Americas This Week: December 11, 2021

December 11, 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.

The Tropic of Capricorn milestone near Antofagasta, Chile. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Marcos Escalier (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Upcoming Americas Elections

Chile Presidential Runoff: December 19, 2021

Chile held presidential and legislative elections on November 21, and will hold a presidential runoff on December 19. 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. 

Although results of the July 18 presidential primaries seemed to indicate that voters seem to want a return to moderation, the runoff will pit far-left socialist former student leader Gabriel Boric against Jose Antonio Kast, a far-right legislator with ties to the Pinochet dictatorship.

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

Sam Meredith, CNBC (December 10, 2021): ‘One of two extremes’: Chile set for its most divisive election run-off since returning to democracy

Steve Forbes, Forbes (December 9, 2021 – video): Chile’s Presidential Election: Will Socialism Or Free Markets Prevail?

Samantha Schmidt and Diana Durán, Washington Post (December 7, 2021): Chile’s congress recognizes same-sex marriage, joining Latin America’s shift toward gay rights

Philip Sanders and Valentina Fuentes, Bloomberg (December 2, 2021): Chile Election Pits Hardline Catholic Against Leftist Candidate

Fernando Claro-Valdés, Financial Times (December 1, 2021 – letter to the editor): Letter: Why Boric is seen as the extremist in Chile’s election

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 recently. The proximate cause was a tax bill, but the protests have grown – and grown violent – and dozens have died.

The Economist (December 11, 2021): Despite the polls, a centrist could win Colombia’s election in May: Undecided voters may shun Gustavo Petro, a populist of the left

Gabriella Levy, Juan Tellez, and Mateo Villamizar-Chaparro, Washington Post (December 2, 2021): Five years after Colombia’s peace deal, the FARC is no longer on U.S. terrorist group lists. But Colombia’s peace is far from secure, our research shows

Reuters (November 30, 2021): Colombia Presidential Hopeful Fajardo Seek Safeguards After Ruling Against Him

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 third-way candidates plan to challenge both Bolsonaro and Lula. 

As Latin America’s biggest economy, Brazil’s politics have an impact on the entire region and – increasingly – on the world stage. More

Americas Quarterly (December 9, 2021 – podcast): AQ Podcast: Brazil’s Polarized Presidential Election

David Gormezano, France24 (December 6, 2021): Lula, Brazil’s popular ex-president, battles for 2022 political comeback

Mexico Presidential Election: July 2024 (due)

Mexico’s next presidential election is due on July 2024. The last elections were 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.

The 2021 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 have made 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

Leila Miller, Los Angeles Times (December 3, 2021): Why Mexico’s president is promoting a recall against himself

Benjamin Russell, Americas Quarterly (December 2, 2021): Claudia Sheinbaum: Technocrat or True Believer? Mexico City’s mayor is an early favorite to succeed AMLO as president. An extended fight over energy reform sheds light on how she’d govern.

Past Americas Elections

Honduras General Elections: November 28, 2021

Honduras held presidential and legislative elections on November 28, 2021, following the March 14 primaries. Leftist opposition candidate Xiomara Castro won the presidential race.

These elections took place in the context of polarization. The 2017 elections, which saw the controversial re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernández from the conservative National Party, were turbulent, with at least 30 people dying in protests over allegations of fraud. Hernández defeated Xiomara Castro, the wife of leftist former president Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in 2009. Some feared post-election turmoil this year, but Nasry Asfura, the National Party’s candidate, conceded.

On the geopolitical front, Honduras is one of the few countries that maintains formal diplomatic relations Taiwan, but Beijing has been pressuring politicians to change that. LIBRE has said that it will switch its recognition to Beijing if it wins these elections. More

Al Jazeera (December 10, 2021): Incoming Honduras gov’t to keep Taiwan ties for now: Officials’ comments come a day after Nicaragua broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan to resume ties with China.

