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Latam Brief: Massa wins, will compete against Milei in runoff, Machado wins opposition unity candidacy (October 23, 2023)

Source: Infobae
Source: Infobae

Argentine Economy Minister Sergio Massa, representing the governing Peronist alliance (UP), came in first in yesterday’s general elections, and will face off against libertarian Javier Milei in a runoff vote on Nov. 19. Massa obtained 36.68%, while Milei obtained 29.98%. The results defied most polls which put Milei first, but confirmed predictions of a second-round between the controversial libertarian and Massa.

In last night’s speeches, both candidates immediately shifted their focus to wooing the voters of losing parties. Both have particularly focused on those of the third-place, right-wing Juntos por el Cambio coalition, whose candidate, Patricia Bullrich, obtained 23.83%. Center-right Córdoba governor Juan Schiaretti obtained 6.78%, and leftist Myriam Bregman came in at 2.7%. (Infobae)

Massa appealed to voters across the political spectrum in his speech last night — promising to convene a “national unity” government if he wins in December, and to construct a cabinet based on meritocracy rather than political alliances. He promised an end to the “grieta,” the political polarization “chasm” that has many voters exhausted and rejecting the entire political establishment.

He particularly reached out to the voters of the traditional centrist UCR, an effort to woo voters from within the more moderate sector of the losing JxC alliance with reference to shared values, like public education. He promised more “order” and building “clear rules in the face of uncertainty” — but also a defense of the rights obtained over the past 20 years. In a response to Milei’s primary speech referencing his “four legged children” (dogs), Massa emphasized human families.

Milei’s speech last night focused on celebrating his party’s growth in two years — when he first irrupted on the national scene as a fringe party. He reached out to the hawkish JxC voters, who overwhelmingly favored Bullrich in the August primaries. Instead of raving against the “political caste,” he shifted his speech to a potential alliance with JxC voters against the “criminal kirchneristas,” and suggested a tabula rasa following a discursively antagonistic general election and calling for “working together.” He posited the election as one between the Kirchner party and freedom. “We do not come to take away rights, we come to take away privileges,” he said to applause.

Participation yesterday was 77.65%, about seven points higher than in the August primaries, but well below the 81% of the 2015 election and the 80.4% of the 2019 election. Indeed, it’s one of lowest turnouts since the country’s return to democracy 40 years ago, a reflection of voter anger and apathy in the midst of crushing inflation and years of intense political polarization. (Infobae)

Milei received nearly the same percentage of the vote as in the primary election, while Massa’s support grew after a campaign focused on the dangers of a Milei presidency, notes the New York Times. However, Massa must now battle a strong anti-Peronist sentiment that will increase Milei’s votes.

More Argentina

  • All eyes are on the creaking JxC coalition, which will face significant obstacles to unity after yesterday’s crushing loss and a bloody primary race between Bullrich and centrist Horacio Rodríguez Larreta. The coalition leader, former President Mauricio Macri, has given abundant indications that he will realign in favor of Milei, a move that could likely alienate the alliance’s moderate factions, which Massa, a center-right Peronist, could poach for a potential unity platform. (Infobae)

  • Argentina’s electoral authorities opened a preliminary investigation after Milei made unfounded claims that there may have been electoral fraud in the August primaries during a television interview last week, reports the Buenos Aires Herald. The National Electoral Chamber stated that there were no reports of fraud or manipulation when it published the official tally of the primaries. Milei and his candidates made no mention of fraud in their statements last night.

  • Prominent members of South America’s extreme-right, including Eduardo Bolsonaro, flew to Argentina hoping for a Milei triumph. (Guardian)

  • Axel Kicillof, in his victory speech after winning reelection as governor of Buenos Aires province by a landslide, said the ballot box message was clearly a repudiation of dictatorship, on the fortieth anniversary of the return to democracy.

  • “Massa’s win prevented – or at least stalled – a Monday morning devaluation of the peso, something that was to be expected had Milei come in first place,” notes Arianna Kohan’s Road to the Casa Rosada newsletter.

  • Journalist Juan Elman analyzes the generational political divides within families this election, and why Milei appeals to younger voters who grew up in the midst of inflation and lack of opportunities, in El Hilo.

