-Nicaragua and China have entered into an agreement through which China could help build a canal through Nicaragua that would rival the Panama canal. Of course, Nicaragua has long been seen as a potential site for a canal; even in the 1800s, the US and European powers considered the possibility of building one. As it stands right now, the canal would take eleven years to construct and would cost $40 billion, but there is nothing to yet indicate that the construction would start soon or that it would be brought to completion.
-An audit of the April elections in Venezuela has confirmed that Nicolas Maduro defeated opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in a very close election. Meanwhile, the economic and political instability that has been a significant problem in Maduro’s still-young administration (a problem that Maduro’s own policies and rhetoric have not helped) is hitting society hard: in addition to reports of shortages in basic goods like toilet paper, it appears beer prices have gone up 92% in Venezuela as well.
-An oil-spill in Ecuador now threatens both the Peruvian and Brazilian environment as it flows into the Amazonian basin, threatening river communities and riparian ecosystems. The spill began after a landslide damaged an oil pipeline, providing another reminder of the predictably-unpredictable nature of environmental processes and the risks of pipelines in dynamic ecosystems.
-Peace talks between Colombia’s government and the FARC have resumed after a brief break. The ongoing talks are the first significant talks between the two sides since the 1990s, as the two sides try to bring an end to a civil war that has lasted nearly 50 years. Prior to the talks, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos traveled to Israel, where he signed a free trade agreement between Colombia and Israel.
-In a tragic example of the ways in which women in Nicaragua continue to be treated as second class citizens, conservative activists and politicians are seeking to create a law that would require abused women to negotiate with their abusers.
-In dual cases of justice in Peru, President Ollanta Humala (who is currently on his first official state visit to the US) denied a pardon to former president Alberto Fujimori, who had been convicted for his role in state repression and human rights violations during his 1990-2000 administration. And on the other end of the spectrum, a court sentenced former guerrilla leader and Shining Path leader Comrade Artemio (Florinda Flores) to a life sentence for his role in guerrilla violence, drug trafficking, and money laundering.
-Speaking of the Shining Path, though a tiny number continue to fight for revolution ostensibly in the name of the movement, a new political arm of the movement, the Movimiento Por Amnistia y Derechos Fundamentales (Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights; MOVADEF) is increasingly gaining support among some in Peru and beyond, prompting further reevaluations and considerations of the legacies of the Shining Path, state violence, and social divisions in Peruvian memory.
-Even while stories of government surveillance have occupied headlines in the US, it appears that secrecy at Guantanamo has only intensified, where a government ruling has gone into effect, and “those who’ve read it can’t say what it’s about, and those who haven’t don’t have a clue. Not even the accused, who, unless the judge rules for the defense, is not allowed to get an unclassified explanation of it – and cannot sit in on the court session when it’s argued in secret.”
-In another reminder of the gross socioeconomic inequalities in Brazil’s legal system, Thor Batista, the son of Brazilian billionaire who hit and killed a bicyclist while driving his car avoided jail time for the death. Instead, a judge ordered Batista to pay a R$1 million fine and serve two years of community service. In spite of the relatively lenient sentence for killing another person, Batista still plans on appealing the sentence.
-Finally, more than ten years after Brazil enacted affirmative action laws that created quotas for university admission, it appears the law has gone a long way in addressing inequalities, if a report on the University of Brasilia is representative. The study finds that there would be 71.5% fewer Afro-Brazilians in the school without the law, and that students admitted under quotas have outperformed non-quota students. [English version available here.]
I’m a bit late in getting to this, but last week, JF String had a great piece that reveals just how vital to the Chilean economy copper continues to be. Among other data:
The labor of every Chilean miner is today, on average, responsible for producing ~ $60 million (chilean pesos) in mineral wealth per year. That’s four times greater than a Chilean working in the banking sector ($15 million/year) and six times greater than someone working in the country’s retail sector ($10 million/year). [...]
