1. Via La Tercera
    A loss for Bachelet. Struggling with some of the lowest approval ratings in the hemisphere, Chile’s president saw her party lose several dozen mayoral posts and, not that it mattered, lose the overall national vote.

    Low turnout. Only 35% of voters turned out, the lowest since Chile’s return to democracy. Mayoral elections generally have lower turnouts than general elections, but all of Chile’s parties should be troubled by the general trend of lower turnout.

    A win for Piñera. The former president and potential candidate led the right wing coalition that picked up wins throughout the country. It’s overly-simple to credit the right’s win with the anger, division and apathy on the center-left. The right put together a more solid campaign and appear more prepared to run in the 2017 presidential and legislative elections.

    Wins and division among independents. In a closely watched race, independent candidate Jorge Sharp won over 50% of the vote in Valparaiso. The victory is another sign of the population’s disappointment with the current major parties, but it’s also a new side of the independent movements. Sharp and his Movimiento Autonomista is a different group from the PRO led by Marco Enríquez-Ominami, the former and future presidential candidate whose star appears to be falling.
  2. Eduardo Cunha, the former speaker of Brazil's lower house of Congress and one of the architects of former President Rousseff's impeachment, was arrested on corruption charges that have been long expected. Cunha is charged with taking millions in bribes and Swiss authorities are reportedly cooperating with Brazil in sharing information about Cunha's foreign accounts.

    As one of my colleagues at Southern Pulse writes, Temer's government is now concerned with how Cunha handles his current predicament:
    A Cunha plea deal will draw the Temer Government into a slow burning fire before crumbling, where leaks will slowly undermine the administration's credibility and, more importantly, political support in Congress, as congressmen are also involved in a likely Cunha plea deal. 
    Cunha's corruption was protected by the fact that he's been collaborating with so many other corrupt politicians and collecting detailed information about the sorts of corruption schemes that others are involved in. Cunha almost certainly has information that can implicate people within the president's cabinet if not the president himself. The former speaker has options moving forward that can directly impact Brazil's stability.
  3. The NYT provides some useful graphics about US foreign assistance that helps reinforce a point I have made at times: The Americas don't get enough assistance compared to the rest of the world. Latin Americanists should not be afraid to use the word "billion" when thinking about the size of assistance programs that are needed.

    Go read the article and keep the graphics clipped for the next time someone wants to nitpick over a few million in Central America.
  4. The leader of the Aguan Campesino Movement (MUCA) was killed yesterday in Colon. According to local media reports, four men attacked Jose Angel Flores as he was leaving a meeting last night.

    Flores was specifically named by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights as deserving extra cautionary measures including police protection due to the potential threats against his life. In spite of those measures, Honduran government authorities threatened him by forcing their way in to his home and detaining his relatives just two weeks after the murder of Berta Caceres in March.

    Flores was well known and he was killed leaving a work meeting. This wasn't a random act of violence. This was yet another targeted killing of an activist who spoke out against some powerful economic interests in the country. So yes, there should be an investigation and arrests, but we can state clearly from the start that the investigation needs to find the authors of the crime, not just round up the usual suspects and brush this off as general violence.
  5. Several months ago I noted a strange tendency by Telesur, a media organization launched by former President Hugo Chavez and currently backed by the Venezuelan and Ecuadoran governments. Telesur was attacking Clinton heavily and largely avoiding attacking Donald Trump.

    This morning, I went through the last 70 articles published about the United States on Telesur in Spanish, going back several months. Of those articles, 39 articles were about the election. Of those 39, 13 were anti-Clinton, four were pro-Trump, three were anti-Trump, and nine were neutral. Feel free to do your own analysis or nitpick with my classifications of some articles, but I’m guessing you’ll come up with roughly similar numbers.

    The anti-Clinton articles are dominated by the past month of coverage from the Russian-hacked files released by Wikileaks. Meanwhile, during Donald Trump’s worst moments in the past weeks, the only recent negative article was one in which he insulted Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe from Venezuela (proving there are lines even Telesur won’t allow to be crossed). The only mention of the video in which Trump admits to sexually assaulting women was near the bottom of an article about the second debate. That article, like many of the articles I classified as “neutral," led with Trump’s criticisms of Clinton. No mention of the recent allegations by other women has made it to Telesur's coverage in the past week.

    Positive coverage of Trump has included the moments in debates in which he has defended Russia. Even in its coverage of the the VP debate, Telesur ignored Pence’s criticisms of Putin and criticized Kaine and Clinton as “threats” to the world for their policies towards the Middle East and Russia. Positive Trump coverage also includes his defense of his avoiding of taxes, which Telesur somehow spins to be pro-Trump before mentioning the tax document leak to the NYT.

    Telesur claims to be the voice of Latin America and has always had a strong anti-US bias. I wouldn’t expect them to be pro-Hillary. However, their light-handed approach to criticizing Trump, who is widely despised throughout the hemisphere, while their heavy-handed use of Russian propaganda to hit Clinton is not an accident.

