Tuesday, December 1, 2009

WNU #1014: Former Rebel Wins Uruguayan Presidency

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1014, November 29, 2009

1. Uruguay: Former Rebel Wins Presidency
2. Honduras: Did Abstention Win the Vote?
3. Guatemala: Campesinos Continue Land Protests
4. Haiti: Charge Manipulation of 2010 Elections
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

ISSN#: 1084‑922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com . It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/

*1. Uruguay: Former Rebel Wins Presidency
Honking car horns and waving flags in a heavy rain, tens of thousands of Uruguayans gathered on Montevideo’s main avenues the evening of Nov. 29 to celebrate the victory of José (“Pepe”) Mujica in that day’s runoff election for the presidency. According to projections based on early returns, Mujica, the candidate of the center-left Broad Front (Frente Amplio, FA), had won 50.1-51.6% of the votes, against 44.4-46.2% for former president Luis Alberto Lacalle (1990-1995) of the center-right National Party. Mujica had been heavily favored in opinion polls, and Lacalle quickly conceded in a televised address.

Mujica and his running mate, former economy minister Danilo Astori, will begin a five-year term on Mar. 1. Mujica is succeeding the moderate socialist Tabaré Vázquez, who in 2004 became the first Broad Front candidate to win the presidency. (La Capital (Rosario, Argentina), 11/29/09; Reuters 11/29/09)

Mujica was a founding member of the rebel National Liberation Movement-Tupamaros (MLN-T). He participated in clandestine actions starting in 1969, was taken prisoner en 1970, and was one of the 111 prisoners, mostly Tupamaros, who broke out of the Punta Carretas prison in September 1971. He was captured again in 1972 and remained a prisoner under brutal conditions during the 1973-1985 military dictatorship. Freed by a 1985 amnesty, Mujica led the former urban guerrilleros into the Broad Front coalition in 1989, winning a seat in the Chamber of Deputies in 1995 and in the Senate in 1999. He is married to a Senator Lucía Topolansky, also a former member of the MLN-T. (Agence France Presse 11/29/09)

*2. Honduras: Did Abstention Win the Vote?
At about 10 pm on Nov. 29, Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced at a press conference that Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa of the center-right National Party (PN) had won the presidency in the general elections held that day; Hondurans also voted for deputies to the National Congress and the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) and for members of the nation’s municipal governments. With 8,682 ballot boxes counted, about 60% of the total, Lobo had won 52.29% of the votes, while his main rival, Elvin Santos of the badly divided Liberal Party (PL, also center-right), trailed with 35.74%. The remaining three candidates got less than 3% each; more than 6% of the votes were blank or invalid. The TSE projected that the turnout was 61.3% of the voting population, about six percentage points higher than in the 2005 elections.

With these results, said Enrique Ortez Sequeira, a TSE magistrate from the PL, “the world is obliged to recognize us, because today we, seven million Hondurans, have told them that we want to live in peace and democracy.” (El Tiempo (San Pedro Sula) 11/30/09)

Lobo had been expected to win easily. But the main issue in the election, voter turnout, was more difficult to resolve. Conservative forces were hoping to use the elections to legitimize the de facto government put in place when President José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales was removed from office by a military coup on June 28. Zelaya and the labor and social movements that opposed the coup called for a boycott of the vote, and a number of Latin American nations announced that they wouldn’t recognize elections organized by a coup regime. Because of objections by many members, the Organization of American States (OAS) was unable to send observers [see Update #1013].

In a statement on Nov. 29, the National Front of Resistance Against the Coup d’Etat, a coalition of grassroots organizations, said its national monitoring operation had found that “the level of abstention is, at a minimum, 65-70%, the highest in the nation’s history… In this form the people have castigated the coup-perpetrating candidates and the dictatorship.” (Frente Nacional de Resistencia Comunicado No. 40 11/29/09 via Vos el Soberano) “Abstention won, even counting the votes of all the candidates; abstention was more than 60% in the country,” President Zelaya said on Nov. 30. He noted that without electoral observers from the OAS, the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU), "we can’t certify that the data that’s going to come out is correct.” (ANSA 11/30/09)

Some independent observers also cast doubt on the TSE’s projections of high turnout. A worker with the Danish Association for International Cooperation who visited voting centers in Tegucigalpa in the afternoon saw few voters, no lines and election workers passing the time in friendly conversations. (MS Central America 11/30/09)

Although not agreeing with the boycotters’ claims of 65-70% abstention, the nonprofit group that the TSE contracted to do exit polls, Fundación Hagamos Democracia (FHD), also disagreed with the official turnout projection of 61.3%. The FHD’s projection for turnout was about 47.6%, significantly lower than the 2005 turnout. At the Nov. 29 press conference, TSE magistrate Ortez Sequeira noted that the FHD’s exit polls were close to the TSE’s projections--except on the question of turnout. Skeptics also noted TSE president Saúl Escobar’s admission at the press conference that the electoral results were being delayed because of a technical problem in verifying the digitalized data. (El Tiempo 11/30/09; Honduras Coup 2009 blog 11/30/09)

With the legitimacy of his election under scrutiny, Porfirio Lobo has called for a “government of national unity, of reconciliation,” and has promised a “broad and sincere” dialogue of all the sectors. There has been speculation that if he assumes office when Zelaya’s term ends on Jan. 27, Lobo will extend an amnesty both to Zelaya and to the perpetrators of the coup. (BBC 11/30/09)

