Americas This Week: March 11, 2023

March 11, 2023

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

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, Chile. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Sfs90 (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.

Julieta Heduvan and Juan Manuel Harán, The Diplomat (March 11, 2023): How Taiwan Become a Key Issue in Paraguay’s Presidential Election

Guatemala General Elections: June 25, 2023

Guatemala’s last elections, in 2019, took place in a climate of chaos and uncertainty. Incumbent president Jimmy Morales, a comedian and political outsider, ran on an anti-corruption platform in 2015 but since being elected has repeatedly attacked the UN’s anti-corruption body CICIG after it started investigating his family members.

AFP (March 4, 2023): Guatemala journalists warn free press under threat

Chile Constitutional Council Elections: May 7, 2023 Constitutional Referendum: November/December (expected)

Following protests starting in 2019, an elected group of Chileans drafted a new constitution in 2022. The group produced one of the world’s most left-wing proposed constitutions in the world, but voters rejected it by a large margin. 

Subsequently, lawmakers agreed to restart the process. Therefore, Chile will hold elections for a new constituent assembly in April or May, with  a referendum on the draft constitution that body produces expected in November or December.

Meanwhile, Chile’s left-wing president, Gabriel Boric, who took office in March 2022, has an approval rating of only 25 percent.

Robert L. Funk, Americas Quarterly (March 8, 2023): One Year On: Which Boric Presides Over Chile?

Reuters (March 6, 2023): Chile starts second attempt to draft new constitution

Guyana Local Elections: June 12, 2023

Guyana is on the cusp of potentially seismic economic changes due to the discovery of oil. The country could soon go from South America’s second-poorest to a petrostate as rich as Qatar. Both of Guyana’s major parties naturally want to be in power when the oil money starts coming in. As a result, Guyana is in a state of political turmoil.

Denis Chabrol, Demerara Waves (March 6, 2023): Norton puts Guyana on early general election alert

Argentina Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 22, 2023

Nick Burns, Americas Quarterly (March 9, 2023): As Argentina’s Economy Sputters, Security Concerns Shape Its Campaign

Lucila Sigal and Eliana Raszewski, Reuters (March 9, 2023): Argentina’s ‘unprecedented’ drought pummels farmers and economy

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.

Alonso Moleiro, El País (March 10, 2023): Venezuela hardens tone, demands US lift sanctions in exchange for dialogue

Mark Feierstein and Juan Cruz, Americas Quarterly (March 7, 2023): A Bipartisan U.S. Approach On Venezuela Is Possible—and Necessary

AFP (March 7, 2023): Venezuela’s Guaido to stand in opposition primary elections

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.

Americas Quarterly (March 9, 2023 – podcast): AQ Podcast: Gustavo Petro’s Challenging Moment

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.

Carlos S. Maldonado, El País (March 6, 2023): The toxic power of Nayib Bukele: The technocrat president of El Salvador has transformed into an authoritarian despot with no regard for the rule of law and human rights

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

Imran Bayoumi, The Diplomat (March 11, 2023): China Is Meddling on America’s Doorstep : Reports that China interfered in Canada’s 2021 elections should raise alarms in the United States.

AP (March 7, 2023): Canada announces a probe to examine possible Chinese election interference

Leyland Cecco, The Guardian (March 7, 2023): Canada roiled by leaked intelligence reports of Chinese election ‘meddling’

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. Now, some are calling for Lasso’s impeachment and/or early elections.

Bnamericas (March 10, 2023): Lasso doesn’t rule out early elections in Ecuador

Alexandra Valencia, Reuters (March 4, 2023): Ecuador assembly backs report calling for Lasso impeachment process

Brazil General Elections: October 2, 2022

Vaughn Hillyard, Olympia Sonnier and Kevin Urgiles, NBC (March 4, 2023): Former President Bolsonaro says he intends to return to Brazil this month

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).

Kai M. Thaler, Lawfare (March 5, 2023): Nicaragua’s Political Repression Will Continue Despite Prisoner Release

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

Buenos Aires Times/AFP (March 10, 2023): Peru judge extends ex-president Castillo’s pre-trial detention to three years

Suriname General Elections: May 25, 2020

Suriname held elections on May 25, 2020. Dési Bouterse, a leftist who has been a major figure in Suriname politics since 1980, lost his bid for re-election. He initially came to power in 1980 by helping to lead a sergeant’s coup. In 1982, in response to increased calls for a return to civilian rule, the regime murdered 15 prominent opposition activists – the incident, dubbed the December murders, continues to reverberate, and and in November 2019, he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.

Scott B. MacDonald notes: ”On February 17, 2023, a protest against Suriname’s austerity policies and corruption morphed into a full-blown riot and looting. These riots ended with police shots fired, arrests, and considerable damage to the center of the capital city, Paramaribo. Protesters called for the removal of President Chandrikapersad “Chan” Santokhi and Vice President Ronnie Brunswijk.”

Scott B. MacDonald, Global Americas (March 9, 2023): Suriname’s Tough Road Ahead

Americas Elections Coming Up in 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

Guyana Local Elections: June 12, 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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