By Carlos Monge*
By Eduardo Ballón and Raúl Molina (consultores) and Claudia Viale and Carlos Monge (National Resource Governance Institute, América Latina), from Minería y marcos institucionales en la región andina. El superciclo y su legado, o las difíciles relaciones entre políticas de promoción de la inversión minero-hidrocarburífera y las reformas institucionales, Reporte de Investigación preparado por NRGI con colaboración de la GIZ, Lima, Marzo del 2017. See blog text for high-resolution graphic
Policies adopted in response to the end of the “supercycle” have slowed and, in some cases, reversed the reforms that moved the region toward greater decentralization, citizen participation, and environmental protection over the past decade. Latin American governments of the left and right used the commodities supercycle to drive growth and poverty reduction at an unprecedented pace. They also undertook institutional reforms aimed at improving governance at large.
- Even before demand and prices for Latin American energy and minerals began to rise in the early 2000s, some Latin American countries launched processes of decentralization (Colombia and Bolivia); started to institutionalize mechanisms for citizens’ participation in decision making (Colombia and Bolivia); and built progressively stronger environmental management frameworks (Colombia and Ecuador). Peru pressed ahead with decentralization and participation at the start of the supercycle, and when it was in full swing, created a Ministry of the Environment.
- Implementation of the reforms was subordinated by governments’ overarching goal of fostering investments in the extractive sector. Indigenous consultation rights in Peru, for example, were approved in the second half of 2011, but implementation was delayed a year and limited only to indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. President Ollanta Humala, giving in to the mining lobby, claimed there were no indigenous peoples in the Andes and that no consultations were needed around mining projects. Local pressure forced a reversal, and by early 2015 four consultation projects on mid-size mining projects were launched.
These reformist policies have suffered setbacks since the decrease in Asia’s and particularly China’s appetite for Latin American energy and minerals has caused prices to fall – and the value of exports, taxes, and royalties, and public incomes along with them. The latest ECLAC data show a decline in economic growth and a rebound of poverty both in absolute and relative figures. The gradual fall in the price of minerals starting in 2013 and the abrupt collapse in oil prices by the end of 2015 reversed this generally favorable trend.
The response of the governments of resource-dependent countries has been “race to the bottom” policies, which included steps backward in fiscal, social, and environmental policies. Governments’ bigger concern has been to foster investments in the new and more adverse circumstances. In this new scenario, the processes of decentralization, participation, and environmental management have been negatively impacted as local authorities and citizens’ participation – as well as environmental standards and protocols – are perceived by companies and rent-seeking public officials as obstacles to investments.
- Peru’s Law 30230 in 2014, for example, reduced income tax rates, weakened the oversight capacity of the Ministry of the Environment, and weakened indigenous peoples’ claim public lands.
The correlation between the supercycle years and the progress and regressions in reforms is clear. (click here for high-resolution graphic). During the supercycle – when huge amounts of money were to be made – companies and government were willing to incorporate the cost of citizen participation, decentralization and environmental standards and protocols. But now, governments are desperate for new investments to overcome the fall in economic growth and extractive rents, and extractive companies are not willing any more to assume these additional costs. Those who oppose the “race to the bottom strategy” are fighting hard to restore the reforms and to move ahead with decentralization, increased participation, and enhanced environmental management, to achieve a new democratic governance of the territories and the natural resources they contain.
April 7, 2017
* Carlos Monge is Latin America Director at the Natural Resource Governance Institute in Lima.
Posted by clalsstaff on April 7, 2017
By Karsten Paerregaard*
A ceremony at Mount Huaytapallana during the Andean New Year. / Photo by Karsten Paerregaard.
Peru – one of the countries in the world most vulnerable to climate change – is experiencing a surge in religious ceremonies highlighting the plight of its rapidly shrinking glaciers, but the increased attention has downsides as well. Peru has 70 percent of the world’s tropical glaciers, which provide most of the country’s fresh water and have been integrally linked to the identity of the Andean people since the Incas. They are rapidly shrinking, however. Mount Huaytapallana, a 5,500-meter-high glacier about 300 kilometers east of Lima, has shrunk 50 percent over the past quarter century – with profound implications for life throughout much of Peru. Shamans in the region, whose ceremonies and offerings have long constituted a critical means of regulating the relationship between society and nature in the Andes, are reviving the practices to draw attention to this environmental crisis.