*3. Guatemala: Campesinos Continue Land Protests
Thousands of campesinos blocked highways in western Guatemala on Nov. 25 to press a demand for the government to allocate 350 million quetzales (about $42 million) to the National Lands Fund (Fontierras) for renting farmland to be used by more than 100,000 campesino families. The protesters stopped traffic on six highways in Cuatro Caminos, Totonicapán, Los Encuentros, and La Cumbre at kilometer 123 of the Las Verapaces and Las Victorias road, between Quetzaltenango and Colomba Costa Cuca. According to José Hernández—one of the leaders of the Coordinating Committee of Regional, Campesino and Independent Organizations, which called the protest—every two hours the protesters were opening the roads up and letting traffic pass for one hour. The organizers said 10,000 campesinos took part; the police estimate was 5,000.

Fontierras, with an annual budget of just $5 million, is supposed to carry out land reform by buying estates and turning them over to campesino groups. The protesters say the process is too slow to address the historic problem of land inequality in the country, which leaves many poor families without plots to farm. [Thousands of campesinos blocked roads in seven departments over land issues on June 4; see Update #992.]

The protesters also staged a sit-in on Nov. 25 outside the Congress building in Guatemala City, where members of health and road worker unions were protesting at the same time. The National Health Workers Union was calling for 1.290 billion quetzales (about $156 million) to be added to the annual public health budget, currently at 3.411 billion quetzales (about $411 million). (Miami Herald 11/25/09 from AP; Guatemala Hoy 11/26/09)

*4. Haiti: Charge Manipulation in 2010 Elections
On Nov. 25, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced that it was rejecting the applications of 16 of the 69 parties that submitted candidates for legislative elections scheduled to be held on Feb. 28. The largest of the rejected parties is the Lavalas Family (FL) of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004); among the others were the Lespwa (“Hope”) coalition, until now the party of current president René Préval; Working Together to Build Haiti (KONBA); the Union party; and the Solidarity Effort for the Construction of the People’s Camp (ESCAMP), formerly part of Lespwa. Voters are to elect 98 of the 99 members of the Chamber of Deputies and 10 of the country’s 30 senators.

Critics charged that President Préval was manipulating the elections to favor the Unity party, a new coalition with which he is replacing Lespwa, part of a process in which a number of parties and coalitions are regrouping. The Union party said it had been rejected after its coordinator, Chavannes Jeune, turned down an invitation from Préval to join Unity. CEP president Gaillot Dorsainvil insisted on Nov. 26 that the council had acted independently to exclude parties that hadn’t complied with the law.

Several of these groups are split by internal conflicts, as had been the case with the FL when the CEP wouldn’t include it in the Apr. 19 Senate elections earlier this year—the party had originally presented two different lists of candidates, and Aristide, the head of the party, reportedly refused to sign necessary paperwork as a protest against his removal from office in 2004 [see Update #980]. But this time LF director Maryse Narcisse presented a unified list with an authorization signed by Aristide, who has been in exile in South Africa since 2004.

Aristide confirmed this in an interview on Nov. 25 with Radio Solidarité, saying that the CEP’s decisions “shouldn’t be dictated by the government.” The ex-president, who usually avoids interviews, announced that he didn’t want to remain the head of the FL and that after a party congress was held, he would devote himself to education. (AlterPresse 11/24/09, 11/25/09, __; Haiti Press Network 11/25/09; Reuters 11/25/09; Radio Métropole 11/27/09)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

Abortion Phone Line in Argentina: More Information, Less Risks

The Unpredictable Future: Stories From Worker-Run Factories in Argentina

Israeli Knesset demands extradition of Argentine junta officers

Brazil: Luladinejad

U.S. Court Allows Suit Against Bolivian Ex-President "Goni" and Minister of Defense to Proceed.

Afro-Peruvians receive official apology —but no reparations

US and Colombian Activists Target "World of Coca-Cola"

Tensions with Venezuela escalate as Bogotá boycotts Quito summit

Chavez Rejects U.S. Mediation in Venezuela-Colombia Spat, U.S. Withdrawal is “Only Solution”

Venezuela: anti-impunity activist assassinated

Salvadoran Gangs: Brutal Legacies and a Desperate Hope

No Fair Election In Honduras Under Military Occupation

Honduras: Elections as coup laundering

Hearing at the IACHR on the Situation of Women's Rights within the Context of the Honduran Coup d'Etat

Report on Women's Human Rights Violations Shows Systematic Attack on Women Under Honduran Coup

Women Leaders Urge Clinton to Condemn Violence Against Women in Honduras

Honduran Dictatorship Is A Threat to Democracy In the Hemisphere

U.S. Groups That Supported Coups in Haiti and Venezuela Will Observe Elections in Honduras

Honduras: Coup Security Forces Raid Campesino Organization Day Before the Elections

AFL-CIO Letter to Clinton Opposing Honduran Elections

Honduras: real repression in prelude to bogus elections

Abortion in Mexico

Mexico: Gender in the Workplace

Mexico: Call to Action in Solidarity with SME: Focus on Consulates, Send Letters, Emails

Mexican radio journalist found assassinated in Jalisco

Mexico: anti-mining activist assassinated in Chiapas

Two-faced Democracy in Haiti

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Update subscribers also receive, as a supplement, our own weekly Immigration News Briefs.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:

No comments: