Colombian Election Update
What on earth happened in Colombia? Well on Sunday 29th of May, Gustavo Petro, Colombian presidential frontrunner, took 8.5 million votes in the election, just over 40% of the total votes. This was a widely anticipated result, but the bigger picture produced a much more stunning breakthrough for the outsider candidate, Rodolfo Hernandez, who took 28% of the vote.
Seen as a Trumpian-like figure Hernandez is an anti-establishment, right-wing candidate with a huge focus on anti-corruption policies. Previously, he was trailing establishment candidate, Fico Gutierrez, in the polls (23%) – who has now thrown his weight behind Hernandez in a bid to keep some form of political continuity in Colombia.
This is where the race could now be extremely close – with Petro unlikely to attract many right-wing voters, his main chance is to appeal to Colombian centrist leaning voters – who could be swayed over corruption investigations into Rodolfo’s past business dealings, the irony is strong.
Colombia Risk Analysis founder Sergio Guzman says “”Fico voters and Uribe supporters would vote for a rock before they vote for Petro.”
Alvaro Uribe being Colombia’s controversial leader from 2002 to 2010, holds a considerable amount of influence over votes from across the centre and right.
It is not all dead and buried for Petro with vice president hopeful, Francia Marquez, holding a significant card on the black and women’s vote in Colombia – something which Rodolfo has a poor history of handling. He once alluded to women needing to be at home primarily – not so controversial to some but to others, inflammatory statements.
It is going to be a tight run-off election on June 19th but with so many variables at play, including the spectre of violence, corruption and even race but what we know is that both choices will irreversibly change how Colombia operates on a global scale.
Cuba releasing the pressure
This week in Cuba, authorities have put 2 prominent activists from the anti-government, artists collective – the San Isidro movement, on trial for alleged contempt and public disorder last Monday.
Luis Alcantara and Maykel Castillo were detained a year ago, after releasing the anti-government song “Patria o vida” in contrast to Castro’s slogan from the 1960s “Patria o Muerte”.
A song characterized by its strong opinion towards the economic situation in Cuba; where government policy, covid restrictions and Trump-era embargos have damaged the economy and led over 80,000 to leave via Nicaragua for the United States.
The San Isidro group, the targets of the trials, formed in 2018 in response to decree 349. This meant Cuban artists must seek approval from the culture ministry before carrying out activities.
Large anti-government protests last July rocked the Caribbean island’s socialist government with over 700 people being charged or arrested with crimes against the state.
This climate of fear fuels the exodus of many Cubans to the U.S. which the Cuban government seems happy to facilitate, giving it a tighter grip on power over the remaining Cubans.
However, this week the US continued its pledge to reduce sanctions on Cuba, allowing chartered flights to resume to major cities on the island, including Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba.
Releasing pressure on the Cuban economy allows the ruling regime to breathe but also allows more freedom for those persecuted by their government to leave through legal means.
A fine balance between keeping them in power and managing the human cost is why Trump era sanctions have been slow to thaw on Cuba.
Tensions Ablaze at the Las Bambas mine
President Castillo’s cabinet in Peru convened this past week to discuss a solution to the rapidly soaring tensions in Las Bambas mines, where infrastructure was set on fire, due to unknown causes. Both MMG and the Huancuire community denied responsibility for the fires, happening shortly after the entrance of mining personnel.
The defence minister, Jose Gavidida, has readied for military interventions into the area that would disperse protesters and allow MMG’s mining operations to continue.
Current protests have left 3000 without jobs so far as the former Fuerabamba community and indigenous groups demand a greater share of the profits.
This is supported by the left-wing bloc of the Peruvian congress who are going to send a bill through congress pushing for the nationalisation of the mine. However, the congress is controlled by Fujimori backers and conservatives, so the plan is unlikely to pass.
Castillo may very well end up falling on his own sword with his own pledges of sharing more of Peru’s mineral wealth, looking more like a pipe dream.
Sending in the military would signal a huge loss on Castillos part but a decision on what to do with the protesters is imminent as mining operations have been suspended since April 20th.
Where this also leaves the Chinese company MMG is also precarious as it is damaging business interests in the region. A situation that other Chinese investors will be watching very closely.
Bidens big fat America party seems to be pulling together as he aims to repair foreign relations with Latin American leaders left hanging by Trump-era isolationism.
The Peruvian congress said under-fire president, Pedro Castillo could go this week, just as criminal investigations were being launched back home into alleged criminal links. The Americas summit could be a welcome break for the former schoolteacher-turned-president.
Other confirmed attendees include Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez and Brazil’s Bolsonaro, but Mexico is still playing hard to get.
If this fiasco shows anything, it is that Latin America has options outside the U.S. in an increasingly multipolar world.
Migrant caravan heading North
With Mexico still deciding on its attendance, the country is also hosting a massive caravan and not the cheap holiday kind. No, this is a 15,000-person strong, migrant movement formed of Venezuelans, Cubans, Nicaraguans, and a whole host of other nationalities – including Indians and Bangladeshis.
Often facing the threat of food insecurity, violence, and kidnapping – the migrant caravan is 70% comprised of women. All are seeking to get to the United States, and most will end up crossing the Rio Grande.
A dangerous river, where migrants are known to drown, turn back or cross – often with the help of people smugglers.
Mexico could potentially use the caravan as a bargaining chip at the America’s Summit, to nudge along Bidens plans to expand migration opportunities but what is important is minimising the human cost and making sure both countries take ownership.
Cali cartel leader dies
Taking a step back from the Colombian election, Ex-Cali cartel leader Gilberto Rodriguez has died in a US prison. He was Pablo Escobar’s rival and natural replacement – his extradition in 1997 led to the slow decline of his cocaine empire that controlled around 80% of the global supply according to the DEA. His remains are set to be repatriated later this week.
Marcelo Pecci’s killers found
Early last Friday, those involved in the murder of Paraguayan prosecutor Marcelo Pecci were found and arrested in the Loma de Los Bernal and Robledo neighbourhoods in Medellín, Colombia.
Police have been thin on the details of those involved but an investigation is set to begin as soon as possible to deliver justice to those affected by the murder.
Pecci was involved in high-level crime prosecutions and was murdered early last month whilst on his honeymoon in Colombia.
Paraguayan president Abdo Benitez and Ivan Duque exchanged regards in what was described as a “technical and scientific job” to find the persecutors.