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Thursday, March 16, 2006
Mexico to Extradite Drug Lords to US
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:49 am

Via CNN: Mexican drug lords to face U.S. trials, Fox says

Mexico will begin extraditing drug lords wanted in the United States within weeks and expects a violent backlash from the powerful cartels, President Vicente Fox said on Wednesday.

Fox told Reuters the legal process of handing over traffickers on the U.S. government’s list had begun.

This is interesting, if anything because it echoes a similar path taken by Colombia over time during the drug war: using extradition to the US of suspected drug traffickers as a tool in the drug fight (as well as a means to placate the US).

The extradition issue is a complex one that intersects the issue of national sovereignty. While most Americans’ first response to such issues is, no doubt, that we are simply better equipped to dispense justice than the Mexicans, it is understandably difficult for Mexico to see it that way-especially since these individuals committed a large number of crimes within Mexico. (And, of course, there is no doubt that the US judicial system is superior to that of Mexico, and our level of corruption far lower-not to mention it is easier for Mexican cartels to intimidate judges within their own country).

At any rate, extradition always has a political dimension that taps into issues of national pride.

In the Colombian case from the 1980s to now, we have gone through differing periods regarding extradition, from cooperation to lack of cooperation (including, for a time, the declaration that the practice was unconstitutional). Currently the Uribe administration has been the most cooperative with the US on this count.

The violence issue is another key issue: the traffickers in question don’t want to be extradited, so are often willing to ratchet up the violence considerably so as to create political pressure in opposition to the process. Certainly this was the case in Colombia in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

Given that the main nexus of the illicit drug industry has shifted to Mexico, it will be intriguing to watch how this develops.

Filed under: Global Politics, War on Drugs, Elections | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Leavin’ on a Jet Plane, Don’t Know When I’ll be Back Again… linked with [...] 7;t Know When I’ll be Back Again… By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:44 pm Speaking of extraditing Colombian drug traffickers (via Reuters): Suspected Colombian drug lord extradited to [...]
Monday, March 13, 2006
Uribe Wins Big in Colombian Senate Elections
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:20 am

Via El Tiempo we find that with 88% of the vote counted, the coalition of parties openly supporting President Uribe (the Partido de la U, the Conservatives, Cambio Radical and a number of smaller parties) have won 70 seats in total.

This also marks the first time in Colombian history that neither the Conservative Party nor the Liberal Party has gotten the most votes in a Senate election. La U has earned at this point 1,529,896 votes for 20 seats, with the Conservatives coming in second at this point with 1,405,911 votes for 18 seats. The Liberals, once thought to be a near-permanent majority party, is third with 1,371,403 votes and 17 seats.

There are a number of significant results here, not the least of which being the resuscitation of the Conservatives, which looked near extinction in the 1990s, and the diminution of the Liberals. Further, a number of new, or revamped anyway, parties, have won election and the radical fragmentation of the party system that had been manifesting in recent Senate elections, especially in 2002, has been revered in large measure (I suspect I will post more on that shortly).

I would argue that this change in the system have been brought about by the general evolution of the party system brought about by the 1991 constitution, the effects of Uribe himself on national politics, and the recent electoral reforms.

There can be no doubt that the Liberals were the party that had most benefited from the personal-list PR system that approximated an SNTV (single nontransferable vote) system in Colombia, and further that mismanagement of that system by smaller parties that had led to the great difficulty in new parties achieving s solid foothold in the electoral system.

(As an utter side note: does anyone else find it ironic that a party that is committed to the status quo (i.e., Uribe) is called “Cambio Radical”-i.e., “Radical Change”?)

The BBC notes that turnout was historically low for this election:

But the abstention rate among Colombians reached a record 66%, and 15% of the cast ballots were deemed invalid.

This was blamed on fears of violence that proved largely unfounded, increasing public apathy, and confusion over recent changes in the electoral system.

