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CWA # 904, 29 January 2023

2023: The World This Year
Latin America: Elections, problems of governance and deteriorating economy

  Madhura Mahesh

TWTW#200, 29 January 2023, Vol. 5, No. 4

Latin America: Elections, problems of governance and deteriorating economy

Latin America in 2022 saw a rise of the left politically with Brazil and Colombia electing left-leaning heads of State and Chile forming a new constitution under Left-wing President Gabriel Boric. This showed the evolving demands and needs of the people with the economy and welfare taking the main stage in the polls.

2022 also saw an increase in protests with a divided Brazil contesting the election results and an embattled Peru protesting the impeachment of President Pedro Castillo. The region also witnessed Venezuela and Argentina experiencing over 100 per cent inflation due to lax economic policies, the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine War.

In 2023, Latin America will witness three major Presidential elections with Paraguay, Guatemala and Argentina going to the polls. 
Paraguay will go to polls on 30 April with two main contenders, Santiago Peña from the Colorado Party and Efraín Alegre from the Coalition for a New Paraguay. Peña is the candidate of the ruling party Asociación Nacional Republicano (Colorado Party) which is a right-wing party. Alegre is the candidate of the opposition Concertación coalition which is a coalition of 14 parties and is a centre-left party. Alegre has previously run for President twice and in 2018 lost by less than four per cent to President Mario Abdo Benítez from the Colorado party.  

Guatemala will go to polls on 25 June, if no single candidate gets more than 50 per cent the second round will be held on 27 August. The top five contenders are Zury Ríos, Sandra Torres, Edmond Mulet, Roberto Arzú, and Thelma Cabrera. All five candidates do not belong to the ruling party Vamos. Zury Ríos is the leading candidate and the daughter of Dictator Efraín Ríos Montt and is a conservative. Sandra Torres who has placed second in opinion polls is a left-wing candidate who is close to President Alejandro Giammattei.

Argentina will go to polls in October 2023 with three camps the Peronist Frente de Todos coalition, Juntos por el Cambio and outsiders. President Alberto Ángel Fernández will be running for re-election. The final list of candidates will be decided after the Open, Simultaneous, and Obligatory Primaries (PASO) on 13 August. The Peronist Frente de Todos coalition is a coalition of politicians who belong to the Peronist ideology and is a left-leaning coalition. Juntos por el Cambio is a centre-right political coalition and the outsiders camp includes Javier Milei who is a conservative-libertarian politician. 

Forecasts for 2023
First, a continued pink tide In all three elections, there is a clear competition between the right and left-leaning candidates, which opens the possibility of a shift in ideology in the three regions. In Paraguay, the opposition has been vocal about their support for soy and beef farmers and critical of the various corruption allegations against the government has seen an increased support base in the country. Despite this Peña has been a popular candidate with polls back in September showing a 32 per cent lead. This close race can lead to a shift in the ideology of government if Alegre wins the election and will be a marker of the continued Pink wave in Latin America. 
In Guatemala, the current government is a conservative government and this election might not result in a shift in ideology. Zury Ríos is a popular conservative candidate whose candidacy will depend on if she is allowed by the court to run due to her father’s past. Guatemalan Politics is dominated by conservative politics and Sandra Torres while a left-leaning candidate is not popular among the people due to her closeness with President Giammattei. 
In Argentina, while there is no clear result yet, onecan observe a shift in ideology with the public being critical of President Fernández and his left-wing coalition Peronist Frente de Todos who have been embroiled in corruption scandals and criticised because of their economic policies which have led to a 100 per cent inflation in Argentina.         

Second, problems of governance relating to corruption scandals will dominate the political scene
In Paraguay, the Colorado Party has been involved in major corruption scandals with the last being the US Treasury sanctions of Vice President Hugo Velázquez and former President Hugo Velázquez for corruption in Paraguay. This not only has reduced the approval rating of the ruling party but also fuelled the opposition's campaign making the left more vocal.  
In Guatemala, the current political system is riddled with corruption due to the suppressed civil society. With the upcoming elections, observers have predicted that this situation will only deteriorate further and corruption more rampant. Sandra Torres and her party have been involved in various corruption investigations. Zury Ríos has opted for an anti-corruption and outsider stance which has increased her popularity among the people but at the same time made her unpopular in political circles. 

Third, deteriorating economies. The economy will take the main stage in Argentinian politics with the increase in inflation and rising debt. Argentina in 2022 saw the rise a 100 per cent rise in inflation making the economic situation in the country dire. To combat this, they have restructured their debt and approached the IMF for further assistance. At the same time, the policies of President Fernández reflecting the Peronist ideology which advocates economic welfare in the short term instead of long-term development will affect his re-election in 2023. 

In Paraguay, the trade of beef and soy products has taken the main stage in the elections with the opposition questioning the country's relations with Taiwan which are harming trade relations with China. The opposition is reflecting the demands of the farming community outlining the benefits of increased trade with China which will also bring in Chinese investment that will help in infrastructural development and combating poverty.  
Fourth, the attack on institutions especially the civil society and the justice system. 
The outcome of Guatemalan politics and elections will be determined by the lack of civil society and a justice system which has raised concerns over the fairness of the elections. The current government's attack on civil society by arresting journalists and opposing any dissenting voices has made the administration and the ruling party unpopular both inside and outside Guatemala. The increased exile and deportation of judges have reduced the checks and balances against the government. The murder of journalists in Mexico also indicates civil society being curbed and institutions compromised.

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