  • No party will have quorum in either of the two chambers of Congress. UP lost 10 seats in the lower chamber of Congress, the House of Deputies, but retains a slight majority with 108. JxC lost 25 seats, but remains the second force in the house, with 93. Milei’s Libertad Avanza obtained 34 seats, putting the libertarian’s total at 37. If Milei wins in November, he will depend on political alliances to push through his legislative agenda. (La Nación)

  • UP will also have a slight majority in the Senate, with 34 seats. JxC will have 24, and the libertarians 8. Again, alliances will be key for the incoming president. (La Nación)

Machado wins opposition unity candidacy

Venezuelan politician María Corina Machado appears to have won an opposition primary vote by a landslide. She had 93.13% percent of the vote, with 26% of ballots counted, yesterday. Most of the ten candidates who competed yesterday have already congratulated Machado, reports Efecto Cocuyo.

Voters endured long lines to participate in yesterday’s effort to determine a unity candidate to face off against President Nicolás Maduro in elections scheduled for the latter half of 2024. (Efecto Cocuyo)

The election took place with no official government support, reports the New York Times. “Instead, the vote was organized by civil society, with polling stations in homes, parks and the offices of opposition parties.”

Internet service providers blocked a website meant to allow voters to locate their polling sites, and many centers had to be relocated due to government allies’ intimidation, reports the Associated Press.

The count was expected to continue today, but it remains unclear how swiftly it could be completed amid delays that the National Primary Commission blamed on internet censorship, reports Al Jazeera. There was no indication of how many people had voted, and organizers were expected to release additional results throughout today, reports the Guardian.

Given the logistical and political challenges the vote faced, it was a success, David Smilde told the Washington Post. “The primary process has done what primaries should do: Force politicians to get closer to the people, generate excitement and spur change … This process has done all of those things and has revived an opposition that just a year ago seemed to be in hibernation.”

Machado could pose a significant electoral threat to Maduro — in a country which has not held free and fair elections since 2015. However, Venezuelan authorities have banned her from holding political office, in response to her alleged support of U.S. economic sanctions against Venezuela. (New York Times)

In reality, the ban is a response to her potential to win, according to the candidate. The opposition acknowledges any elections will probably be unfair yet remains committed to participating in elections, Machado told the Guardian.

Machado’s victory comes on the heels of major (albeit partial) breakthroughs in Venzeula’s political stalemate, with agreements between the government and the opposition Plataforma Unitaria last week, the liberation of five political detainees, and the lifting of U.S. sanctions. The U.S. has said it will reinstate the sanctions if Maduro doesn’t lift bans on opposition presidential candidates by November. (See last Thursday’s post.)

Machado has been a hawkish member of an extremely fractured opposition, which has rarely managed to present a united front against Chavismo.

Her challenge moving forward is particularly fraught: “She must become the undisputed leader of a divided and fragmented opposition, in an environment controlled by a repressive and unscrupulous regime,” writes Venezuelan journalist Boris Múñoz in El País. “But, once her leadership is established, she must create the conditions of governability to lead Venezuela out of social, economic and humanitarian collapse. All this without fracturing the country even more.”


  • Mexico hosted a regional migration summit with attendance from presidents and high-level officials from Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, Haiti, Belize, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama, yesterday. “The summit reportedly included calls for the rejection of “coercive” measures—in reference to sanctions—for increased legal pathways to the US and Canada, and for a human rights approach to migration,” reports Americas Migration Brief.

Regional Relations

  • “Argentina and Brazil are requesting 12.5 billion euros in financial aid from the European Union in talks to conclude a trade agreement with South America’s Mercosur bloc,” reports Reuters. “The EU funds, meant to compensate for increased competition, would be available when tariffs start dropping, according to schedules in the trade in goods chapter, the text said.”


  • Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva “vetoed the core aspects of a bill passed by Congress that threatened to undo protections of Indigenous peoples’ land rights,” reports the Associated Press. The bill proposed a cutoff date for Indigenous land claims, a legal theory rejected by the Supreme Court this year before conservative lawmakers passed the bill.

  • The case of U.S pilots found guilty of causing a massive airplane crash in 2006 by Brazilian courts “is now a case study in the difficulty of carrying out criminal sentences on foreign nationals living abroad,” reports the Washington Post.


  • Bolivia’s ombudsman’s office “condemned threats against a 10-year-old rape victim and her family after teachers and school staff tried to prevent the arrest of the alleged rapist, a 39-year-old headmaster, by trying to invade a local police station and scuffling with police officers,” reports the Guardian.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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