Americas This Week: August 7, 2021

August 7, 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.

A protest against government repression in Managua, Nicaragua in 2018, at the moment to Alexis Arguello, a boxing champion who became mayor of Managua and was then assassinated. Photo credit: Wikimedia/El arzobispo (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Americas Elections

Canada Nova Scotia Provincial Elections: August 17, 2021 and 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.

Rebecca Lau, Global News Canada (August 5, 2021): The Nova Scotia election, the pandemic and a tide of plummeting voter turnout in Canada

Greg Mercer, Globe and Mail (August 1, 2021): As election looms, unity felt across Nova Scotia amid pandemic may be fading

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, but the interim government has said they will take place this year (although the date could be moved).

Reuters (August 6, 2021): Haiti, one month without assassinated president Jovenel Moise

Widlore Mérancourt, Samantha Schmidt and Shawn Boburg, Washington Post (August 6, 2021): In Haiti, a clouded assassination probe prompts fears of political crackdowns

James M. Roberts and Giovanna Milano, Heritage Foundation (August 6, 2021): President’s Assassination, Corruption, Gang Violence Accelerate Haiti’s Downward Spiral

Tara Adhikari, Christian Science Monitor (August 3, 2021): Haiti’s history of resilience – beyond coups and natural disaster

Sandra Lemaire, Voice of America (August 3, 2021): Haiti Electoral Council Chief Vows to Hold Elections Despite Setbacks

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).

Anthony J. Blinken Press Statement, U.S. Department of State (August 7, 2021): The Lack of Prospects for Free and Fair Election in Nicaragua

AFP (August 7, 2021): Main Nicaragua opposition party disqualified ahead of elections

Stephen Gibbs and Lucinda Elliott, The Times of London (August 7, 2021): Beauty queen rival jailed as Nicaragua’s new-age granny wields iron fist

Ryan C. Berg, CSIS (August 6, 2021): Nicaragua’s Upcoming Election Highlights Need for Long-Term Forms of Pressure on the Ortega Regime

DW (August 5, 2021): Nicaragua charges ex-beauty queen running for election: Berenice Quezada has been disqualified from running as vice president in the upcoming vote. She is the eighth candidate to be arrested since May.

José Miguel Vivanco, Human Rights Watch (August 5, 2021): New EU Sanctions on Nicaraguan Officials Amid Escalating Crisis

Editorial Board, Washington Post (August 5, 2021): Opinion: Democracy is under attack in Nicaragua

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. Incumbent president Sebastian Pinera, from the center-right Chile Vamos coalition, is not running for another term. He currently has low approval ratings. Moreover, the conservatives failed to secure even one third of the Constitutional Assembly. 

The results of the July 18 presidential primaries indicate that voters seem to want a return to moderation. 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. A number of other candidates could also enter the race, leaving the result far from clear.

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

Benedict Mander, Financial Times (August 2, 2021): Chile’s social upheaval leaves presidential race wide open

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 (August 8, 2021): Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party holds primaries for November regional election

Regina Garcia Cano and Juan Pablo Arraez, AP (August 5, 2021): On the bus or off, Venezuela journalists try to deliver news

Patricia Garip and Lucien Chauvin, Argus Media (August 5, 2021): Venezuela talks resuming as regional tide turns

Alex Vasquez, Bloomberg (August 4, 2021): Venezuela Election Talks Set to Begin Next Week in Mexico

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. 

Carlos Vargas, Reuters (August 6, 2021): Analysis: Colombia’s Duque likely to get tax reform, but little else, in final year

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

Marcia Reverdosa and Juliana Koch, CNN (August 6, 2021): Bolsonaro is sowing doubt in Brazil’s electoral system. His claims could endanger his own candidacy.

Reuters (August 5, 2021): Voting change sought by Brazil’s Bolsonaro defeated in Congress

Simone Preissler Iglesias and Daniel Carvalho, Bloomberg (August 5, 2021): Brazil Political Crisis Grows as Bolsonaro, Top Court Bicker

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.

Armando Chaguaceda and Coco Fusco, New York Times (August 7, 2021): Cubans Want Much More Than an End to the U.S. Embargo

Jonathan Custodio, Politico (August 5, 2021): Could VPNs help Cubans access the internet under the regime’s nose? The Biden administration has said it is working on the idea.

Leland Lazarus and Evan Ellis, The Diplomat (August 3, 2021): How China Helps the Cuban Regime Stay Afloat and Shut Down Protest

Past Americas Elections

Mexico Referendum: August 1, 2021

Mexico held a referendum on prosecuting former presidents on August 1, although many critics have dismissed it as pointless political theatre. Turnout was less than 7 percent, meaning the results are not binding.

This follows high-stakes midterm elections, which 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

Global Americans (August 6, 2021): In Mexico, AMLO’s anti-corruption referendum falls flat

Editorial Board, Financial Times (August 4, 2021): Mexico’s dangerously selective pursuit of justice: President’s liking for shows masks a disregard for institutions and the rule of law

Peru Presidential Elections: April 11, 2021 and 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

Simeon Tegel, Al Jazeera (August 7, 2021): A tumultuous first week in office for Peru’s new president: Pedro Castillo is facing political and economic turmoil – including calls for his impeachment – as he forms his administration.

Lucien Chauvin, Christian Science Monitor (August 6, 2021): Peru elected a leftist outsider as president. Now it asks, can he do the job?

Andrea Moncada, Americas Quarterly (August 2, 2021): Is Pedro Castillo’s Presidency Already Doomed?

Bolivia Local Elections: March 7 and April 11, 2021

Bolivia held regional and local elections on March 7, 2021, and some races, including four gubernatorial races, held runoffs on April 11.

These followed a rerun of the 2019 annulled general elections that took place on October 18, 2020 in which socialist Luis Arce won the presidency. Leftist firebrand 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. These elections happened amid political tension over the arrest of former interim president Jeanine Anez. More

The Economist (August 7, 2021): Is Evo Morales staging a comeback in Bolivia?

AFP (August 7, 2021): Bolivia president vows to punish ‘coup’ accused

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.

Brendan O’Boyle, Americas Quarterly (August 2, 2021): Despite Protests, Guatemala’s President May Be Stronger than Ever

Reuters (August 3, 2021): Guatemala taps controversial prosecutor to replace fired graft-fighter

Regional Analysis

Scott B. MacDonald, Global Americans (August 5, 2021): Governance and electoral continuity and change in the Caribbean

Americas Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

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

Haiti Presidential and Legislative Elections: September 26, 2021 (delays possible following assassination of president)

Paraguay Local 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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