Dexter Boniface

Archive for the ‘Chile’ Category

Elections in South America in 2009: Chile, Bolivia and Uruguay

In Bolivia, Chile, Elections, Human Rights, Uruguay on January 17, 2010 at 12:00 am

Chile Votes  (Dec. 11, 2009; Jan. 17, 2010). The Chilean election pitted moderate conservative businessman–and self-made billionaire–Sebastián Piñera against the Concertación candidate and former president (1994-2000) Eduardo Frei. Chile’s wildly popular incumbent, Michelle Bachelet, was ineligible for immediate re-election. Piñera led the way in the first round of voting (Dec. 11th) but failed to secure an outright majority. A united left might have posed a challenge for Piñera, but Enriquez-Ominami (MEO), a charismatic socialist who finished in third place in the first round of voting, was slow to endorse Frei, stating “Eduardo Frei and Sebastian Piñera are too much alike.” Piñera went on to defeat Frei with 52% of the vote in the run-off election on January 17th.

Chile: Human Rights in the Spotlight. As in Uruguay (see below), human rights issues have  come to the fore during the election. On the eve of the first round vote, a Chilean court charged several Pinochet-era officials with the murder of former president (1964-1970) Eduardo Frei Montalva, father of the current candidate of the same name (Piñera’s campaign questioned the timing of the indictment). Piñera is expected to favor reconciliation over prosecution. It remains to be seen if Piñera will uphold Chile’s “post-Pinochet moral legacy.”

Bolivia Votes (Dec. 6, 2009). By virtue of Bolivia’s new constitution (approved in Jan. 2009 after a bitter internal struggle), President Evo Morales became eligible for a second five-year term (he was elected to his first term in 2005).  Morales easily won re-election  with 63% of the vote. Furthermore his party, Movement Toward Socialism, won a strong majority in both houses of Congress.

Uruguay Votes (Oct. 25, 2009; Nov. 29, 2009). The first round of Uruguay’s presidential election featured three main candidates: Pedro Bordaberry of the Colorado Party (and son of a former Uruguayan dictator), former President (1990-1995) Luis Alberto Lacalle of the center-right National Party and ex-Tupamaru guerrilla José “Pepe” Mujica of the ruling and left-leaning Broad Front coalition. In the first round of voting, the mercurial Mr Mujica got about 48 percent of the votes compared to 30 percent for Lacalle.

Mujica wins. The second round of voting took place on Nov. 29. Mujica carried the day with over 50 percent of the vote. He is expected to continue the moderate left policies of current President Tabare Vazquez. He will take office on March 1, 2010.

Uruguay: Human Rights in the Spotlight. The Uruguayan election takes place amid a series of landmark prosecutions for human rights abuses that occurred during the 1973-1985 military regime. Gregorio Alvarez, the last of Uruguay’s dictators, was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison for his participation in the murderous “Operation Condor.” Candidate Pedro Bordaberry’s father, Juan Maria Bordaberry, is currently under house arrest on similar charges (the 81-year old Bordaberry was eventually sentenced to 30 years in prison). Furthermore, the Supreme Court recently ruled that an amnesty law passed in 1986 (and reaffirmed by plebiscite in 1989) is unconstitutional. Voters went to the polls in October to decide if the amnesty should be rescinded, but only 42 percent supported the measure.

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