From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
Former General Wins Guatemalan Election
Otto Pérez Molina, a former general who promised to take a mano dura (iron fist) to Guatemala’s rising crime problem, won Guatemala’s presidential election on November 6, capturing close to 54 percent of the vote. In an article for Time’s Global Spin blog, Tim Padgett says Guatemala needs a more effective police force, prosecuters, and judges rather than an iron fist. Writing for the Latin American Herald Tribune, COA’s Eric Farnsworth notes: “Guatemala’s task, along with others of its Latin American neighbors, is to develop effective democratic institutions that go beyond periodic elections.”
Ortega’s Rival Contests Nicaraguan Election Results
In Nicaragua’s November 6 election, current President Daniel Ortega coasted to reelection, capturing more than 60 percent of the vote—twice the percentage of his closest rival, Fabio Gadea. However, Gadea refuses to concede citing a "plague of irregularities." Among them, says Gadea, lies the questionable legality of Ortega’s second term. In an AQ web exclusive, James Bosworth puts Nicaragua’s electoral events in the context of other contested Latin American elections and explores what could come next.
Obama Signs Economic Development Agreement with El Salvador
In an interview with El Salvador’s El Diario de Hoy, U.S. President Barack Obama explained the Partnership for Growth Initiative. Signed on November 3, the plan was originally proposed during Obama’s visit to El Salvador in March. The plan aims to aid development and growth in El Salvador through increased investment, public-private partnerships, and technical support. Commenting on the plan, Obama said: “The success of this partnership will be seen through teamwork between the government of El Salvador, the private sector, international partners, and the Salvadoran people.”
Calderón’s Sister Vies For Governorship in Mexico
President Felipe Calderón’s older sister Luisa Maria Calderón is running for governor of Michoacán state on the National Action Party (PAN) ticket in the November 13 elections. If she wins, the victory could give a much-needed boost to Calderón’s beleaguered party before the 2012 presidential elections, reports Reuters.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega moved a step closer to running for another term this week when six justices of the constitutional branch of the Supreme Court deemed “unenforceable” a term-limit provision contained in Nicaragua's constitution. According to opposition leaders and legal experts, a 1995 amendment to the Nicaraguan constitution allows a maximum of two non-consecutive terms.
The ruling by the six justices, who are all affiliated with Ortega’s Sandanista party, requires formal approval by the full 16 judges of the court, but the head of the constitutional branch, Francisco Rosales, has said that the ruling will likely stand and the country's electoral court has indicated that it will also comply with the decision.
Many Latin American countries are dealing with the issue of presidential term limits. Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa have all sought constitutional changes that will allow them to continue running for reelection. The same was also true for deposed Honduran President Mel Zelaya, and may soon be true for leaders in Costa Rica and Colombia.
The U.S. reacted to the news yesterday by expressing concern over the irregular governmental actions in Nicaragua with State Department spokesman Ian Kelly commenting: "The ruling appears to short-circuit, through legal maneuverings, the open and transparent consideration by the Nicaraguan people of the possibility for presidential re-election."