Top stories this week are likely to include: the Venezuelan presidential campaigns head into their final stretch; Colombia-FARC talks to begin; South America holds a summit with Arab nations; protests against Michel Martelly in Haiti; and Brazil votes on Sunday in municipal elections.
Venezuela Votes for President: A tight presidential contest comes to a close on Sunday, October 7, as Venezuelans head to the polls to either re-elect President Hugo Chávez or replace him with former Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski. Over the weekend, hundreds of thousands of supporters took to the streets in competing rallies through downtown Caracas. However, some electoral activities turned violent: three activists supporting Carpiles Radonski were killed by gunmen in Barinas state over the weekend, drawing a sharp rebuke from the opposition candidate. Several polls indicate that Sunday’s vote will be the closest margin since the Chávez era began.
FARC Peace Talks in Norway: Representatives from the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) will hold an inaugural ceremony this Friday in the Norwegian capital of Oslo to kick off peace negotiations between the two sides. Peace talks were announced in late August by Santos, with an agreement signed in early September that Oslo would be the inaugural site. Norway and Cuba will mediate the negotiations, while Chile and Venezuela will act as observers. “Both President Santos and the much weakened FARC have a lot riding on the success of these negotiations, but Santos in particular has ramped up global expectations after pledging substantial progress at the UN last week. There is reason to be hopeful: the internal dynamics are very different from the failed peace talks a decade ago—and the government has learned from its mistakes at that time,” notes AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak.
Summit of South American – Arab countries: This conference, the Cumbre América del Sur – Países Árabes (ASPA), will take place in Lima, Peru, today and tomorrow. This is the third iteration of the summit, which was started by former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva; the first meeting took place in Brasília, Brazil, in 2005 and the second occurred in Doha, Qatar, in 2009. This week’s meeting was supposed to happen in February 2011, but was postponed after a wave of protests in Egypt during the Arab Spring.
Hatians protest against Martelly: Thousands of protestors took to the streets of Port-au-Prince yesterday to demonstrate against the government of President Michel Martelly. Their biggest complaints were the high cost of living, rising food prices and allegations of corruption, according to The Associated Press. Yesterday’s demonstrations marked the first time in recent memory that popular protests had shifted from the countryside to the capital. Pay attention to see if these demonstrations spread this week, as the AP notes that more protests are planned for October.
Brazil votes for municipal leaders: More than 5,556 municipalities in Brazil will head to the polls this Sunday to elect mayors, deputy mayors and city councilors. If necessary, run-off votes will take place on October 28. Of particular interest is the mayoral contest in Rio de Janeiro, where the traditionally popular incumbent Eduardo Paes is in a closer-than-expected fight against challenger Marcelo Freixo, as noted in a recent AQ Web Exclusive. Access www.eleicoes2012.info for the latest information about the candidates around the country.