In terms of the total percentage of federal budget revenues, the industry’s contribution represented 20.7% in 2011 compared to 10.5% in 1991. However, the 2011 figure is down from its peak in 2006 when the copper industry represented 34.1% of federal budget revenues. [...]
The wealth generated by copper in Chile has not been distributed equally across the nation. According to Meller’s study, per capita GDP in Chile’s copper regions is around 163% greater than in non-mining regions. The money that does leave, says Meller, is unsurprisingly concentrated in the wealthiest neighborhoods of Santiago.
Sting also has some interesting observations on the ways in which copper in Chile and oil in Venezuela compare and contrast with regards to their respective national economies. The whole piece is not too long and definitely worth checking out..
After the institutional coup against Fernando Lugo last June, politico-economic trade bloc Mercosur suspended Paraguay’s membership. The response was swift, and Horacio Cartes, who at the time was a potential candidate for president, called on Paraguay to maintain faith in Mercosur and to work towards having the suspension lifted. Now that Cartes has won the election, it appears that he was sincere in his comments and that he is now taking steps towards restoring Paraguay’s full participation in Mercosur. Perhaps more importantly, Mercosur members seem willing to restore relations with Paraguay. Both Jose Mujica of Uruguay and Cristina Kirchner of Argentina congratulated Cartes on his victory, with Kirchner tweeting “We wait for you in Mercosur” and that Paraguay’s “place is with us in Mercosur always,” while Mujica invited Paraguay to Mercosur’s June summit in Uruguay. Of course, Brazil also has a say in the matter; Dilma Rousseff’s foreign ministry proclaimed that it would be glad to welcome back Paraguay, but only on the condition that Paraguay’s Congress approve Venezuela’s admission to Mercosur (the Paraguayan Senate’s holdup had been what initially kept Venezuela from gaining full membership). Cartes seems willing to take this step, having already spoken with legislators to try to pressure them into accepting Venezuela’s admission. And in another good sign for Paraguay, none other than Nicolás Maduro himself, Venezuela’s recently elected president, called Cartes to congratulate him and to express a desire to improve bilateral relations between Venezuela and Paraguay. Thus, it seems that, as Greg Weeks suggested, South America is willing to allow the resumption of democracy in Paraguay to heal the relations that were strained with Lugo’s removal last summer, and it appears that, barring any sudden rupture, Paraguay is well on the path to returning to normalized political and economic relations with its neighbors.
In other Cartes news, he has also finally apologized for blatantly homophobic and hateful remarks he made regarding homosexuality. While that does not mean he is any more open-minded regarding diversity, at least he had the wherewithal to acknowledge what he publicly said was offensive, hateful, and contributing to a climate of sexual discrimination and fear.
As many probably know by now, presidential elections took place in Venezuela yesterday, as Venezuelans went to select either Nicolás Maduro or Henrique Capriles as the next president; Maduro was Chávez’s latest vice president, while Capriles ran against Chávez last fall. While many predicted a comfortable win for Maduro early in the brief campaign, Capriles ultimately picked up significant ground, and Maduro ended up winning the vote, 50.66%-49.07%, a margin of of about 235,000 votes. Unsurprisingly, Capriles refuses to acknowledge defeat until a full recount is completed, a not-unreasonable demand for such a close election.