- Most participants in ceremonies on Mount Huaytapallana come from Huancayo and other nearby cities in the central highlands, hoping that Huaytapallana will listen to their prayers and bring them good fortune. The Andean New Year on June 24, one of the most spectacular events, attracts more than a thousand people. They offer food, drinks, candles, and cloths that are burned while the shamans say prayers to Huaytapallana in Quechua. The event reminds people of the suffering that global warming is causing to the mountain.
- In the southeastern highlands, Mount Ausungate attracts even bigger crowds. Around the feast of Corpus Christi each year thousands of pilgrims walk up to a sanctuary to pay tribute to an image called Señor de Qoyllur Rit’i (the Lord of the Snow Star), declared an Intangible Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011. The image represents Christ, who according the local legend revealed himself at the sanctuary in the 18th century, but it is also a religious relic of a pre-Columbian tradition of worshipping Andean mountain deities. Dance groups from eight communities of pilgrims, known as naciones, play music and dance around the clock, and men dressed as bears climb the nearby glaciers of Ausungate to set up crosses and until recently set off fireworks. An estimated 50,000 visited the sanctuary last year.
The glaciers are symbols of both the country’s indigenous past and the damage that global climate change is inflicting. The growing participation in Andean ceremonies with religious overtones reflects the deepening concern for the profound social, economic, and spiritual implications of the environmental degradation. It is fueled by a search for alternative answers to problems that global climate change is causing in Peru and that the country’s governments so far have failed to provide. The surge in interest also, ironically, is cause for concern. According to the regional government of Junín, responsible for the protection of Huaytapallana’s environment, visitors leave more than four tons of trash on the mountain every year. The commercialization of the offering ceremonies makes it difficult to hold the shamans accountable for participants’ activities. At Qoyllur Rit’i, Peru’s Ministry of Culture is in charge of preserving the pilgrimage according to Andean traditions, enhancing people’s awareness of Ausungate’s cultural importance, but pilgrims’ presence on the glaciers remains an issue of continuous dispute. Shamans and environmentalists are a potentially powerful alliance, but even mitigating the environmental impact of activities by people concerned with climate change is not a simple matter.
February 6, 2017
* Karsten Paerregaard teaches in the School of Global Studies at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. He has participated in a CLALS project, funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, on Religion and Climate Change in Cross-Regional Perspective.
Posted by clalsstaff on February 6, 2017
By Eric Hershberg and Fulton Armstrong
Brazilian President Michel Temer surrounded by members of his party in mid-2016. His government will continue to face questions of legitimacy in 2017. / Valter Campanato / Agência Brasil / Wikimedia / Creative Commons
The year 2016 laid down a series of challenges for Latin America in the new year – not the least of which will be adapting to a radically different administration in Washington. Last year saw some important achievements, including an elusive peace agreement in Colombia ending the region’s oldest insurgency. Several countries shifted politically, eroding the “pink tide” that affected much of the region over the past decade or so, but the durability and legitimacy of the ensuing administrations will hinge on their capacity to achieve policy successes that improve the well-being of the citizenry. The legitimacy of Brazil’s change of government remains highly contested. Except in Venezuela, where President Maduro clung to power by an ever-fraying thread, the left-leaning ALBA countries remained largely stable, but the hollowing out of democratic institutions in those settings is a cause for legitimate concern. Across Latin America and the Caribbean, internal challenges, uncertainties in the world economy, and potentially large shifts in U.S. policy make straight-line predictions for 2017 risky.
- Latin America’s two largest countries are in a tailspin. The full impact of Brazil’s political and economic crises has yet to be fully felt in and outside the country. President Dilma’s impeachment and continuing revelations of corruption among the new ruling party and its allies have left the continent’s biggest country badly damaged, with profound implications that extend well beyond its borders. Mexican President Peña Nieto saw his authority steadily diminish throughout the course of the past year, unable to deal with (and by some accounts complicit in) the most fundamental issues of violence, such as the disappearance of 43 students in 2014. The reform agenda he promised has fizzled, and looking ahead he faces a long period as a lame duck – elections are not scheduled until mid-2018.
- The “Northern Triangle” of Central America lurches from crisis to crisis. As violence and crime tears his country apart, Honduran President Hernández has devoted his energies to legalizing his efforts to gain a second term as president. Guatemala’s successful experiment channeling international expertise into strengthening its judicial system’s ability to investigate and prosecute corrupt officials is threatened by a weakening of political resolve to make it work, as elites push back while civil society has lost the momentum that enabled it to bring down the government of President Pérez Molina in 2015. El Salvador, which has witnessed modest strides forward in dealing with its profound corruption problems, remains wracked with violence, plagued by economic stagnation, and bereft of decisive leadership.
