- A few short comments about politics and trends around the hemisphere
I’m spending my day on planes going from DC to Bogota, so sending later than usual from the Houston airport with just a few brief comments today that I wrote on the first flight.
El Niño will cause serious heatwaves in the coming months. Mexico City is facing one of those heatwaves at the moment, with temperatures nearing 90 Fahrenheit every day for the next week. For a city where most people do not have air conditioning, this is a potentially dangerous situation. Meterologists suggest that there may be additional days of unusually high temperatures for Mexico’s capital region before the summer is over.
Looking months ahead, among other things, this El Niño will impact farm output. While food prices are down from their peak, they still remain at relatively high levels compared to the last five decades and the high prices have been sustained for a long time. If El Niño leads to another 12 months of higher-than-average prices, it will impact politics globally, especially in emerging and frontier markets.
Argentina has a complicated multi-candidate election and I haven’t built any formal prediction models yet, but my gut instinct is that Patricia Bullrich is the current front runner for the presidency. I base that partially on polling, but also on how I see a security narrative shaping up in the country. Security is an issue that ranks ridiculously high in the polling given that the country is actually quite safe and is experiencing a serious economic crisis. On that front, Bullrich is playing to voters’ concerns better than most other candidates.
Is Larreta, who is perceived as more moderate, a better second round candidate than Bullrich? Yes, almost certainly. But the difference is probably not as large as the conventional wisdom claims. I don’t think Bullrich is so extreme that she scares away many first or second round voters given the alternatives will be Milei and whoever the ruling party offers up.
If Bullrich does win, prepare to hear a lot about the narrative of a “Bukele election.” There is real potential that we have elections in Guatemala, Ecuador, and Argentina that all turn on security issues. In each country, one or several candidates will attempt to claim the title of the most hardline on security issues. And the appeal of that candidate will drive all candidates, even those who are more traditionally doves, torwards harder line policies. If three elections go that way in 2023, it will lead to more elections being framed around the security narrative in 2024.
This week’s World Politics Review column touches on the alleged (probably true!) Chinese spy base in Cuba. Two paragraphs that didn’t make the final cut discussed in more depth the futility of sanctions as an option to respond and try to change Cuba’s behavior. First, Cuba doesn’t generally improve its behavior when sanctioned. Second, there is a solid case to be made that Cuba is accepting this money from the Chinese in part because they can’t get more money from the US due to sanctions. The newest economic crisis has made them desperate. But desperation in this case doesn’t lead them to change their government or policies; it simply gives US antagonists greater leverage over Cuba.
In Mexico, Morena will choose its candidate via a poll. One notable detail is that this polling method is exactly how AMLO rigged the PRD primary in 2012, with Ebrard losing in that process. Last week’s Americas Quarterly podcast discussed the possibility of Ebrard defecting from Morena if he loses this process and I think it’s a point very much worth considering. Ebrard, in spite of having that primary stolen from him in 2012, has been a loyal soldier for AMLO for years and has done everything the president has asked. That is a key reason I think Ebrard remains the favorite to be the candidate; AMLO should respect his loyalty after that 2012 incident. If AMLO stabs Ebrard in the back again, a defection from the president and his party is definitely something Ebrard should and will consider.
Latin America Risk Report 06 13 2023