Last night, Capriles’ supporters took to Twitter to repeatedly proclaim how “the people” suffered with this election (there were too many to link; just look at the tweets under the hashtag “CaprilesganoTibisaymintiu” or, literally, “Capriles won, Tibisay [the head of the National Electoral Commission] lied”). Framed in terms of betrayal, deceit, or just depression or tragedy, the motif was that the election of Maduro ran counter to everything that “the people” wanted or that “the people” deserved. Suffice to say, such rhetoric is a bit out of touch with reality, since a majority of “the people” voted for Maduro; yes, it was a close majority, but it was still a majority. Yet this rhetoric is not just a case of refusing to acknowledge the actual data; I think it is reflective of a broader worldview. Capriles’ supporters are by and large from the middle and upper classes; when they refer to “the people,” they are referring to themselves. Such claims of ignoring “the people” in turn is a telling sign, demonstrating that, even after nearly 14 years of social reforms designed to address inequalities under Chávez, there is still the mindset that poor Venezuelans, who are a significant portion of the Venezuelan population, are not “the people.” That such a mindset, which was characteristic of politics and society for much of Venezuela’s post-independence history, is still visible for all to see may have had some small part in “the people” ultimately turning to Maduro in spite of very real questions on economics, crime, and energy policy, among other things. For, if nothing else, Maduro made clear that he would continue to address “the people” whom Chávez had incorporated and aided after generations of being disregarded for elite interests; Capriles failed to make the case that he would represent their interests, and in defeat, his supporters’ divisive language and political framing revealed the ways some sectors and political groups refuse to acknowledge the role the poor and marginalized play in twenty-first century politics.
The outcome also speaks as closely to how much of the movement was bound in the figure of Chavez. Without him in the election, the outcome was far closer, and I think that speaks to just how personalist and non-institutional his program, rhetoric, and vision for Venezuela were. At the risk of returning to the same well too many times, I’ve repeatedly commented that, regardless of what one thinks of Chávez’s reforms and his vision for Venezuela, one of his biggest failures was to move beyond personalist politics and to institutionalize those reforms and visions. This closeness of this election seems to further reinforce the perils of that type of personalist politics.
At the same time, I’ve also suggested that Chávez’s death means that any efforts to make the reforms more long-lasting will fall to his successor(s) and to the Venezuelan people who support it. Maduro’s victory means that they will at least get a chance to continue to shape Venezuela in the post-Chávez context. What they do with that opportunity, or what they are able to do in the current social, political, and economic context, remains to be seen.
And to be clear, the challenges facing Maduro are significant. A narrative has already emerged that he will pay the political price for Chávez’s shortcomings in areas like monetary policy, energy policy, and crime, and he very well may. But politics and history are both funny things, and Maduro may prove to be a capable leader in his own right, putting his own stamp on years of Chávez’s reforms. Could his term end before his six years are up, as unrest or opposition mount or problems worsen? Sure. But could he also conceivably be quite politically able – we have not really had a chance to see yet, given the short nature of the his time as acting president in unusual circumstances and the unique conditions of a sudden and brief presidential campaign. And even if he should fail, that does not mean the opposition that Capriles represented will fill the void; with Chávez gone, there will be others who disagree with Maduro’s vision of Chavismo who might try to challenge him and arrive in the presidency themselves. After all, as with any political movement, Chavismo is far from unified, and where it goes in its the wake of its namesake’s death can now become a matter of political dispute.
Going forward, one thing is certain – things will continue to be interesting and worth watching.
My, how have times have changed. I give you Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles on the campaign trail:
Nicolas [Maduro] in a hundred days you are destroying what in the 14 years the President of the Republic achieved. Can you imagine another six years of this? They are not managing Venezuela, they are destroying Venezuela”, emphasized [Capriles,] the governor of Miranda the second most populated of the country.
Of course, just last fall, Capriles was running against Chávez, who he criticized for failing to improve Venezuela in his 14 years as president. Now, campaigning against Maduro, he’s critical of Maduro for…undoing all that Chávez had accomplished for Venezuela in his 14 years as president.
This rhetorical dissonance between last fall’s election cycle in Venezuela and this spring’s cycle taps into a broader problem for the opposition, which is that it still doesn’t have a solid program to attract voters. First Chávez, and now Maduro, can point to a political platform and specific programs and plans that already have improved the lives of many Venezuelans (or will improve them going forward), while Capriles and the opposition are simply running against Maduro without offering solutions. Thus, Capriles now is criticizing Maduro for undoing programs that, just last fall, he was critical of as he went after Chávez. Though not impossible, it’s difficult to see how Capriles will win the election with this type of platform against Maduro’s platform of continuing the “revolution” that Chávez began.