- Venezuela stands alone in the depth of its regime-threatening crisis, from which the path back to stability and prosperity is neither apparent nor likely. The election of right-leaning governments in Argentina (in late 2015) and Peru (in mid-2016) – with Presidents Macri and Kuczynski – has given rise to expectations of reforms and prosperity, but it’s unclear whether their policies will deliver the sort of change people sought. Bolivian President Morales, Ecuadoran President Correa, and Nicaraguan President Ortega have satisfied some important popular needs, but they have arrayed the levers of power to thwart opposition challenges and weakened democratic institutional mechanisms.
- As Cuban President Raúl Castro begins his final year in office next month, the credibility of his government and his successors – who still remain largely in the shadows – will depend in part on whether the party’s hesitant, partial economic reforms manage to overcome persistent stagnation and dissuade the country’s most promising professionals from leaving the island. Haiti’s President-elect Jovenel Moise will take office on February 7 after winning a convincing 55 percent of the vote, but there’s no indication he will be any different from his ineffective predecessors.
However voluble the region’s internal challenges – and how uncertain external demand for Latin American commodities and the interest rates applied to Latin American debt – the policies of incoming U.S. President Donald Trump introduce the greatest unknown variables into any scenarios for 2017. In the last couple years, President Obama began fulfilling his promise at the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago to “be there as a friend and partner” and seek “engagement … that is based on mutual respect and equality.” His opening to Cuba was an eloquent expression of the U.S. disposition to update its policies toward the whole region, even while it was not always reflected in its approach to political dynamics in specific Latin American countries.
Trump’s rhetoric, in contrast, has already undermined efforts to rebuild the image of the United States and convince Latin Americans of the sincerity of Washington’s desire for partnership. His rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership – more categorical than losing candidate Hillary Clinton’s cautious words of skepticism about the accord – has already closed one possible path toward deepened ties with some of the region’s leading, market-oriented economies. His threat to deport millions of undocumented migrants back to Mexico and Central America, where there is undoubtedly no capacity to handle a large number of returnees, has struck fear in the hearts of vulnerable communities and governments. The region has survived previous periods of U.S. neglect and aggression in the past, and its strengthened ties with Asia and Europe will help cushion any impacts of shifts in U.S. engagement. But the now-threatened vision of cooperation has arguably helped drive change of benefit to all. Insofar as Washington changes gears and Latin Americans throw up their hands in dismay, the region will be thrust into the dilemma of trying to adjust yet again or to set off on its own course as ALBA and others have long espoused.
January 4, 2017
Posted by clalsstaff on January 4, 2017
By Fulton Armstrong and Eric Hershberg
President Barack Obama and President Pedro Pablo Kuczynsky at the APEC 2016 summit / Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores – Peru / Flickr / Creative Commons
The Obama administration’s failure to win U.S. approval for the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a disappointment for Latin American countries on the Pacific Rim – and such a big opportunity for China to expand its influence that President-elect Donald Trump, despite his theatrical pledge to withdraw from it, might eventually consider rescuing the accord. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Lima last weekend was the last chance for Latin American leaders to say goodbye in person to President Obama and to mourn the passing – for at least the short term – of his TPP-centered vision for trans-Pacific trade. In a meeting with leaders of the 11 other TPP countries, Obama tried hard to convince them of “the United States’ continued strong support for trade” despite growing evidence to the contrary. Both U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who was Obama’s Secretary of State for four years, firmly and repeatedly stated opposition to TPP. The White House continued efforts all the way up to election day (November 8) to persuade the U.S. Senate to approve the deal in a lame-duck session, but the Republican leaders – like Clinton champions of free trade until it became a 2016 campaign issue — slammed the door on it.
With the collapse of TPP, several Asian countries have already signaled a willingness to sign on with China’s own free trade initiative, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – which Latin America is not yet part of. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, angry with the United States over trade and other issues, threw his lot with China during a visit to Beijing last month. (The Philippines, which has also moved aggressively to ally itself with China in recent months, is not in TPP.) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Trump last week and said his country “could have great confidence” in the President-elect, but he has nonetheless warned his parliament that RCEP will prevail.
