by Michael Novick
As Change-Links was going to press, voters in Honduras appeared to have elected the left candidate for president, ending 12-years of a coup-based conservative government (installed after Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed off on the overthrow of the elected president, Manuel Zelaya). According to Reuters, “Leftist opposition candidate Xiomara Castro raced to an early lead in the Honduran presidential election on Sunday, November 28, partial election results showed, putting her in position to become the first female leader of the Central American country. With over 27% of the vote counted, Castro, the wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, had 53.7% support, while Nasry Asfura, candidate of the ruling National Party had 33.8%, the national electoral council said.”
However, according to the New York Times, both parties had issues claims of victory. The election was generally peaceful with a high turnout. The Times reported some relatively minor glitches: “Some voters have also complained of not being able to cast their vote because of the recent overhaul of the electoral roll. The process eliminated nearly one million people in what the reform’s proponents said rid the system of the deceased or emigrated voters whose data was utilized for electoral fraud. The vote was also marred by the outages of the electoral council’s website, which was down for most of the day, breeding fraud conspiracies among the already suspicious population. The council said it was investigating whether the outage was caused by a cyberattack, without providing additional details.” If the early reported returns hold up, however, it will be a big victory for the social movements that took to the streets to oppose the coup that overthrew Zelaya, who was hardly a leftist himself but had instituted some democratic and economic reforms that threatened the economic elite and US interests in Honduras, which had been used as a staging ground for US-backed “Contras” during the Reagan years to try to overthrow the Sandinista government in neighboring Nicaragua.
Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista president of Nicaragua is expected to win victory in his election, despite repeated efforts at destabilization by the US, although many former supporters are critical of repression of opponents and even former FSLN leaders by Ortega, and there have been larger numbers of Nicaraguans seeking asylum elsewhere recently; whereas for many years, Nicaragua had by far the lowest number of its citizens becoming refugees compared to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Poverty had been reduced substantially in the country, although it is now suffering from the impact of US imposed sanctions, along with Cuba and Venezuela. Venezuelan president Maduro, another target of US sanctions and destabilization efforts also ran elections for local and regional offices that his party won handily, as the opposition was split between those boycotting and denouncing the elections, and those running against Maduro’s “Chavista” government. Venezuela is suffering mightily from US economic warfare against it and even its trading partners.
Meanwhile, in Chile, a run-off is scheduled later in December between polar opposite candidates, while leftists from various popular and indigenous movement were elected to dominate a Constituent Assembly to draft a post-Pinochet constitution for the country, which was a laboratory for neoliberalism after the US-backed coup against elected Socialist president Salvador Allende nearly 50 years ago. According to Reuters, “Leftist candidate Gabriel Boric was leading conservative Jose Antonio Kast in the latest poll released on Sunday Nov. 28 ahead of the second round of Chile’s presidential election on Dec. 19. The poll, carried out Nov. 23-26, showed likely voters favored Boric, representing a coalition including the leftist Frente Amplio and the local Communist Party, with 53.9% support against Kast’s 31.2%.” Although the reactionary and authoritarian Kast, who appears to model himself on Bolsanaro of Brazil and Trump in the US had the highest single vote total in the first round, he appears to have been unable to attract additional support in the run-off (Chile requires a top-two run-off to assure a majority, as do many other Latin American countries), whereas voters who cast ballots for other candidates in the first round appear to be gravitating to the left candidate Boric, who is the far younger of the two, born long after the 1973 coup that installed Pinochet. Boric is closely associated with the mass popular movements that helped topple the previous president and pushed through the Constituent Assembly to finally remove the authoritarian constitution imposed during the Pinochet years, which has hamstrung efforts at transformative social change through electoral victory.
In Brazil, where an election is scheduled for president next year, Jair Bolsonaro, the authoritarian right wing president, who has presided over a deadly COVID pandemic and the rapidly escalating destruction of the Amazonian rain forest, has seen his support plummet. Ignacio Lula da Silva, former labor leader and former Brazilian president from the PT (Workers Party) has been approved to run after successfully overturning a frame-up conviction for alleged corruption, and is now the front runner, showing majority support in recent polls.