The number is not, however, a substantial deviation from the long-term participation patterns in such elections in Colombia. If there is a single factor to blame for the diminution, I suspect it is the change in the electoral rules, as based on what I have read to this point, the election-related violence was not especially different this cycle.

Much more, I suspect, on these elections later.

Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, Elections, Colombia, 2006 Congressional Elections | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Election Watch: Colombia
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:07 pm

Today Colombians vote on the congress for the 2006-2010 term and in presidential primaries for the Liberal Party and the Democratic Pole (the first time a party other than the Liberals have used a primary in Colombia).

Via Reuters: Colombian voters, despite violence, elect Congress

Colombians went to the polls on Sunday despite fear of rebel violence to elect a new Congress that will rule on legislation pushed by President Alvaro Uribe such as a U.S. free trade deal and other measures.


Polls close at 4 p.m. (2100 GMT) and preliminary results are expected later in the evening. About 26.5 million Colombians are registered to help elect the Andean country’s 268-member Congress, which includes 102 senators and 166 members of the lower house.

These elections are especially interesting, given that they are being conducted under new electoral rules (also here), which should consider to forward the evolution of the Colombian party system that has been underway since the constitutional reforms of 1991.

Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, Elections | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Chile’s New President Sworn in
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:26 am

Via the BBC: Chile inaugurates female leader

Former torture victim Michelle Bachelet has been sworn in as Chile’s first female president.

Ms Bachelet, 54, who claimed a convincing poll win in January, smiled broadly and waved after taking her oath in the coastal city of Valparaiso.

There is something special about a person who was once a prisoner of a dictatorship being elected to office, especially to the highest office of the land. Especially significant is that the former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, is under house arrest and the constitution was amended last year to remove the lingering political prerogatives of the military.

And she got a Bolivian guitar as well:

Ms Bachelet was pictured laughing as she received a gift of a charango guitar from Mr Morales on the eve of the inauguration, and the two exchanged compliments.

Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, Elections | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » On Pinochet linked with [...] Sunday, March 12, 2006 On Pinochet By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:52 pm (Speaking of Chilean politics): Robert Farley of Lawyers, Guns and Money asks: Why Pinochet? Why is it that Au [...]
Friday, March 10, 2006
More on Colombian Elections and Paramilitaries
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:25 pm

The links of paramilitaries to the Colombian congressional elections seem to be the story of this election year. I noted a Miami Herald yesterday, here’s more from the CSM: Paramilitaries still sway Colombian votes

despite the progress on demobilization, and the drop in election-related paramilitary violence, a wide variety of observers here say paramilitary efforts to influence politics have not ceased. Paramilitary leaders have merely taken a subtler tack, analysts say, using coffers flush with proceeds from the drug trade to finance favored candidates.


even when the votes are tallied after Sunday’s election, it won’t be easy to measure how many seats will be under paramilitary control. Claudia López, a political analyst for the newsweekly Semana tried to gauge paramilitary influence in the last congressional elections by studying atypical voting patterns. In areas where the paramilitaries had consolidated their power through massacres in the preceding years, she found, candidates often won by overwhelming landslides of as much as 96 percent of the vote.

That last comment is interesting, given the way that Congressional seats are filled in Colombia, it isn’t as if this would be a case of Candidate X beating Candidate Y 96-4. It is possible that a candidate won 96% of the vote in a given municipio/set of municipios (analogous, more or less, to a county). I have never done analysis of congressional elections in Colombia at that level, so I can’t say off the top of my head if the statement above makes sense or not (most of the specific analysis I have done has been focused on Senate elections).

The same theme (paras in politics) is continued in a Houston Chronicle story this morning:

You need permission to run for Congress in this steamy northern Colombian town where right-wing militias hold sway _ that is, if you value your life.

Juan David Diaz canceled a campaign stop ahead of Sunday’s national elections after receiving a warning that he would be assassinated if he set foot in this town of 160,000.

