-run. Evo Morales has returned to the country to lead his party, although apparently not every member of his party loves him. Opposition candidates won the mayoral elections in 8 out of 10 of Bolivia’s biggest cities during the 2021 local elections.

These elections happened amid political tension over the arrest of former interim president Jeanine Anez, who was recently sentenced to prison in a move the opposition slammed as politically motivated.

Thomas Graham, Foreign Policy (February 13, 2023): The Internal Rift Threatening Bolivia’s Left: Will the conservative opposition recover political power in one of Latin America’s leftist strongholds?

Regional Analysis

The Economist (February 15, 2023): Latin America’s left-wing presidents risk stoking inflation: Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is the latest to query central-bank independence

Americas Elections Coming Up in 2023

Jamaica Local Elections: February 2023 (long overdue – date still not set)

Guyana Local Elections: March 13, 2023

Argentina, Gubernatorial Elections in Corrientes and Neuquen: March 26, 2023

Paraguay Presidential, Legislative, and Gubernatorial Elections: April 30, 2023

Chile Constitutional Council Elections: May 7, 2023

Canada, Alberta Provincial Elections: May 29, 2023

British Virgin Islands Assembly Election: May 2023 (due)

Mexico, Some Gubernatorial Elections: June 4, 2023

Guatemala General Elections: June 25, 2023

Argentina Presidential Primary: August 13, 2023

Guatemala General Election Runoffs: August 27, 2023

Canada, Prince Edward Island Provincial Elections: October 2, 2023

Canada, Manitoba Provincial Elections and Northwest Territories Territorial Elections: October 3, 2023

Argentina Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 22, 2023

Venezuela Opposition Presidential Primary: October 22, 2023

Colombia Regional Elections: October 29, 2023

Argentina Presidential Runoff: November 19, 2023

Dominica Indirect Presidential Election (by parliament): October 2023 (due)

Chile Constitutional Referendum: November/December 2023 (expected)

Trinidad and Tobago Local Elections: December 20, 2023

Haiti Presidential and Legislative Elections: Long overdue, but could happen in 2023 (delayed from November 7, 2021, no new date set)

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