Overview of Elections in Latin America and the Caribbean

Spotlight By Dr. Stuti Banerjee*

Overview of Elections in Latin America and the Caribbean

The common factor that binds the elections together is the disdain for widespread corrup-tion and the demand for accountability. And while Latin America and the Caribbean re-gion have been experiencing modest economic growths, governments have to find an-swers to the growing demands of the people - reduce poverty and provide jobs.

Latin America and the Caribbean region are witnessing a political change in 2018. A number of large and small nations have gone to the ballot to elect new governments and some are scheduled to go to elections in the coming months. In a matter of just six months, the first - (Brazil), second - (Mexico), and fourth - (Colombia) – largest economies of the region will choose new presidents; this simultaneous changeover is likely to have political and economic consequences given the current international situation as a result of the United States’ economic policies.

The common factor that binds the elections together is the disdain for widespread corrup-tion and the demand for accountability. And while Latin America and the Caribbean re-gion have been experiencing modest economic growths, governments have to find an-swers to the growing demands of the people - reduce poverty and provide jobs. Some countries such as Cuba and Mexico are continuing with the reform processes, others are looking at means to bring change. Here is a brief look at Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Vene-zuela and Paraguay.

Cuba

Cuban President Miguel Mario Dí az-Canel Bermú dez Under the reform process started by Former President Raul Castro, Cuba elected its pres-ident in elections held earlier in the year. President Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez is the first civilian president of Cuba, who does not share the famous surname and is also the first president to be born after the revolution. These factors allow him to bridge the gap between those who fought in the revolution and the current generation of electorate that has been born decades after the revolution and in a globalised digital world. This new generation views the world differently and has needs to be economically engaged.

President Bermudez’s election is much needed to not only make the party, but also the ideology, relevant to the young generation of Cubans. He has, till now, followed the poli-cies and reforms that were started by President Castro during his tenure. It is likely that one will notice President Bermúdez views on Cuban politics after 2021, when Mr. Castro steps down as the head of the Communist Party of Cuba and relinquishes all powers.

Mexico

President-elect of Mexico André s Manuel Ló pez Obrador Mr. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, from the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party, has won the elections (by 53.19 percent votes) to be the next president of Mexico. His inauguration will be on 01 December, after the new Mexican Congress assumes power on 01 September. President-elect of Morena has also captured a majority in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, marking the first time any candidate has won both chambers since 1997.

The focal point of President-elect Obrador’s campaign was to end corruption and bring about transparency in the government. He has also focussed on the need to engage with the youth and end drug war and related violence. There are question marks on to what extent he will continue with some of the reforms that were stated by President Enrique Pena Neito - especially in the telecommunication, energy and education sector. While the President-elect has not yet announced his foreign policy, he has stated he would contin-ue relations with the United States based on ‘friendship and cooperation’.

On NAFTA, Obrador has been a critic of the agreement. Nonetheless, he has stated that he will continue the negotiations with America and Canada on the same lines as the cur-rent government. His government would not like relations with the United States or the negotiations for NAFTA to collapse as it would have an adverse effect on the Mexican economy and undermine the government’s ability to fight poverty.

Colombia

President-Elect Ivan Duque The peace process in Colombia - between the government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) - may have garnered former President Juan Manuel Santos international appreciation; nonetheless, within Colombia it has been an emotive issue. The newly elected youngest and the first right-wing President of Colombia, Mr. Ivan Du-que, is a candidate who opposed the peace process. The deal initially failed to pass a referendum with voters opposed to the guarantees of softer sentencing for rebel leaders and guaranteed seats in the Congress. It was later amended and ratified by lawmakers, a move some viewed as undemocratic.

President Duque has stated that he will relook the most contentious issues of the deal, an issue that has found a lot of support with the voters. While he has also stated that he remains committed to Colombia's peace process, Mr. Duque adds that the deal is too lenient on former guerrilla fighters who are accused of war crimes. He has also pledged to improve the economy and boost investments into the country.

Mr Duque's running mate, Marta Lucía Ramirez, has become the country's first ever female vice-president. Together they would have to work to improve relations with their neighbour Venezuela. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, has accused the outgoing Colombian President Santos of attempting to assassinate him at a military event in Caracas. Maduro has also accused Colombia of trying to undermine his country’s government.

Venezuela

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been elected for his second
six-year term. Incumbent President Nicolas Maduro won the May 2018 elections for his second six-year term. The elections have been widely condemned by the international community for its lack of transparency and allegations of fraud. The opposition had called for a boycott of the elections; and the low voter turnout was also reflective of the disillusionment with the government.

President Maduro’s government has also been facing growing international criticism for economic collapse; high inflation and widespread hunger; rampant crime; a failing health system and large-scale exodus of its citizens. The government, on the other hand, has blamed the international community and the United States for the crisis.

Paraguay

Paraguay President Mario Abdo Benítez Suppression and dictatorship were also the themes of the elections in Paraguay that took place in April 2018. The landlocked nation has elected its president, vice president, 45 senators, 80 deputies, and 17 governors, all to five-year terms. President Mario Abdo Benítez, from a conservative wing of the ruling Colorado party, won the election. He is the son of the private secretary to Paraguay’s former dictator Alfredo Stroessner and has faced criticism for defending the former leader's record.

President Benitez has pledged to cut poverty and fight corruption. He has stated that he would strengthen the justice system ensuring that it remained independent and strong. Major changes to economic policy were not expected, though the new President has stat-ed he would pursue more aggressive tax policies to increase the government coffers.

Conclusion

Brazil, the largest country in the region, is going to polls later in the year. The elections cycle in the area is important to assess the strength of democracy in a region prone to mil-itary rule. It will represent the support that government and government institutions have and also showcase the smooth transition between governments. The elections will also be an indicator of the political trends within the region and may provide some clues for the elections to be held next year.

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Diplomatist Magazine was launched in October of 1996 as the signature magazine of L.B. Associates (Pvt) Ltd, a contract publishing house based in Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi, India, the National Capital.

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