The opposition candidate says he is under threat for helping expose ties between outlawed paramilitary groups and a powerful businesswoman who is a powerbroker in Magangue. Earlier this month, one of his campaigners was found decapitated.

And then there’s this, which makes one wonder how one gets anyone to run:

Diaz worries that even if he is elected to Congress, he will not be safe.

His father, Edualdo Diaz, the mayor of nearby El Roble, made headlines in 2003 when he took the floor in one of Uribe’s townhall meetings and claimed plans were afoot for his murder. He named those he suspected in the plot and begged the president for help.

Two months later, he was killed.

Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, Elections | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Tuesday, March 7, 2006
Purple Fingers are All the Rage
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:09 am

I can’t read the print, so am not sure if this a government poster or a graphic from the newspaper.

The context is the upcoming (3/12) congressional elections in Colombia.

Via El Tiempo

Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, Elections | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Monday, March 6, 2006
Electioneering, FARC Style
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:17 pm

Colombian rebels kill three, try to sway voters

Colombian rebels killed three civilians with a bomb intended for soldiers on Monday, the latest in a series of attacks President Alvaro Uribe called a “cowardly” attempt to erode his support ahead of elections.

The bomb blew up a house, killing a 8-year-old boy and two women nearby and injuring three soldiers in the southern jungle province of Caqueta. The blast came a day after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, made another electoral gambit by agreeing to a request from an opposition politician to release hostages.

The candidate in question is at .2% in the polls, so hardly likely to gain much by the gesture.

In general, this is senseless:

“These massacres appear timed to spread terror before the elections and undermine the democratic process,” Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Monday. “The FARC has once again displayed complete disregard for the lives of the people it claims to represent.”

Indeed-and a point I frequently make.

Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, Elections | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Sunday, March 5, 2006
Election Watch: Colombia-Uribe Lead Slips
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:02 pm

Via El Tiempo we find that the number of voters planning to vote for Uribe for re-election has slipped fom 65.2% to 53.9%-while his nearest rival, likely Liberal candidate Horacio Serpa, is at 20.1%.

Here’s the story: Intención de voto por el Presidente Uribe se redujo en 11 puntos en última encuesta de EL TIEMPO

Uribe bajó de 65,2 a 53,9%, mientras que Horacio Serpa, precandidato del Partido Liberal, subió de 12 a 20,1 por ciento.

Es decir: la distancia entre los dos, que antes era de 53,2 por ciento, ahora es de 33,8 por ciento. La gran encuesta de EL TIEMPO fue contratada con la empresa Datexco.

Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, Elections | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Friday, March 3, 2006
Second Round in Haitian Parliamentary Elections Delayed
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:25 am

Via the BBC: Haiti parliamentary polls delayed:

Haiti’s electoral council says the second round of parliamentary elections will be delayed.

Council head Rosemond Pradel said it was impossible to keep to the 19 March date because complaints from the first round were still being dealt with.

This means that in the absence of a parliament, the inauguration of President-elect Rene Preval, set for 29 March, must also be delayed.


The second round of the legislative polls will pit the two leading candidates from the first round in each of 30 Senate seats and 99 Lower House seats against one another.

But the electoral council has not yet set a date for the polls to take place, blaming the delay partly on demonstrations which took place while first-round vote-counting was underway.

Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, Elections | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Curfew Remains Needed in Iraq
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:23 am

It would seem that the sectarian violence continues (via the BBC): Curfew widened amid Iraq violence

A daytime curfew is in force in and around the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, in an attempt to curb a surge in violence.

Police have been ordered to seize any private vehicles that defy the ban, on what is the Muslim day of prayers.

In continuing violence, the bodies of at least 19 people killed in a suspected sectarian attack were found near Baghdad on Friday.

It would seem that the early pronouncements at the start of the week that things were claming down vis-a-vis the Golden Dome bombing were premature.

Of this reminds me of George Will’s column yesterday:

When late in the spring of 1940 people of southeastern England flocked across the Channel in their pleasure craft and fishing boats to evacuate soldiers trapped on Dunkirk beaches, euphoria swept Britain. So Prime Minister Winston Churchill sternly told the nation: “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.”