- Latin Americans are also slowly but surely gravitating toward China as trans-Pacific leader in trade. Just days before the Lima summit, Peruvian Foreign Minister Eduardo Ferreyros announced that, while Lima still hoped TPP would become reality, his government has begun talks with China over accession to RCEP. His Chilean counterpart, Heraldo Muñoz, last Friday also expressed preference for TPP but told the Wall Street Journal that his country was leaning toward joining RCEP. Chinese President Xi Jinping, in Lima for the summit, was also making stops in Ecuador and Chile. (He’s visited Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela on previous trips.) In an op-ed in Peru’s El Comercio just before the summit, Xi said, “United by the same dream, there isn’t a more timely moment for the deepening of our multidimensional cooperation.”
The APEC forum may have been trying to counter Trump and others’ criticism of the lopsided impact of global trade by issuing a statement – titled “Quality Growth and Human Development” – emphasizing the benefit of global trade to all citizens in all countries. It was certainly in this spirit that the host of summit, Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, warned that proponents of trade barriers would do well to revisit the history of the 1930s, singling out for unusually sharp criticism the stance taken by the U.S. President-elect. On its face, Trump’s campaign rhetoric suggests TPP is totally dead; he’s many times called it a “disaster” being “pushed by special interests who want to rape our country.” Free-traders found a glimmer of hope in an organizational chart reportedly leaked by the Trump transition team last week that listed a former lobbyist from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has strongly supported TPP, as head of his “trade reform” team. Yet if the new U.S. Administration is going to reengage on TPP, the primary reason would probably be to undercut China’s RCEP initiative. Much of the U.S. foreign policy establishment of both parties believes fervently that the impact of U.S. disengagement with the Pacific Rim would be harmful to U.S. global and hemispheric leadership. Should those concerns sway the incoming President, he could opt to set aside his caustic rhetoric on TPP, negotiate face-saving adjustments to the accord, and instead focus his tough talk on China. TPP’s flaws may ultimately appear minor and manageable compared to the competing scenario of Latin American governments seeking commercial prosperity through a Chinese-led Pacific economic bloc. That is certainly the hope of most Pacific Rim governments across Latin America, whose alarm at developments in the U.S. already has them eying alternatives across the pond.
November 22, 2016
Posted by clalsstaff on November 22, 2016
By Claudia Viale and Carlos Monge*
A Southern Copper Corporation train heading towards the Peruvian mines of Toquepala and Cuajone. / David Gubler / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons
The commodity-fueled “supercycle” that has propelled Latin American economies for the past decade and a half is ending, but careful analysis of other ongoing cycles will help countries cushion the blow. ECLAC economist Jean Acquatella has identified four significant global cycles in which Latin America has actively participated as a raw materials exporter through the 20th and 21st centuries: U.S. industrialization; post-war European reconstruction and Japan’s industrialization; the post-1973 OPEC-driven oil boom; and, most recently, urbanization and industrialization in Asia, especially China. During this fourth cycle – considered a supercycle because of sustained record levels of commodity prices and demand – resource-rich countries in Latin America experienced high growth rates, fiscal abundance, and a decrease in poverty rates as well as an increase in social conflict over the extraction of natural resources. Slower Chinese growth has since reduced global demand and prices for the region’s minerals and energy, but the impact has been less severe than at the end of previous cycles.
- José de Echave, of CooperAcción, has emphasized the need to differentiate the recent supercycle from what he terms the “extractive boom,” which started in the early 1990s as a result of the privatization of state mining and hydrocarbons assets and pro-market legislative reforms. His analysis indicates that the extractive boom will outlast the supercycle as long as large-scale projects mature and pro-investment policies continue in place.
The concessions, investments, production and fiscal rent during the past decade and a half in Peru and other countries indeed point to other cycles, some of which have enduring momentum. Peru has experienced a “concessions cycle” for exploration activities; “investment cycles” as a result of privatization of state assets in the ‘90s and as a result of successful explorations and increased demand and prices starting in 2002; “productive and export cycles” as a result of investments; and a “fiscal cycle” of abundant public revenue. Several cycles will obviously decline, but the country’s pro-investment policies remain in effect. The new government of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is deepening policies started under former President Humala: reducing corporate income taxes, making environment compliance less onerous, and curtailing the oversight capacities of the Ministry of the Environment. Investments made in the last five to ten years are, in many cases, only now beginning production. Thus, as contradictory as it might sound, Peru is poised to double its copper production in the next five years.