-While many in the Americas celebrated the announcement of the first American pope last year, not all citizens (including Catholic clergy) in Francis I’s home country are pleased with Bergoglio or the Catholic hierarchy in Argentina.
-It appears the long national mourning of Hugo Chávez may have hindered plans to embalm the late Venezuelan president.
- José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz, the first economics minister of Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship, has died at 87. In a pattern that was not uncommon throughout the region, Martínez de Hoz garnered praise in the international community at the time for his imposition of neoliberal policies (policies that ultimately led to deindustrialization and privatization in Argentina), but whose imposition of such policies was accompanied by crackdowns on labor, repression, and human rights violations.
-In Brazil, former soccer player and current politician Romário is calling on Brazil’s Truth Commission to investigate Brazilian Football Confederation official Jose Maria Marin for his possible role in the murder of journalist Vladimir Herzog in 1977 during Brazil’s military dictatorship. Meanwhile, in another reminder of how broken Brazil’s legislative branch is, evangelical minister and congressman Marco Feliciano, who has openly made racist and homophobic comments in the past, was chosen to head Congress’s Human Rights Commission.
-Several Nobel Peace Prize winners recently wrote in support of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an organization that had been under criticism from member countries recently.
-It’s been more than 40 years since the assassination of Rafael Trujillo, the brutal dictator of the Dominican Republic for more than 30 years, and activists, scholars, and others are calling on the Dominican government to form a truth commission to fully investigate and officially address the regime’s brutality (including the murder of 25,000 Haitians in 1937 alone).
-The US military has acknowledged that prisoners at Guantanmo are on a hunger strike, though it denied that the strike was “widespread.”
-The trial of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier for human rights abuses continues, and the defense seems to be struggling a bit. Duvalier’s attorneys asked one witness if she may have been arrested by mistake, her reply? “If I was arrested by mistake, I was imprisoned by mistake and forced into exile by mistake.”
-Activists in Argentina are pushing for judicial reform to make the system more transparent and “democratic.”-Guyana’s Parliament rejected a law that would have made it illegal to carry disassembled gun parts into the country, a law designed to reduce gun smuggling and gun violence in the country.
-Great Britain’s plan to require Brazilian tourists to acquire travel visas on hold for now.
-Finally, IPS had a fascinating story on how indigenous women in Chile are helping bring solar energy and clean energy into communities in the Atacama desert, one of the driest places on the planet.
Over at Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson have a piece up on the “Paradoxes of Chavismo.” In it, they do an excellent job concisely explaining why the rhetoric of Chávez (and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa and Bolivia’s Evo Morales) has resonated so strongly among their respective electorates.
Chávez, like Correa in Ecuador and Evo Morales in Bolivia, gained support because his proposed political platform stroke a chord with the average voter. These politicians’ diagnosis of the problems on Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia is that the economic ills their countries face stem from the fact that society has been captured by an elite.
How to change this situation? They argued that measures needed to be taken to break the grip on power of elites. The approach of Chávez, and of Correa and Morales, is to strengthen the president and the removal of checks and balances which in the past have been tools for the elites to block reformist agendas, for example that of Carlos Andrés Perez. It is almost as if one needs “fire to fight fire”: institutions have been captured by elites, so we need to break down these institutions in order to build a different society.
