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back to index backLATINtalk January,  2006

Analysis: Decisive year for Latin America

Latin America is on the verge of one of the most decisive moments of its recent history. From November 2005 to December of 2006 twelve countries will hold presidential elections.

The results of these elections will define the political and economic course of the region, say specialists. Based upon the latest polling data, Tiempos del Mundo make projections in each country if the elections were held today.

Political analysts consulted by Tiempos del Mundo, predict a continued leftward shift throughout the region, in elections that will define the political profile of a good part of the Hemisphere for second half of the decade.

"We are speaking of countries that together represent approximately 85% of the population, territory and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the region," explained Argentine analyst and historian Rosendo Fraga, who drew a quick picture of the electoral timetable.

"It begins in November with Honduras and Haiti, followed in December with Bolivia and Chile, continues in February with Costa Rica, in April with Peru and in May with Colombia," the specialist recalled. "Next come the region's most important countries: Mexico, in July, and Brazil in October. In this same month elections will take place in Ecuador, and continue on to Nicaragua in November of the following year, to close with Venezuela in December 2006.

Fraga also talked about the forms which the political process in Latin America has taken. taken: "The guerrillas and military governments of the 70s, the social-democratic governments in the 80s, the neo-liberal models of the 90s, and now the center-left governments, whether pragmatic versions such as Brazil's Lula, or populist ones such as Venezuela's Chávez."

The presidential election of Brazil acquires in this context, a singular importance, says Fraga "Not only because this country is a third of Latin America or half of South America in chief economic indicators, but because it is the only one in the region with a global role to play, and because Lula is the only one today with the political aptitude to neutralize the influence of Chávez in the region, at a time at when the U.S. is playing a less active roll in the region."

Argentine political analyst Alexander Tagliavini also considers that that a lack of American interest in Latin America will make the different elections more important. "I do not believe that there will be great changes; the left will continue to dominate, now more moderate than in the 70s, but always somehow opposed to the United States which has lost interest in the region. We will have to wait and see what happens in Brazil and Mexico."

Asked about the consequences of this leftward trend continuing, Tagliavini responded that it would be reflected in foreign investment. "The left and populism always generate some type of fear. For that reason it is no wonder that investors will be careful with money if governments of this type continue or spread in the next year."

Wait and see

Of all the countries of the region, only Haiti faces serious problems with its elections, the first since a February 2004 coup that overthrew then president Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Patrick Fequiere, member of the Provisional Electoral Council, has indicated that the first round of elections could be delayed until December or January to give time for the authorities to prepare the paperwork, distribute voter ID cards, and determine polling places. The government official explained to news agencies that the electoral calendar is much too tight.

In his opinion, it might also be necessary for the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS), to provide aid and oversee the voting, given that the Electoral Council lacks sufficiently trained and equipped personnel.

As of this writing, there are 32 candidates registered, including ex-presidents René Préval and Leslie Manigat, as well Marc Bazin, ex-prime minister of the military junta that deposed Aristide for the first time in 1992.

In the rest of the Hemisphere, the situation is much more clear, as the polls show, although some surprises cannot be discounted.


Lopez Obrador the favorite

The former mayor of Mexico City, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, of the center-left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), is the favorite among voters to succeed President Vicente Fox. According to the polls conducted by Mitofsky Consulting for the daily newspaper El Universal, Lopez Obrador would have the endorsement of the 34 percent of the voters, followed by Santiago Creel, the former interior minister, with 27 percent.

For Salvador Ignacio Reding Vidaña, political analyst and economist, the probable outcome of Mexico with a President Lopez Obrador, can be predicted from the experience of his term as Mexico City's mayor.

Economic growth and rate of employment were lower than the national average. The public debt grew several times, welfare programs were created similar to the public institution pensions plans that are now in crisis, and very questionable public work projects were implemented.


Lula or Serra?

The latest surveys do not yet point clearly to a winner. President Luiz Inácio 'Lulá' da Silva, who had been headed to win reelection comfortably, has in the last six months suffered serious setbacks due to a series of corruption charges surrounding leaders of the ruling Worker's Party (PT). The rise of Sao Paulo mayor Jose Serra, who won election in 2002, has brought him to a virtual tie with Lula, according to a poll by the Ibope Institute. Lula is given a slight advantage of 33 percent against 30 percent for Serra in the first round, and a virtual tie in the second.

According to political analyst Marco Iten, other candidates could yet enter the race. The Brazilian Social Democrat Party (Psdb), for instance, has yet to choose a candidate.

In the event of Lula's re-election, Iten predicts continuity in the present political and economic policies, but the recent setbacks suffered by the ruling party will make it difficult to find a successor.

For the rest of the article, click here.

Source: World Peace Herald - GAI

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