The complex differences between “extractive booms” and “supercycles” have deep political implications. The end of a supercycle could mean a substantial reduction in social conflict between local populations and extractive enterprises and government, but the current “race to the bottom” driven by pro-investment policies could fuel new tensions. The Las Bambas project in the South Andean region of Apurimac, Peru, illustrates the point. New legal procedures adopted in 2014 easing approval of environmental impact assessments (EIA) have allowed the Ministry of Energy and Mines to approve substantial changes in the project’s design and EIA without informing the local population and authorities, generating a violent local social reaction. Available data shows analogous phenomena underway in Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador. The implications will vary for each country, of course, but careful analysis is needed if state policies and civil society activism are to be on solid ground.
October 11, 2016
* Claudia Viale and Carlos Monge are Program Associate and Latin America Director at the Natural Resource Governance Institute in Lima.
Posted by clalsstaff on October 11, 2016
By Carlos Monge*
An abandoned gold mining project in the Cajamarca region, Peru / Wikimedia / Creative Commons
The surprising emergence of the Frente Amplio (FA), a coalition of political parties, social organizations and independent activists, in Peru’s recent presidential and congressional elections signals the first significant support for the Peruvian Left since the collapse of the Izquierda Unida in the 1980s. The Left was not able to present its own alternatives in the ‘90s, the early 2000s, and again in 2011. In October 2015 barely 13 percent of Peruvians knew about FA’s internal election to select presidential candidates. Veronika Mendoza had the support of only 1 percent of intending voters, and over 60 percent of Peruvians did not even know who she was. Nevertheless, FA ended up receiving 18.74 percent of the vote in the first electoral round, coming in third and only a couple of points behind Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK), who secured 21.05 percent and ended up defeating the Fuerza Popular’s candidate, Keiko Fujimori, to become President for the 2016-2021 period.
FA’s “post-extractivist” program has been key. Breaking away from the nationalist redistributive programs of leftists in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, and Argentina, FA espouses economic diversification and tax reform rather than more mineral or hydrocarbon exports to sustain economic growth and public incomes. FA also emphasizes the need to protect the environment and renewable natural resources for future generations and to recognize indigenous rights to territories, autonomy, direct political representation and effective consultations.
- These are not only electoral campaign ideas. Indeed, FA local activists and national leaders have maintained staunch opposition to emblematic mining projects such as the Conga project in the northern Cajamarca region and the Tía María project in southern Arequipa. In the same way, FA is denouncing that the new government is trying to lower air quality environmental standards to ease foreign investments in mineral smelters and has harshly criticized the new Minister of Production for abandoning the National Plan for Productive Diversification launched by the outgoing Ollanta Humala administration.
- Frente Amplio is grounded in social movements that have long confronted extractivist projects. Veronika Mendoza left President Humala’s Nationalist Party in 2012 in a dispute over his repressive response to socio-environmental protests around mining projects in the highlands of her native Cusco. Tierra y Libertad, FA’s largest party, has its roots in the Cajamarca rondas campesinas resistance against the Conga project. Another factor is that the end of the commodities “super cycle” has moved extractive rents off center stage. Even in Venezuela the official discourse is now moving in the direction of economic diversification.
Frente Amplio is not alone in Latin America in attempting to build a post–extractivist platform, but it seems to be the region’s most successful. Similar policies were at the heart of the presidential campaign of Alberto Acosta and a coalition of social and indigenous organizations in Ecuador. And in El Salvador, the Farabundo Martí government is also keeping extractivist temptations at bay. But Acosta did not manage to get significant support or to build a stable political alternative, and El Salvador is not a major commodity exporter. The importance of the FA experience is that it happens in a significant mineral and gas producer, that it has had immediate electoral success, and that it can become a permanent political player in Peruvian democracy. FA and PPK will probably agree on issues such as the fight against corruption, crime, and violence against women, but they will certainly disagree over macroeconomic and sector policies, such as taxes. Also, FA has denounced PPK for his call to lower air pollution standards and for his authorization to large fishing factories to operate up to 5 km off the coast, leaving very little for artisanal, small scale, internal market-oriented fishing activities. Where this ends up is anybody’s guess, but this is certainly a process worth keeping an eye on.
August 29, 2016
*Carlos Monge is Latin America regional director at the Natural Resource Governance Institute in Lima.