    The question is why? Is this strategy of opposing Hillary and supporting Trump approved by the governments of Maduro and Correa? Or is it an editorial decision by someone within the organization? Or is Telesur simply so reliant on its partnership’s with Russian government media that the pro-Trump bias simply spills over?
  6. Colombia's No campaign and its leader, former President Uribe, have come forward with their proposals for modifying the peace agreement. Surprisingly, they are reasonable positions. Uribe is talking about details of implementing peace and placing his starting positions at a point where the onus now rests on the FARC to respond with their reasonable counter-proposals. Further, Uribe has announced his support for the ongoing bilateral ceasefire to be extended through the end of the year.

    When Colombia's peace deal was voted down, there were many observers who compared the situation to Brexit. However, this initial post-vote response shows a clear difference. Prime Minsiter Theresa May has led the UK down an extreme hard exit path following the narrow and controversial vote. In contrast, Uribe appears to be using his narrow victory to aim for small modifications without sinking the country of Colombia into a return to war, which I think many feared.

    There are still road blocks ahead, but these first two weeks after the no vote have shown Colombia's peace process is resilient. The current setback is not enough to derail it.
  7. After Colombia's peace deal plebiscite failed, I wrote on Twitter, "Under all scenarios, the ELN will now surrender or be violently destroyed." The logic was this:

    a) The Colombian government needs to send a message to a domestic constituency that it is "tough," even as it negotiates peace with the FARC, and the ELN is the easiest target for that.

    b) The Colombian government also wants to send a message to the FARC about the repercussions of leaving the peace negotiations, and can do that by targeting the ELN.

    c) The ELN have little reason to negotiate a peace accord that will be rejected by Colombia's population.

    Of course, one week later, the Colombian government and ELN have announced the start of formal peace talks. Either I'm mis-reading the incentives on both sides or the ELN leadership saw the same analysis I did in points a and b above and realized they need to get some form of ceasefire immediately to avoid being destroyed. Given the timeline and sudden urgency, these may look more like surrender negotiations than the FARC's negotiations did.

    The peace talks are still limited by the fact the ELN hold hostages, but the ELN appear to be taking steps to release hostages now, having released three in the past two weeks and likely to release two more in the coming week.
  8. I'm sure many people will find irony in the fact Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize the same week that he lost the plebiscite to pass the peace process. 

    Santos's willingness to struggle for peace against the referendum loss is not irony. It is symbolism.

    Peacemaking isn't easy. There are setbacks and opponents to peace.

    Santos has spent nearly his entire presidency attempting to negotiate peace with the FARC. He gambled his reelection and entire second term agenda on these negotiations. They've taken far longer than they should and the recent setback means that they continue past the deadline. Yet, in the wake of the plebiscite failure, Santos has promised to work for peace until the last day of his presidency.

    There was always more work left to do. Even if the peace agreement had passed and was implemented, it wasn't as if peace would suddenly break out. There is the hard work of demobilization and reintegration of combatants. There are landmines to be removed and displaced populations who need houses and jobs.

    The Peace Prize isn't meant to signal that peace has been totally won, but that hard steps have been taken on the long road to peace. Those steps take leadership that isn't always present. In taking the steps towards peace and in the determination to push beyond the obstacles and setbacks, Santos and Colombia are deserving of the Nobel.
  9. The case file on the Berta Caceres homicide was stolen last week.

    1) I have no idea whether it was incompetence or malfeasance on the part of Honduran government officials. The Honduran government should seriously investigate and prosecute the theft, not just write it off as another crime that will never be solved.

    2) Criminals don't just accidentally steal the case file of the highest profile murder in Honduras in the past few years. It wasn't a random act of robbery. This was a targeted and organized act of crime intended to disrupt the case and the investigation. The response from the Honduran government and international partners should be to double down on the investigation of Caceres's killers.
  10. The FARC leadership sit in Havana, smoking cigars, drinking rum and deciding what to do next. The vast majority of FARC combatants stopped fighting months ago and have been preparing to demobilize and return to their families. Unlike previous peace negotiations, the FARC are much weaker than when these negotiations started. Santos learned from previous mistakes, including those of Pastrana, and did not let the FARC gain strength during the process.

    This is not an organization that is prepared to return to war.

    If this was a war between nation-states, then some form of peace treaty would be almost mandatory. An insurgency is different. Insurgencies can end in peace agreement, but an insurgency has the option to melt away. The FARC, as an insurgency, are only as strong as the people who pick up weapons for them.

    The FARC don’t want to just give up and disappear. The leadership doesn’t want to spend the rest of their days in exile in Havana. They want their Congress seats and for Colombia to agree to its side of the peace deal. They want their 50 year fight to have meant something.

    But are they really willing to put down their cigars, fly back to the mountains and the jungles, and sleep in camps never knowing when the next precision-guided bomb will drop from a plane on them? Are they willing to do so, knowing that they can never “win” a military victory, but only prolong the pain of the country until they get a new agreement? And even if the leadership is willing to make that sacrifice, how many of the rank and file are?

    Those questions are critical at this moment. As Santos restarts peace negotiations, the key questions revolve around what options the FARC have. Santos, as a peace maker, will try to let them save some face, but the reality is that the FARC have very little leverage.