Monday, March 12: Latin America News Briefing

The top stories to start your day from around the web



Every morning the PanAm Post gives you a briefing on the most important news from the Americas.

These are the top stories this morning:


Wave of Independent Politicians Seek to ‘Open Cracks’ in Mexico’s Status Quo


The New York Times explains how and why dozens of independent candidates are running for state or federal office in the July 1st general election in Mexico. After a 2014 constitutional challenge, independent candidates were allowed run, the paper explains. The article says the political establishment is “perceived by many Mexicans as inclined to corruption and graft.”


Sebastián Piñera [took] Chile’s Presidential office [Sunday]

March 11, 2018 | The Santiago Times

Socialist Michelle Bachelet was replaced by billionaire ex-president Sebastián Piñera at noon on Sunday. Mauricio Macri of Argentina, Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, Pedro Pablo Kuczynksi of Peru and Lenin Moreno of Ecuador were present. Piñera faces a divided Congress and his predecessors call for a new constitution just days before the end of her term.

In his inauguration speech (video), Piñera promised to end “stagnation” that resulted from the socialist rule, and declared Chile would undergo “major surgery” on health care reform and policy frameworks.

The President is best known for graduating from Harvard on a Fulbright scholarship as an economist and making his fortune selling Chileans on the idea of credit cards in the 1980s. During his previous term, Chile experienced a 5.3 % a year economic growth rate and rising copper (their main export) prices. In contrast, Chile has experiences 1.4% YoY growth in the last 4 years, largely due to lower copper prices.

Nobody expects the new President to be as active as in his first term. As the Financial Times quotes Eugenrio Tironi saying, who wrote a book on Piñera in 2011,  “This is not going to be a counter-revolution” against Bachelet.


Colombia election: Former Farc rebels face first ballot

7 p.m., March 11 | NYT | The Santiago Times

The congressional and party primary elections, viewed by many as a predictor for the presidential elections in May, took place in Colombia on Sunday. As was widely expected, Ivan Duque and Gustavo Petro won their respective party primaries and will face off in the general election. Duque received more than 3.9m votes and Petro received 2.7m votes. No party won a clear majority in either legislature, but Duque’s Democratic Center party lead the results in the Senate with over 15.6m votes. Petro’s Radical Change party came in second and the Liberal party came in third.


Brazil gets tough in war on crime in Rio’s slums ($)

Andres Schipani in Rio de Janeiro | Sunday | FT

Even though 69% of Brazilians approve of President Temer’s decision to send in 1,400 army personnel to police Rio de Janerio’s favelas, many are now seeing the military intervention as having gone a step too far. Residents are skeptical of the measure, fearing its little more than  an election ploy to win support for the general elections in October. Despite the fact Temer is not seeking a second term, his party is said to be looking to make the most of being seen as “tough on crime”. Trouble is the images of “Favela residents..and school children having their backpacks searched, have sparked a furore.”


Jobs, Cash and Coffins: How Colombia’s Clans Win Elections

By John Otis Updated March 9, 2018 11:03 a.m. ET | WSJ

The Wall Street Journal writes a scathing account of Colombia’s congressional elections, claiming that what it calls “clans” control much of the electoral process through handouts and shady financial dealings. The report relies heaving on an interview with Ariel Avila, and Bogota native and political analyst who writes n Colombia’s family dynasties. He claims some arias are so poor, buying votes in trivial. Typically, even with a history of graft or even murder, the most affluent “clan” will win the election.


Rumors, mistrust hinder Brazil yellow fever vaccine campaign

By Sarah Dilorenzo | AP March 12 at 12:14 AM | Washington Post

Brazilian authorities are desperately trying to avoid a yellow fever epidemic reach its urban mega-cities, something that hasn’t happened since the 1940s. Hampering these efforts is the citizen’s mistrust of central government authorities following the recent graft and corruption scandals. Even though a vaccine is against yellow fever is offered for free, residents are hesitant to take it since the have little faith that someone somewhere isn’t profiting from the effort somehow, or that the injection might even be dangerous (it is certainly not but the rumor abounds anyway).


Mexico: Crude bomb caused ferry blast; terrorism ruled out

By Peter Orsi | AP March 11 at 7:23 PM | Washington Post

In yet another bizarre twist in the Playa del Carmen ferry blast incident, which injured 26 people, Mexican authorities now say that what took place was the result of a “crude explosive device” being detonated but that they do not believe it was a terrorist or gang attack. The bomb placed on the ferry was “not intended” to cause much damage, authorities said. Despite this, police presence at the popular tourist destination has been increased dramatically.


Cuba’s likely next president pledges more responsive gov’t

By Michael Weissenstein | AP March 11 at 4:48 PM

Daniel-Canel is assuming Raul Castro’s role as president of Cuba, as what many describe as a handpicked successor.  Canel was appointed as Vice President in 2013. He is considered a member of the Cuban communist party’s younger generation. Despite not having lived through the ‘revolution’, few expect him to deviate form the Castro party doctrines. Canel has been guarded and cautious, giving foreign overserved little real idea of what he will be life as ‘President’ of Cuba. He will be the first civilian president of the Caribbean nation since Fidel Castro took power.

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