Drawing equivalencies between Latin American leaders just because they are from “the” (not always clearly-defined) left is often problematic, but I think this comparison is legitimate. While the national contexts for each vary, historically, elites have maintained control over institutional power through both the colonial and national eras. This control played no small part in perpetuating socioeconomic differences even while hiding behind of thin veneer of so-called “democracy,” a veneer through which the population saw and with which it grew increasingly disillusioned. While the policies, goals, and contexts of Morales, Correa, and Chávez (to say nothing of their individual responses) have important distinctions between nation-states, this shared history of abuses of power and elite domination is a useful comparison, and helps explain while all three men have (or had) resonated with a majority of their populations as they campaigned. Put simply, they spoke not so much to a populism defined by personalism (though there are certainly elements of that as well, particularly in the figure of Chávez); rather, they spoke to a populism that sought to finally incorporate those who had effectively been marginalized from political processes or from the benefits that the state can provide to its citizens. In that regard, Chávez, Correa, and Morales are not so original, as their rhetoric echoes that of populists who came to power by incorporating previously-marginalized groups, including urban and rural workers and women, between the 1930s-1950s, be it in the APRA in Peru, Lázaro Cárdenas in Mexico, Getúlio Vargas in Brazil, or Juan Perón in Argentina.
Speaking of Perón, Acemoglu and Robinson close with the following:
An interesting comparison here is to Argentina. The attack in the 1940s by Perón on the traditional elites created a political machine, and an associated band of political elites, which have dominated politics and run the country ever since, with far more disastrous economic consequences than the previous regime in Argentina. Chavismo, by its un-institutionalized nature, seems not to have created such a machine, which is possibly his greatest legacy and the only cause for hope for the future of Venezuelan democracy.
This is a fascinating point. I’ve commented before that Chávez’s slowness to institutionalize his reforms in state institutions rather than in himself could be an obstacle in ensuring that the reforms are stronger and more enduring than an individual leader (in this case, Chávez himself). By contrast, Acemoglu and Robinson suggest that the lack of institutionalization of chavismo as a political movement may help maintain peace and democracy in Venezuela by precluding machine politics bound in the cult of personality of the party’s leader, a la Peronism in Argentina. Certainly, there are some important differences between the two cases; in particular, regarding party politics, Perón was alive until 1974, more than 25 years after arriving in the presidency in 1946. From 1955 to 1973, he was in exile, meaning his metaphysical presence/physical absence created a far more ambivalent and uncertain path for Peronism, with more radical and more conservative forces fighting over the party’s legacy even while it’s founder was still alive. This obviously would not be the case for Chávez, even had he created a party bound in his own leadership before his death. Nonetheless, the suggestion that Chávez’s failure to institutionalize his ideology in a party is a fascinating one that sees the failure to institutionalize Chavismo in one regard as a success.
To be clear, I don’t think those two views on institutionalization as a shortcoming or as a success are in direct conflict; Acemoglu and Robinson are discussing party politics, whereas I was focused more on institutional reform. Thus, it’s not so much a matter of conflicting views as it is a question of differing institutions. I think the reforms need to be embodied in Venezuela’s juridical and legal institutions, while Acemoglu and Robinson are arguing the lack of political institutions [i.e., parties] with Chávez may be central in sowing an even stronger democratic system in Venezuela going forward. In that regard, they may be right.
I’ve been remiss in not getting to this sooner, but, after the death of Hugo Chávez, former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva published an editorial in the New York Times addressing not just the legacy of Chávez, but the future of politics of the left in Latin America. Lula is praiseworthy of Chávez’s efforts to address social inequalities in his country. He also speaks highly of Chávez’s efforts towards regional integration, saying it falls on the surviving leaders in South America to
consolidate the advances toward international unity achieved in the past decade. Those tasks have gained new importance now that we are without the help of Mr. Chávez’s boundless energy; his deep belief in the potential for the integration of the nations of Latin America; and his commitment to the social transformations needed to ameliorate the misery of his people.
In theory, regional integration sounds wonderful, especially given the historical economic context in which local elites and international capital collaborated to extract resources while gross socioeconomic inequalities continued and even worsened throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries. And certainly, having regional institutions like the Bank of the South to serve as a counter to the attempted hegemony of the World Bank and IMF is a good thing. However, one can’t help if the idea of the Union of South American Nations attempting to “move the continent toward the model of the European Union” seems like a more questionable goal, particularly in light of the European Union’s recent troubles. Certainly, that’s not to say the Union of South American Nations has to take that same path,
The piece also contains what seems to be an awareness, if not concern, over the ability to institutionalize Chávez’s reforms in his absence:
Mr. Chávez’s legacy in the realm of ideas will need further work if they are to become a reality in the messy world of politics, where ideas are debated and contested. A world without him will require other leaders to display the effort and force of will he did, so that his dreams will not be remembered only on paper.
