Rodrigo Chaves, Costa Rica’s president-elect, campaigned on an anti-establishment platform. Photo taken on Feb. 6. (REUTERS/Monica Quesada)
This Week in Latin America

Economist Rodrigo Chaves to become Costa Rica’s new president

April 4, 2022 By Staff

THIS WEEK IN LATIN AMERICA

COSTA RICA: Economist Rodrigo Chaves won Sunday’s presidential election ahead of ex-president José María Figueres (1994-1998). Chaves, from the Social Democratic Progress Party (PPSD) was projected to secure victory with about 52.9% of the vote according to the official preliminary partial tally of the run-off ballot.

The anti-establishment candidate, and former World Bank official is popular among voters who reject traditional politics, and grew concerned over the country’s national debt. Figueres’ National Liberation Party has dominated the country’s politics at a national and local level over the past half-century. 

Chaves promised to use referendums to bypass congress to bring change in Costa Rica as a large number of voters grew discontent with the political establishment. The 60 year old had already positioned himself as the favorite candidate coming in second in an initial vote on Feb. 6. 

During Chaves’ tenure at the World Bank, he was accused of sexual harassment; he denied the accusations.

SOUTHERN CONE

BRAZIL: Almost half of President Jair Bolsonaro’s cabinet resigned on Thursday in order to campaign for governorships and congressional seats in October’s general election. The ten former ministers will use their campaigns to aid Bolsonaro’s bid for re-election. Moreover, should they be elected themselves, this will bolster Bolsonaro’s support in Congress and across regional authorities.

The former Minister of Defense, Walter Braga Netto, is the only one of the 10 to retain a position in Bolsonaro’s cabinet. Bolsonaro appointed him as a special advisor. It is widely believed that Bolsonaro will select Netto as his vice-presidential running mate.

Brazil’s law requires that anyone holding public office must resign at least six months before contesting an elected position.

CHILE/ARGENTINA: Chile’s Interior Minister, Izkia Siches, on Thursday apologized to the Argentine government for using the Mapuche name “Wallmapu” to refer to territory crossing modern-day Chile and Argentina historically claimed by the Mapuche. Siches said that she only meant to refer to Mapuche land within the borders of Chile.

Various Argentine politicians had complained that the term “Wallmapu” refers to a territory which no longer exists. Some also stated that Siches’ words threatened Argentina’s territorial sovereignty by implicitly supporting Mapuche claims to the land. 

The historical Mapuche territory covered approximately one-third of present-day Argentina as well as the Chilean provinces of Araucanía, Los Ríos y Los Lagos. 

ANDES

PERU: Opposition lawmakers in Peru failed to get enough votes to remove President Pedro Castillo from office, in the second impeachment attempt he’s faced in 8 months. At least 87 votes of 130 legislators were needed to impeach the president; 55 voted in favor, 54 against and 19 abstained.

A vague article in the Peruvian constitution called “permanent moral incapacity” was used in the attempt to oust Castillo, with lawmakers citing preliminary investigations into possible corruption as cause for impeachment. Congress has used the figure six times since 2017 in efforts to remove presidents. 

Castillo, a former rural school teacher from the highlands, has faced multiple challenges since his narrow presidential victory last year.

VENEZUELA: The International Criminal Court will open an office in Venezuela to investigate allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings. The announcement was made Thursday by ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan after a three-day visit to Caracas. 

Following a preliminary investigation started in 2018, the office will focus on allegations of excessive force, torture, and arbitrary detention by security forces during the suppression of anti-government protests in 2017. Prosecutor Khan made the announcement alongside Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who has stated his commitment to the process. 

More than 100 people were killed when security forces moved against protestors in 2017. Well-known international human rights observers indicated that Venezuela’s government committed crimes against humanity. It could be years before the investigation leads to any criminal charges.

CARIBBEAN 

BARBADOS: The government on Tuesday refuted reports that Haitian migrants were being held against their will in poor conditions as they await documentation necessary to travel on to Guyana. 

Local media had reported that approximately 30 Haitian arrived in Barbados between Feb. 20 and 25, and had since been in the basement of an apartment, where they faced questions from immigration officials about their intentions in Barbados.

After a visit to the facilities on Tuesday, a statement released by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Information said that the migrants stated that they had not been forced to remain in Barbados.

However, there was reported frustration at the length of time it was taking to receive visas to travel to Guyana.

HAITI: Thousands of Haitians protested across the country on Tuesday about the prevailing threat of violence and kidnapping from armed gangs, and a perceived inadequacy from state authorities in addressing the issue. Images from the protests also show criticism directed at the U.S., France and other international actors for their involvement in the country’s affairs. 

There were reports of violence in the southern city of Les Cayes, where a group of protestors burned an airplane belonging to a U.S. Christian missionary group. Conflict between the police and protestors left one protestor dead and five persons injured, including four police officers.

The demonstrations are said to be the largest since the assassination of former President Jovenel Moϊse in July 2021.

CENTRAL AMERICA

HONDURAS: At the request of New York’s Southern District Court, Honduras’ Supreme Court on Monday approved former President Juan Orlando Hernández’ extradition to the United States to face drug trafficking and weapons charges. Honduras’ court also ordered on Friday to seize any property, bank accounts, and vehicles linked to the former president. 

Honduran police arrested Hernández at his home on Feb. 15.  The former president’s brother, Juan Antonio Hernández, received life in prison on drug and weapons charges in March 2021. U.S. prosecutors in New York alleged that Hernández’ political rise was fueled by drug profits. Hernandez’ denies having ties to drug traffickers and says that any statements that implicate him have been made to seek revenge against him.

NORTH AMERICA

UNITED STATES: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ended on Friday a Trump-era policy that limited asylum on the U.S. – Mexican border to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  The CDC director determined that the order “is no longer necessary”. The government plans to set up tents and prepare for a high number of migrants at the border. 

The policy’s use came under scrutiny when Democrats argued that the United States turned away from its responsibility to provide safety to people fleeing violence.  The termination of the policy goes into effect on May 23, 2022.   

MEXICO: Protestors took to the streets on Sunday to criticize President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO)’s public consultation – scheduled for Apr. 10 –  on whether he should step down before the end of his mandate. AMLO is set to win this month in a referendum that could strengthen his authority during his administration’s final two years. 

The opposition see the vote as a distraction, but have struggled to gain advantage on the problems AMLO has had in carrying out his promises. Surveys conducted ahead of the vote show that most of the electorate agree that the vote is unnecessary. 

The popular leftist president said that the referendum is vital to his democratic rule and “reaffirms” sovereignty, and puts the people “in charge.”