Posted by clalsstaff on August 29, 2016
By Maria Carrasquillo*
Photo Credit: Juan Manuel Herrera (OAS)/Flickr/Creative Commons
Secretary General Luis Almagro’s quest to revitalize the Organization of American States (OAS) seems premised on being an “activist” Secretary General in what could be a make-or-break gambit to assert the organization’s hemispheric leadership. Only 13 months in office, Almagro has taken an approach that is a clear departure from the low-key, consensus-building ways of former Secretary General José Miguel Insulza. In his 2015 inaugural address, Almagro laid out his plans for the rejuvenation of the OAS, including internal changes to “adapt it to the realities of the 21st century” and “insert [it] into a world different from the one in which it was developed and has grown and operated.” Almagro underscored the need for the OAS to promote transparent and inclusive elections throughout Latin America and, in regard to democratic governance, “lend a hand to countries that are going through moments of tension and conflict.”
Almagro has taken a number of positions that confirm his desire to redefine the OAS’s role in the region.
- In 2015, Almagro took the lead in developing a plan to fight corruption in Honduras, resulting in the formation of the Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity (MACCIH) – a watered-down version of the successful UN-backed CICIG in Guatemala. The jury is still out on whether MACCIH will have a serious impact, but Almagro has staked his reputation on its credibility.
- He has claimed that the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff lacked sufficient justification and that accusations against her were politically driven. Almagro also called for anticorruption investigations under Operação Lava Jato to continue as essential for the rule of law.
- Prior to the Peruvian elections, Almagro warned that the disqualification of two candidates reflected unequal application of the law and raised concerns that the contests would be “semi-democratic.” Following a meeting with disqualified frontrunner Julio Gómez, Almagro called for the reinstatement of both candidates’ right to participate in the elections.
- Perhaps Almagro’s most controversial action has been his attempt to invoke the OAS Democratic Charter against the government of Venezuela, without a finding by the Permanent Council, as required under Article 20 of the Charter, that the situation there amounts to “an unconstitutional alteration of a constitutional regime.” The Permanent Council implicitly rejected his appeal by urging more dialogue between the OAS and Venezuela. Almagro then sent a strongly worded letter to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accusing him of lying and “betraying his people,” and calling for the release of political prisoners, restoration of legitimate powers to the National Assembly, and a referendum to recall Maduro in 2016. (The Permanent Council is set to discuss the situation in Venezuela again on June 21.)
Almagro has taken on some very difficult issues, and explanations for his motivations are varied but not mutually exclusive. Some observers perceive a personal embrace of OAS principles, others detect a desire to avoid the sort of U.S. criticism that plagued Insulza and constrained U.S. support and funding, and still others speculate about his future political ambitions as a reformist on the non-radical left of Latin America. The democratic principles he is defending are clearly enshrined in OAS documents, but his activism has so far not reversed adverse situations: Rousseff was impeached, the Peruvian candidates were forced to sit out the election, and Maduro has yet to soften. Being an “activist” Secretary General in the case of Venezuela entails great risks; his predecessors were criticized both for getting too directly involved in the country’s internal affairs and for remaining passive in the face of growing authoritarianism in Caracas. It seems, moreover, as though Almagro has often acted alone, and the tone of his letter to Maduro was uniquely strident. A great deal is on the line for the OAS. If Almagro’s activism works, it will enhance the organization’s leadership on a range of issues confronting the hemisphere, but it may also put the OAS in the middle of future conflicts in which failure would bring a loss of institutional credibility.
June 16, 2016
* Maria Carrasquillo is a recent graduate of the M.A. Program in American University’s School of International Service and a research assistant at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies.
Posted by clalsstaff on June 16, 2016
By Michael Baney*
Photo Credit: harimarachinv / Flickr / Creative Commons
Peru’s presidential election, won by Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, bore the hallmarks of Peru’s distinct brand of democracy – political parties that are mere temporary electoral vehicles with little ideology; strong anti-incumbent sentiment; and the absence of a serious challenge by the left. Neither Kuczynski’s Peruanos Por el Kambio (PPK) nor Keiko Fujimori’s Fuerza Popular is a party with any true structure. The fact that the acronym of Kuczynski’s party forms his initials and that Keiko Fujimori’s party uses a large K as its symbol underscores the personal nature of these parties and of politics in Peru. For the fourth time in a row, not only did the governing party not remain in power; it did not field a candidate – symptom of the deep distrust of institutions and unhappiness with the status quo in the country. The lack of a serious challenge by the left was also repeated. Although Socialist Verónika Mendoza’s effective handling of a press challenge to her heritage gave her a surge in nationalist and indigenista support, her campaign faltered when her economic policies came under scrutiny.