To maintain his legacy, Mr. Chávez’s sympathizers in Venezuela have much work ahead of them to construct and strengthen democratic institutions. They will have to help make the political system more organic and transparent; to make political participation more accessible; to enhance dialogue with opposition parties; and to strengthen unions and civil society groups. Venezuelan unity, and the survival of Mr. Chávez’s hard-won achievements, will require this.
That other leaders will have to continue his legacies if the reforms are to remain in place is clear; whether or not they can is another question. Although Lula states the challenges simply and elegantly, it is clear that they are not insignificant, and include subtle digs on Chávez’s own government: in addition to needing to “strengthen unions and civil society groups,” Lula points to the need for Chávez’s successors to make politics “transparent” and “to enhance dialogue with opposition parties,” things that were not always present under Chávez. In other words, Lula is saying that so-called Chavismo has to adapt and transform in the absence of its leader, and that there is room for improvements in how governance with reforms can occur. These comments aren’t exactly uncritical of Chávez, and show the ways in which there were and are real disagreements in both policy and style between leaders of “the” left in Latin America.
If Lula’s criticisms were not yet fully clear, he makes them so in a thinly-veiled description/critique of Chávez that simultaneously serves as a reminder that discussion of “a” Latin American left is misguided:
One need not agree with everything Mr. Chávez said or did. There is no denying that he was a controversial, often polarizing, figure, one who never fled from debate and for whom no topic was taboo. I must admit I often felt that it would have been more prudent for Mr. Chávez not to have said all that he did. But this was a personal characteristic of his that should not, even from afar, discredit his qualities.
One might also disagree with Mr. Chávez’s ideology, and a political style that his critics viewed as autocratic. He did not make easy political choices and he never wavered in his decisions.
This comment precisely cuts directly to the reason why a talk of “the” Latin American left is so frustrating. Such characterizations of a singular left assumes such a uniformity in ideologies, practices, and tactics among leaders as to almost be insulting, treating Latin American leaders as generic, interchangeable pieces without any regard for distinctions in their personal ways of governing, to say nothing of the varying contexts of their nations, the issues facing their individual countries, or the pluralities in their electorates. Lula’s clear that Chávez’s outspoken methods were not necessarily the type he would adopt, and when he says that “one might also disagree with Mr. Chávez’s ideology,” it seems reasonable to suppose that Lula includes himself in that category (current president Dilma Rousseff herself also pointed out that Brazil didn’t always agree with Chávez). Leaders can share similar goals – greater inequality, economic growth, more democratic openings, etc. – without being of the same ideology. Lula’s aware of this fact; would that more North American media commentators were as well.
The US certainly excels at trying to guess presidential elections way too early (guessing-games that prompt entirely-reasonable responses). While 2016 is still too far off, 2014 is not, where several Latin American presidential elections will occur. In Central America, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Panama are all holding elections in February, March, and May, respectively. Mike Allison has an excellent summary of the three races right now. Read his whole post for the breakdown, but the shorter version is that runoffs seem likely in El Salvador, where the right-wing ARENA candidate, Norman Quijano, has a slight lead over the FMLN’s Salvador Sanchez Ceren, and in Costa Rica, where Partido Liberación Nacional [National Liberation Party] candidate Johnny Anaya polls ahead of candidates like Epsy Campbell and Otto Guevara (who has previously run in the 2002, 2006, and 2010 elections). Meanwhile, Panama’s situation is more tenuous, as the public speculates (and fears) constitutional reforms that would allow re-election.