Kathrin Hille and Christine Murray, Financial Times (December 5, 2021): Honduras becomes new front in US-China struggle over Taiwan: President Xiaomara Castro’s pledge to shift diplomatic ties to Beijing from Taipei irks Washington

Gustavo Palencia, Reuters (December 3, 2021): Incoming Honduras president signals U-turn on initiating China ties

Patricio Navia and Lucas Perelló, Global Americans (November 30, 2021): Xiomara Castro’s Historic Win: What Happens Next?

Anatoly Kurmanaev and Joan Suazo, New York Times (November 29, 2021): Honduras Election Front-Runner Vows New Era but Is Tied to Past

Venezuela Regional and Local Elections: November 21, 2021

Venezuela held regional and local elections on 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 participated in the November 21 elections.

Moisés Naim, Wall Street Journal (December 10, 2021): Venezuela’s Fatal Embrace of Cuba

Jennifer Hansler, CNN (December 10, 2021): Top State Department official travels to Venezuela to meet with detained Americans

Regina Garcia Cano, AP (December 9, 2021): Vote shock in Chávez homeland underscores Venezuela’s divide

Deisy Buitrago and Vivian Sequera, Reuters (December 5, 2021): In new blow to Venezuelan opposition, major leader quits interim government

Regina Garcia Cano, The Independent (December 4, 2021): Voters protest disqualification of Venezuelan candidate

Vivian Sequera, Reuters (December 3, 2021): Venezuela denies visa extension for electoral observers-source

Argentina Midterm Legislative Elections: November 14, 2021

Argentina held midterm legislative elections on November 14, along with a few sets of provincial elections on various dates. The ruling Peronists took a major hit, losing control of the legislature for the first time in decades.

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.

Kyle Rose, Foreign Brief (December 10, 2021): New National Congress of Argentina to take office

Patricio Provitina, Global Americans (December 2, 2021): Argentina’s Uncertain Future: Fernández, the IMF, and the Opposition after the Midterms

AFP (December 1, 2021): Argentine ex-president Macri charged in spying case: court

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).

Evan Ellis, Global Americans (December 10, 2021): Nicaragua’s Flip to China: What Does It Mean for the Region?

Buenos Aires Times (December 10, 2021): OAS finds Nicaragua in breach of the Inter-American Democratic Charter

Confidencial (December 8, 2021): OAS calls emergency session to approve resolution on Nicaragua

Joseph Choi, The Hill (December 9, 2021): Nicaragua breaks diplomatic relations with Taiwan, recognizes Chinese sovereignty

Barbados Indirect Presidential Election: October 20, 2021

Barbados’s parliament elected former governor general Sandra Mason president on October 20, following a decision made in September to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and begin the process of becoming a republic.

Richard Reddick, NBC News (December 4, 2021): Queen Elizabeth and Barbados relationship change symbolizes a generational shift

Michael Safi, The Guardian (November 30, 2021): Barbados parts way with Queen and becomes world’s newest republic

Canada Snap Parliamentary Elections: September 20, 2021

Canada held snap elections on September 20, 2021, two years early. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hoped to win a majority for his Liberals. He ended up remaining in power, but once again helming a minority government. His gamble did not pay off.

Terry Glavin, Ottawa Citizen (December 1, 2021): Glavin: Evidence abounds of China’s interference in Canada’s elections: We’ve gone well past the point where merely taking note of Beijing’s lies and belligerence will suffice.

J. J. McCullough, Washington Post (November 29, 2021): What sets Canadian and U.S. politics apart? Three critical differences.

Peru Presidential Elections: April 11, 2021 and June 6, 2021

Peru held general elections this year. These elections came 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 alleged fraud, but international observers largely dismissed that allegation. More

Marco Aquino, Reuters (December 6, 2021): Analysis: Peru’s Castillo plays whack-a-mole with crises as impeachment threat looms

Americas Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

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 (postponed – no new date set)

Costa Rica Presidential and Legislative Elections: February 6, 2022

Colombia Legislative Elections: March 13, 2022

Colombia Presidential Election: May 29, 2022

Brazil Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 2, 2022

Haiti Presidential and Legislative Elections: Delayed from November 7, 2021, no new date set

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