Americas This Week: July 24, 2021

July 24, 2021

A weekly review of news and analysis of elections in the Americas, usually posted on Saturdays and occasionally updated throughout the week. For a full electoral calendar and interactive map, click here.

Protesters in Havana, Cuba, which saw the biggest anti-regime protests in decades this month. Photo credit: Wikimedia/14yrmedio (CC BY 3.0)

Upcoming Americas Elections

Saint Lucia Parliamentary Elections: July 26, 2021

Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia, a democracy with competitive elections and regular transfers of power, has scheduled general elections for July 26, after a slight delay due to COVID-19. The two main parties are the center-right United Workers Party, led by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, and the main opposition social democratic Saint Lucia Labour Party. More

Jamaica Gleaner (July 24, 2021): Commonwealth group begins observation of elections in St Lucia

Haiti Parliamentary and Presidential Elections: September 26, 2021 (delays possible)

Haiti’s political crisis went into overdrive on July 7 with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Moïse had been governing by decree for over a year and stood accused by many of attempting to consolidate power through a controversial constitutional change (Moïse ultimately postponed the referendum.

Allegations of fraud followed Haiti’s presidential 2015 election, sparking a political crisis that remains ongoing. Some have called for the upcoming elections to be delayed.

Anthony Faiola, Washington Post (July 23, 2021): Haiti buries a president, but its long-term crisis lives on

Oliver Stuenkel, Carnegie Endowment (July 21, 2021): Haitians Should Be at the Center of Rebuilding Their Country

AFP (July 21, 2021): Haiti’s opposition, civil society distance themselves from new PM

Kejal Vyas and Juan Montes, Wall Street Journal (July 21, 2021): Haiti Inaugurates New Leader Two Weeks After President’s Assassination: Prime Minister Ariel Henry says his main goal is to organize elections to take place in 120 days; ‘I’m not afraid’

AP (July 19, 2021): New Haiti Leader With International Backing to Take Charge: Haiti’s elections minister says that interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph will step down in the wake of the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

Nicaragua General Elections: November 7, 2021

Nicaragua holds general elections on November 7, 2021. President Daniel Ortega, who has been in power for 20 years, will seek another term, and under his rule, Nicaragua has become increasingly authoritarian, with rule of law and fundamental freedoms under assault.

Several opposition candidates have been arrested, including Cristiana Chamorro, 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).

DW (July 25, 2021): Nicaragua: Another presidential contender arrested ahead of election: Opposition leader Noel Vidaurre became the seventh potential candidate to be arrested by President Daniel Ortega’s government ahead of Nicaragua’s November 7 election.

AFP (July 20, 2021): Nicaragua’s under-fire Ortega seeking fourth term in a row

AP (July 19, 2021): Nicaragua marks 1979 revolution date with opponents jailed

Argentina Provincial Elections Midterm Legislative Elections: November 14, 2021 (postponed from October)

Argentina is due to hold midterm legislative elections this fall, along with a few sets of provincial elections. Although most of the country’s 23 provinces hold their elections at the same time as presidential elections (which last took place in 2019 and are due again in 2023), a few are due to hold elections this year.

Argentina’s 2021 elections – both provincial and legislative – are happening in the context of an economic crisis, which the leftist government and COVID-19 have exacerbated. In the 2019 presidential election, Peronist Alberto Fernández defeated center-right incumbent Mauricio Macri (the first defeat for an Argentine incumbent president), running on a ticket with populist firebrand Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who served as president from 2007 to 2015. Kirchner herself did not run for president because she was facing criminal charges related to misconduct during her time in office. Frente de Todos, the party formed by Kirchner and Fernández, currently holds a majority in the Senate and is the biggest party in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house.

Rio Times (July 22, 2021): Argentine opposition and ruling party finalize lists of candidates for primary elections

Chile Presidential and Legislative Elections: November 21, 2021

Chile holds presidential and legislative elections in November, following presidential primaries on July 18 that produced surprise results ). These elections follow the May 2021 local elections, and importantly, elections to the Constitutional Assembly. The results of the primaries indicate that voters seem to want a return to moderation.

Incumbent president Sebastian Pinera, from the center-right Chile Vamos coalition, is not running for another term. He currently has low approval ratings, posing a challenge for his party’s candidate (who will be chosen in the July primary election). Moreover, the conservatives failed to secure even one third of the Constitutional Assembly. In the July 18 presidential primaries, center-right Sebastian Sichel prevailed over candidates who were both more established and more to the right. Similarly, on the left, communist Daniel Jadue, a darling of the international left-wing commentariat, lost to Gabriel Boric, a socialist former student leader.