The election also marked the emergence of a new generation of young antifujimorista activists who combined efforts on social media with traditional protests to undermine Fujimori’s electability. These efforts included the production and online dissemination of Su Nombre es Fujimori, a documentary that links Keiko to some of the worst abuses of her father’s government, as well as pillorying her distribution of Keiko-branded tupperware (called tápers in Peru) among the rural poor in an apparent vote-buying effort. Online voices ridiculed her by rewriting reports on the number of votes by which she trailed Kuczynski as indicating the number of additional tápers that she should have distributed, and the hashtag #KeikoTAPERdiendo – a colloquial pronunciation of “Keiko is losing” – was widely used to track reporting on the election. Whereas protests traditionally were organized by older demonstrators linked to Marxist parties, this year a Facebook-based group organized two days of nationwide marches of tens of thousands of mostly younger antifujimoristas.
The weakness of Peru’s parties will complicate President Kuczynski’s efforts to govern, as it has with past presidents. Kuczynski’s narrow victory was largely due to the effort of this new form of activism – which he did not lead, which is not necessarily loyal to him, and to which he does not have any strong allegiance. His ability to continue to benefit from such efforts designed to shut fujimorista politicians out of office will be extremely constrained, particularly because his lack of support in the fujimorista-majority congress will likely compel him to adopt a friendlier attitude toward his former rivals. Kuczynski has previously stated that he would sign a law allowing imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, Keiko’s father, to serve out his prison sentence at home, a move that he may consider to secure the cooperation of the fujimorista congressional bloc to move proposed legislation forward. Such a move would be a major blow to Peru’s human rights movement, which spent many years campaigning to imprison the former leader, and it would also infuriate the antifujimoristas, bringing them out onto the streets once again. Fujimorismo and antifujimorismo may remain the most salient political positions in a country where economic progress has not improved people’s trust of the system, a recipe for further polarization that could overwhelm the Kuczynski government should it attempt to straddle the two positions in an attempt to overcome the weaknesses inherent in a system with no parties.
June 13, 2016
* Michael Baney is Political Risk Analyst at Allan & Associates in Washington, DC.
Posted by clalsstaff on June 13, 2016
By Cynthia McClintock*
Photo Credits: Venezualan Government / Public Domain and Diario La Primera / Wikimedia Commons
Peru’s National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) will not announce the final results of Sunday’s run-off presidential election until later this week, but the current statistical tie is already setting the stage for serious tensions. The ONPE’s official count, with about 93 percent of votes counted, puts Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (Peruanos por el Kambio) at 50.32 percent and Keiko Fujimori (Fuerza Popular) at 49.68 percent. Some local observers say that late-arriving vote tallies from rural areas could give Fujimori the edge, but others point out that recent quick counts have reliably predicted final results. The campaigns may have aggravated tensions on Sunday night, when Fujimori’s spokesperson proclaimed her victory, and Kuczynski called on loyalists to “defend the vote” and “to be vigilant that they not steal votes from us.”
The campaign underscored the country’s enduring polarization over Fujimori’s imprisoned father, Alberto. Although Alberto Fujimori was convicted on charges of human rights violations and corruption, and although his 1990s government became increasingly authoritarian, he is still perceived by many Peruvians as the savior who restored order and broke the back of the Sendero Luminoso guerrillas. Primarily for this reason, Keiko Fujimori won almost 40 percent of the votes in the first round on April 10; Kuczynski was the runner-up with 21 percent, narrowly defeating leftist candidate Verónika Mendoza (Frente Amplio), with 19 percent.
- The last two weeks were a roller coaster. At the time of the first round, Kuczynski had held a slight lead over Fujimori, but only a week ago was trailing her by about five points. An international economist and banker who had lived for long periods in the United States, Kuczynski lost support in part because, after the first round, he spent eight days in the U.S., exacerbating perceptions that he was more gringo than Peruvian, while Fujimori traveled to remote areas of Peru. She claimed that, whereas her opponent favored big business, she favored small and medium business. Also, in the first debate, Kuczynski, who is 77, appeared at a loss to counter Fujimori’s attacks.
- In the last week, however, it was Kuczynski with the momentum. He effectively communicated integrity and a commitment to democracy just as memories of the corruption and authoritarianism during the government of Fujimori’s father were revived. A scandal implicating the head of her party, Joaquín Ramírez, in money laundering gradually took a toll, especially when her vice-presidential candidate was believed to have orchestrated the broadcast of a doctored audiotape in an effort to clear Ramírez’s name. Fujimori appeared to believe that “the best defense is a good offense,” but her increasingly confrontational style and dismissive tone may have been a factor in the decision by third-place Mendoza to strongly endorse Kuczynski. In the second debate a week ago Sunday, Kuczynski emphasized that Fujimori could not be trusted to keep her key pledge to fight crime when Ramírez and other leaders of her party were under criminal investigation.