In South America, Uruguayans will go to the polls in October to pick José Mujica’s successor. Bolivia is set to also hold presidential elections in December 2014. And of course, Brazil will have its presidential elections next October as well, for a total of at least 6 presidential elections next year, with campaigning having unofficially but visibly begun. Incumbent president Dilma Rousseff of the PT remains very popular as she faces reelection. After years of flirting with candidacy, Aécio Neves, the former governor and current senator from Minas Gerais, is finally running for the presidency for the center-right Partido Social Democracia Brasileira [Brazilian Social Democracy Party; PSDB]. While the PT and the PSDB are currently the two strongest parties for presidential politics, their hegemony is far from absolute; they continue to rely on the coalition-building that defines Brazil’s parliamentary-presidential system, and that means that there could be legitimate threats from other parties. Former environment minister Marina Silva, who had a strong third-place showing for the Partido Verde [Green Party] in 2010, has formed the new Rede Sustentabilidade [Sustainability Network]; while it is not yet clear whether her new party will focus on presidential politics, legislative elections, grassroots mobilization, or some combination of the three, certainly the path for her to be presidential candidate in her own party is open. In recent years, the PT and the PSDB have become the two strongest parties in Brazil’s parliamentary system, and Rousseff and Neves are understandably the front-runners. Indeed, while campaigning has not officially begun, Lula da Silva and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the founders of the PT and the PSDB, respectively, and former-allies-turned-political-foes, have already begun trading barbs back and forth, trying to discredit the other party [and, consequently, the candidates]. Though Brazil’s presidential campaign cycle only officially lasts 3 months, it’s clear that it’s moving to informally expand campaign season through surrogates. It’s too early to say whether a runoff will take place, but expect more candidates to enter into the race; even if Rousseff and Neves remain front-runners in the latter half of 2013 and into 2014, dark horse candidates like Marina Silva, who could build on her 2010 success, or others may challenge the PT and PSDB.
And all of that comes after Venezuela and Paraguay both hold elections to fill controversial mandates [Venezuela with the death of Hugo Chávez, Paraguay 10 months after the forced removal of democratically-elected president Fernando Lugo], while Chile goes to the polls in November to elect a successor to embattled president Sebastián Piñera [when a 38% approval rating marks an "improvement," it seems safe to say things have not gone well for a president]. And of course, in November, Honduras will have elections for the first full term since the 2009 coup that overthrew Manuel Zelaya. All of that sets up for no fewer than ten presidential elections in the coming 21 months, marking a period of political transition that will have a deep impact on politics, economics, and social relations not only for the citizens of the respective countries, but for the region as a whole.
One of the big questions in the wake of Hugo Chávez’s death was whether Nicolás Maduro, who had never served, would be able to maintain the support of Venezuela’s military. While it remains a significant question, one that will most likely last beyond April 14′s election, it seems Maduro has at least some military support.
[I]n a move that has elicited criticism from opposition leaders who say the Constitution bars the armed forces from taking sides in political campaigns, the top military official in the cabinet, Defense Minister Diego Molero Bellavia, has already explicitly backed Mr. Maduro by calling on voters to “give a good thrashing to all those fascists” of the opposition.
The head of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, a former military officer who took part in Mr. Chávez’s 1992 coup attempt, has also pledged to support Mr. Maduro. Mr. Cabello, who is one of the most powerful figures in Mr. Chávez’s political movement and has broad support in the army, is often viewed as a potential rival to Mr. Maduro.
Certainly, these views belong to powerful men in the military, but it should go without stating it seems unlikely that they perfectly reflect the entire military institution’s attitudes. It’s a good sign for Maduro that he has such support, but, should he win the election, whether or not he will be able to maintain it will be a key issue in his administration. And, unlikely as it may seem, should Capriles win the election, the stance of some in the military indicates he himself will be in a difficult position. Either way, the Venezuelan military will have plenty to say in politics, be it through vocal declarations or through silence.