These elections are taking place in the context of a year of protests and riots, including violent looting, arson, and vandalism. Furthermore, an intense debate over the new constitution continues. More

Matthew Malinowski and Valentina Fuentes, Bloomberg (July 23, 2021): Center-Left Candidate Jumps Into Chile Presidential Race

Frida Ghitis, World Politics Review (July 22, 2021): Chile’s Voters Tack Back to the Center

MercoPress (July 19, 2021): Underdogs emerge triumphant from Chile’s primary elections

Venezuela Regional and Local Elections: November 21, 2021

Venezuela has scheduled regional and local elections for November 21, 2021. In December 2020, Venezuela held legislative elections despite members of the opposition and international community calling for a delay in order to ensure credible, fair elections. Ultimately, most of the opposition boycotted; however, opposition parties appear willing to participate in the elections this year.

Reuters (July 25, 2021): Venezuela’s Maduro aims for dialogue with opposition in August

Drew Agren, Catholic News Service (July 23, 2021): Vatican official’s call for serious negotiations in Venezuela draws rebuke

Alex Vasquez, Bloomberg (July 23, 2021): Venezuela’s Opposition Is Open to New Round of Political Talks

Al Jazeera (July 20, 2021): UK government backs Guaido in Venezuela gold dispute: Release of nearly $2bn Venezuelan gold held by Bank of England hinges on who London recognises as the country’s leader.

Colombia Legislative Elections: March 13, 2022 and Presidential Election: May 29, 2022

Colombia is due to hold presidential and legislative elections in spring 2022. Conservative Ivan Duque, elected president in 2018, is constitutionally barred from running for re-election. One of the frontrunners to replace him is former left-wing guerilla Gustavo Petro, who placed second in 2018. The country has been rocked by riots in recent weeks. The proximate cause was a tax bill, but the protests have grown – and grown violent – and dozens have died. 

Al Jazeera (July 22, 2021): Colombian authorities say ex-FARC behind recent Duque attack: Authorities say they arrested 10 former Colombian FARC rebels based in Venezuela responsible for two attacks last month.

Anderson Tepper, New York Times (July 22, 2021): ‘A Storm Waiting to Happen’: A Colombian Writer Watches His Home From Afar

AFP (July 20, 2021): Thousands protest as Colombia gov’t submits new tax reform plan

Inés San Martin, Crux (July 20, 2021): Latam bishops face unrest and division in Cuba, Colombia and Nicaragua

Brazil Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 2, 2022

Brazil holds general elections in October 2022. Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing populist firebrand president, is up for re-election. Former president Lula da Silva, himself a populist firebrand of the left-wing variety, will run against him. The country remains deeply polarized between right and left, although some are searching for a third candidate to challenge both Bolsonaro and Lula. More

Reuters (July 24, 2021): Brazilian protesters call for impeachment of Bolsonaro for 2nd time in a month

Terrence McCoy and Gabriela Sá Pessoa, Washington Post (July 23, 2021): Bolsonaro once said he’d stage a military takeover. Now Brazilians fear he could be laying the foundation for one.

Tom Phillips, The Guardian (July 23, 2021): Angry Brazilians dress as reptiles for their Covid jabs to mock Bolsonaro

Gabriel Stargardter and Lisandra Paraguassu, Reuters (July 22, 2021): ‘No banana republic’: Brazil’s politicos guarantee 2022 vote after bombshell story

Bryan Harris, Financial Times (July 19, 2021): Lula keeps policies a mystery on Brazil comeback trail: Former two-term president has emerged as serious challenger to Bolsonaro

Canada Parliamentary Elections: By October 16, 2023 (snap elections possible)

Canada is not due to hold federal elections until 2023, but snap elections could happen if the opposition manages to oust PM Justin Trudeau’s Liberal minority government in a vote of no confidence. Meanwhile, a number of provinces are holding elections this year.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey, Politico (July 21, 2021): All the reasons Trudeau should think twice about an election

Cuba Protests: July 2021

Cuba is run by a repressive communist regime. Although the country technically holds elections (the next parliamentary elections are due in 2023), they are neither free nor fair, and have been rigged to as to be unable to result in a change in government. However, in July 2021, Cubans began protesting in numbers not seen in over 30 years, calling for freedom.