The presidential campaign has reflected deep polarization and tensions since at least March, when electoral authorities disqualified two important candidates – Julio Guzmán and César Acuña – for violations of party and electoral regulations. Guzmán’s party had not kept to the letter of its internal party statutes and Acuña handed out cash at a campaign rally. The disqualifications prompted OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro to label Peru only “semi-democratic.” A key problem was that the laws were not consistently enforced; most saliently, Fujimori, captured on video passing out prizes at a campaign event, was not disqualified. Strains are likely to remain high this week, and could grow worse after ONPE’s final announced tally at the end of the week. Fujimori’s followers, embracing the polls showing her lead prior to election day, may cry foul if a Kuczyinski victory is declared. Many of Kuczyinski’s and Mendoza’s followers, for their part, intensely fear a return to Fujimorismo. In this context, it is not impossible that disqualified candidates Guzmán and Acuña and their supporters could call for a total do-over. Although serious, sustained instability remains unlikely, Peru’s 2016 election is by far its most problematic since the country’s return to democracy in 2001.
(Previous analyses on the Peruvian election are available here and here.)
June 6, 2016
* Cynthia McClintock is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University.
Posted by clalsstaff on June 6, 2016
By Eric Hershberg
Thousands of protesters in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Photo Credit: Google Images / Creative Commons
2016 is proving to be this century’s most complicated year to date for South American political systems, and the coming months will be critical to assessing how well the region’s democracies can govern amid declining economic conditions and spiraling corruption scandals. Brazil and Venezuela – two very different systems with very different problems – are suffering the most visible crises.
- In Venezuela, where the Bolivarian project has descended into an incompetent Putinism in the tropics, is collapsing under the weight of monumental mismanagement of the economy. Many of the ills of the Venezuelan petrostate predate Chavismo, but during a collapse in oil prices President Maduro has doubled-down on profligate economic policies introduced by Hugo Chávez, bringing the country to catastrophe made worse by increasingly draconian repression of loyal and disloyal opposition alike.
- President Dilma Rousseff’s mismanagement of coalitions in a presidential system predicated on coalition-building has opened the way to political and economic implosion in Brazil. Contrary to the fervent assertions of important segments of the Workers Party (PT), her impeachment does not precisely constitute a coup, but it may indeed amount to an ill-advised bending of institutional mechanisms by cynical legislators and aggressive judges, egged on by rightist sectors whose commitment to democracy is in fact dubious. Dilma didn’t invent the corruption and footloose budgetary practices that have been her undoing, but her fall does respond to overwhelming popular rejection of her performance. Interim President Temer’s appointment of an entirely white male cabinet that includes representatives of some of the country’s most retrograde interests suggests abandonment of many of the most laudable achievements of more than a decade under PT rule – and more backlash as well.
Other institutional crises may be on the horizon. Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa pursued a high-risk strategy of debt-driven expansion of the state, which is not sustainable amid economic contraction. Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s honeymoon may prove short-lived. Much-needed economic reforms are likely to provoke even greater inflation and have already stoked resistance from the Peronist opposition. Macri enjoys some unprecedented assets – for the first time non-Peronists also control the city and province of Buenos Aires– but Argentine public opinion overwhelmingly favors statist economic policies that he aims to dismantle, and no non-Peronist elected president has completed his term in office since the rise of Peronism as a political force. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, wounded by a drop in mineral export revenues and comparatively minor corruption allegations involving her daughter-in-law, reshuffled her cabinet earlier this month but continues to tank in the polls. Latinobarómetro reports that 70 percent of Chileans believe their political system doesn’t work.
It’s not hard to envision other relatively stable South American democracies facing hard times ahead. The June 5 presidential runoff in Peru could leave the country deeply polarized, especially if Keiko Fujimori, heiress to the country’s darkest episode in recent history, wins. It is not a foregone conclusion that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who has staked his second term on a long-awaited and much-needed peace accord, will secure its ratification, risking lameduck status for the remainder of his administration. If the presidents elsewhere appear to be weathering the storm, democratic governance nonetheless faces important challenges. It would be rash to predict that democracy will fail the test – and that such failure will give rise to a new era of authoritarian rule – but it’s clear that the region will witness widespread instability during the coming years.
May 26, 2016
Posted by clalsstaff on May 26, 2016