Former Costa Rican president José María Figueres obtained the most votes in yesterday’s presidential election, and will likely face off against economist Rodrigo Chaves in an April 3 runoff. This morning, preliminary results gave Figueres 27.7 percent and Chaves 16.72. A candidate must obtain 40 percent to win the presidency outright. (Al Jazeera)
Costa Ricans also chose a new National Assembly in the elections Sunday, which took place days after the country’s top prosecutor filed papers seeking to lift outgoing President Carlos Alvarado’s immunity so he can face justice, reports the Associated Press.
Figueres is a Costa Rican political establishment figure, in addition to his presidency in the 1990s, his father was three-time president José Figueres Ferrer, probably the country’s most important political figure of the last century.
Right-wing Rodrigo Chaves, of Progreso Social Democrático, presents himself as a new face in politics, but he was already finance minister for just over half a year, before leaving office after disagreements with Alvarado, notes AFP.
Haiti’s political crisis deepens
Today marks the official end of the slain Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s term (by some counts anyway). Schools and businesses across Haiti have shuttered their doors and large numbers of police are patrolling the streets. Thousands opted to stay home today afraid that violence could erupt on the day that marks the end of the Duvalier dictatorship, reports the Associated Press. Gangs stormed the airport road on Friday, shutting down businesses and putting Haiti’s police force on high alert in anticipation of more violence today.
Political opponents have demanded that interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry step down, arguing that his administration is unconstitutional. The government will be rendered unconstitutional today, according to an opposition alliance dubbed the Montana Accord and independent experts. Senate President Joseph Lambert, stopping short of demanding that Henry step down, asked that he return the presidential sash to the Senate and requested that he refrain from engaging his “de-facto” government in any new business until “a broad consensus” can be reached between those promoting competing solutions as the way out of the crisis.
Seven months after Moïse’s assassination, elections are a political necessity, but most experts agree that free and fair elections could not be held in current conditions — with gang rule and violence increasingly prevalent in Haiti. Organizations with the Montana Accord have sought to install a transitional government headed by a five-member presidential college. (See last Monday’s post.) “The whole system is not trustworthy,” Monique Clesca, a member of the Montana Accord, said. “There is no way you can go to elections with Ariel Henry; nobody trusts him after this assassination.”
The United States has sought to avoid picking winners in Haiti’s political crisis, but the Montana Accord said it was de facto supporting Henry by supporting the status quo, reports the New York Times.
“The battle for control of Haiti has become a struggle to win the backing of the United States and its international friends, not because they are trusted allies but because they provide the foreign aid necessary for the economy, as well as the potential for technical assistance in disarming the gangs,” writes Amy Wilenz in the Los Angeles Times.
- Peruvian prime minister Héctor Valer said on Saturday that he will step down just four days after being named for the post, after allegations that he beat his daughter and late wife. The confirmation came the day after President Pedro Castillo said he would reshuffle the cabinet again, after just three days, amid widespread condemnation of his appointment of Valer as prime minister, reports the Guardian. It will be Castillo’s fourth cabinet in just six months in office. (See Thursday’s post.)
- Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard officers fired at a boat carrying Venezuelan migrants Saturday night, wounding a mother and killing the baby in her arms. Officers were trying to stop a boat crossing the Venezuelan border into Trinidad and Tobago, in what the island nation’s officials described as an act of self-defense, reports the Associated Press.
- Asylum seekers on both sides of the Atlantic have been caught by escalating rhetoric, disjointed asylum systems and controversial steps to contain their numbers, reports the Washington Post Worldviews column.
- Argentina joined China’s sweeping Belt and Road initiative, paving the way for investments worth more than US$23 billion, after meetings between President Alberto Fernández and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping in Beijing. The two leaders agreed to a five-year plan for agricultural cooperation, focusing on key areas to grow and diversify trade and investment within the sector. (Buenos Aires Times, Deutsche Welle)
- Argentina’s incorporation into the BRI is a major win for Beijing in Latin America, according to AFP.
- Ecuador expects to pull together a trade deal with China at the end of this year and will begin formal debt re-negotiations with the Asian country, Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced this weekend, also while in Beijing. (Reuters)
- Thousands of protesters denounced racist violence in Brazil’s major cities yesterday after the murder of a young Congolese refugee in Rio de Janeiro last month. Many demonstrators also demanded the removal of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, reports the Guardian. (See Friday’s briefs.)
- Bolsonaro, whose politics are far-right and militaristic, has sought to woo the country’s poorest voters ahead of this year’s presidential elections. But his attempts to portray himself as a man of the people, and the cash subsidy payouts he has increased, have done little to convince a population hit hard by the pandemic’s economic effects, reports the Washington Post.
- Chilean president-elect Gabriel Boric named renowned climate scientist Maisa Rojas into his cabinet, where she will lead the way on Boric’s ambitious promise to construct a green, sustainable and resilient future for Chile, reports the Guardian. “I think there’s a lot of space for Chile to become a leader in the fight against climate change,” she says.
- Venezuela’s oil industry is beginning to make a muted recovery and the country’s black markets are reacting fast. Domestic fuel is already starting to compete with smuggled Colombian imports, in a country where the black market for oil has increasingly gone towards providing basic necessities like cooking oil for Venezuelan families, reports InSight Crime.
- The Biden administration is considering a Chevron Corp proposal to allow the U.S. oil major to accept and trade Venezuelan oil cargoes to recoup unpaid debt, reports Reuters.
- Bolivia is the exception to Latin America’s high vaccination rates — just 45 percent of the population has received two doses, and a further 12 percent have had a single dose. Rural residents are particularly reluctant to get jabs, according to government data. Experts say it’s a mix of Evangelical religious beliefs and misinformation — as well as a deep-seated mistrust of the healthcare system by Indigenous people who have suffered pervasive mistreatment. (Guardian)
- The bodies of 16 people were found in two different cities in Mexico’s Zacatecas state on Saturday, an area where the Sinaloa and the Jalisco New Generation cartels have been battling for control of lucrative drug-smuggling routes to the United States, reports Al Jazeera. (See last Tuesday’s post.)
- Honduran President Xiomara Castro has tested positive for COVID-19, she said on Sunday, adding that she has mild symptoms and will be working in isolation. (Reuters)
St. Kitts and Nevis
- The Concacaf and the St. Kitts and Nevis football associationare at loggerheads over coach accused of sexual abuse in Barbados, reports the Guardian.
- Caetano Veloso’s political persecution pushed him into a career he was never sure he wanted, reports the New Yorker.