Martha Kelner, Sky News (July 25, 2021): Cuba protests: More than 500 people still missing two weeks after anti-government protests, activists say

Tania Bruguera, Politico (July 21, 2021): ‘There’s No Turning Back’: A Cuban Dissident on What’s Really Happening in Cuba

Past Americas Elections

Peru Presidential Runoff: June 6, 2021

Peru held general elections for April 11, 2021. These elections are coming on the heels of snap legislative elections that took place on January 26, 2020, and in the context of political turmoil – including the impeachment of President Martín Vizcarra and the subsequent “week of three presidents” – and an economic crisis brought on by COVID-19.

The presidential runoff pitted self-described Marxist Pedro Castillo against right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, who is currently in prison for various crimes (Keiko is also currently facing criminal charges). Castillo came out of nowhere to win the first round. However, none of the 18 candidates received more votes than the number of blank ballots cast – a sign of voters’ deep frustration.

Castillo won the runoff by a margin of less than one percent. Fujimori is alleging fraud, but international observers largely dismissed that allegation. More

Editorial Board, Washington Post (July 23, 2021): Opinion: Peru’s democracy survived a squeaker election. Will it outlast a far-left president?

Alexandra Graham, The National Interest (July 21, 2021): A Recurring Populist Impulse Serves to Damage Peru

Stefano Pozzebon, Karol Suarez and Jose Armijo, CNN (July 19, 2021): Peru’s electoral authority declares Pedro Castillo President-elect, 6 weeks after runoff

Mexico Legislative, Gubernatorial, and Local Elections: June 6, 2021

Mexico held high-stakes midterm legislative elections, as well as gubernatorial elections in 15 of Mexico’s 31 states, and local elections, on June 6, 2021. In total, more than 21,000 offices are at stake – the biggest elections in Mexico’s history.

These elections were a key test for left-wing populist firebrand Andrés Manuel López Obrador (frequently called AMLO) ahead of the 2024 presidential election, and he largely lost – his MORENA party did not get its majority in the legislature, and although MORENA won most of the state governorships, it lost control of most areas of Mexico City. AMLO, who has been governing in an increasingly authoritarian manner, wants to transform Mexico by jettisoning the market economy, but these election results will make it harder for him to do that.

Meanwhile, political violence is on the rise, with at least 88 politicians killed and hundreds of candidates targeted. More

The Economist (July 24, 2021): Mexico’s middle class is struggling: First it was battered by the pandemic, now by the president

Patrick Gillespie, Bloomberg (July 24, 2021): Mexican president proposes replacing OAS with new institution

AP (July 22, 2021): Mexico fines candidate’s party for role of influencer wife

Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post (July 21, 2021): How Mexico’s traditional political espionage went high-tech: Victims say the use of Pegasus spyware through 2017 had a chilling effect on journalists and human rights workers. The government says it halted the practice, but questions remain.

Guatemala General Elections: June 16 and August 11, 2019

Guatemala held general elections in 2019. These elections 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.

In May 2019, two out of the three leading presidential candidates were disqualified by the Constitutional Court: Thelma Aldana, a former attorney general who jailed hundreds for corruption, and Zury Rios, daughter of the former dictator. The first round did not produce a winner. Left-wing former first lady Sandra Torres faces conservative former prison director Alejandro Giammattei in a runoff on August 18. In the congressional elections, Torres’ left-wing National Unity of Hope (UNE) party appears to have won the most seats, but some face a runoff. Twenty percent of the incumbents are under investigation for corruption, and 92 percent of Guatemalans do not trust their legislature.

Sofia Menchu, Reuters (July 24, 2021): Hundreds protest ouster of Guatemalan anti-graft crusader

Reuters (July 23, 2021): Guatemala attorney general removes head of anti-corruption unit

Americas Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Saint Lucia Parliamentary Elections: July 26, 2021

Argentina Salta Provincial Elections: August 15, 2021 (postponed from July 4, 2021)

Haiti Presidential and Legislative Elections, plus delayed constitutional referendum: September 26, 2021

Paraguay Municipal Elections: October 10, 2021

Nicaragua Presidential and Legislative Elections: November 7, 2021

Argentina Midterm Legislative Elections: November 14, 2021

Chile Presidential and Legislative Elections: November 21, 2021

Venezuela Regional and Local Elections: November 21, 2021

Honduras Presidential and Legislative Elections: November 28, 2021

Guyana Local Elections: Due in 2021

Costa Rica Presidential and Legislative Elections: February 6, 2022

Colombia Legislative Elections: March 13, 2022

Colombia Presidential Election: May 29, 2022

Bahamas Parliamentary Elections: May 2022 (due – snap elections possible)

Brazil Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 2, 2022

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