Or by curfews, such as the one that cooled the furies that engulfed Iraq after the bombing last week of a Shiite shrine. Wars are not won simply by facing facts, but facing them is a necessary prerequisite.

Filed under: Global Politics, Elections | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Thursday, March 2, 2006
ELN Pledges Cease-Fire for Elections in Colombia
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:19 am

Via CNN: Colombian rebel group OKs cease-fire for elections

Colombia’s second-largest rebel group announced a cease-fire for this month’s congressional elections, the group’s military chief, currently in Cuba, said Thursday.

Antonio Garcia of the National Liberation Army, known by its Spanish acronym ELN, confirmed in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that his troops would refrain from any attacks or aggressions when Colombians go to the polls March 12.

The news out of the ELN peace talks continues to be good, but I remain cautious in any serious degree of optimism.

Of course, this is mostly symbolic, as I do not recall any serious election-related violence perpretrated by the ELN in recent elections-that has primarily been the domain of the FARC.

Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, Elections | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Friday, February 24, 2006
Colombian Senate Candidate Killed in Helicopter Crash
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:58 pm

Via Forbes/the AP: Colombian Senate Candidate Killed

A leading senatorial candidate and former adviser to President Alvaro Uribe was killed along with three other people Friday in a helicopter crash in a mountainous rainforest region of northwest Colombia, authorities said.

Pedro Juan Moreno, a candidate in congressional elections March 12, was one of four people aboard the chartered helicopter that went down near Mutata, 220 miles northwest of Bogota, said Martin Gonzalez, spokesman of the government’s civil aviation regulator.

All those aboard were killed, including Moreno’s son, Juan Gilberto Moreno, the official said.

No word yet as to the cause of the crash.

Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, Elections | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Still no Winner in Costa Rica
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:01 am

Via the BBC: Costa Rica completes vote recount

Costa Rica has completed a manual recount of the votes cast in the election more than two weeks ago - but there is still no official winner.

The recount was ordered after the first count put Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias, less than 0.5% ahead of his left-wing rival, Otton Solis.

New results show Mr Arias with a 1.1% lead. But Mr Solis has filed legal challenges which need to be settled.

Whether we are talking about this case, Florida 2000 or Washington state in 2005, it is clear that there needs to be a rule in place that results in a re-vote if the margin is sufficiently narrow. Ideally there would be a run-off if not one received 50% +1 of the vote, which would almost certainly eliminate this kind of problem. However, even in that situation an especially close vote needs a predetermined, legal mechanism by which to settle the dispute. Going to the courts to figure it out ex post always leads to problems.

Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, Elections | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Fruits and Votes linked with Ruoffs, re-votes, and Costa Rica
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Election Watch: Haiti-Preval Wins
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:57 am

Via the BBC: Preval declared Haiti poll winner

Rene Preval has been declared president of Haiti, following last week’s vote marred by claims of irregularities.

He gained 51% of the vote after the authorities reached a last-minute deal to remove thousands of blank ballot papers from the count.


“Rene Preval… is declared the winner,” Max Mathurin said.

His comments came after officials agreed to subtract more than 80,000 blank votes - or just over 4% of the total tally - from the election, taking Mr Preval over the winning threshold.

The decision followed late-night talks between the electoral council, the interim government and the Organization of American States.

I wonder what Haitian electoral law states about blank votes, and if these are “blank” in the sense that there were no marks on them whatsoever, or if they were official “blank” votes. In terms of the latter, for example, in Colombia one can vote “en blanco” on a ballot, which is an official vote essentially for “none of the above.”

Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, Elections | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Election Watch: Haiti
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:28 am

Via Reuters: Burned ballots inflame Haitian election tensions

Haiti’s electoral council said on Tuesday it would launch an investigation after burned ballots, many cast a week ago for former president Rene Preval, were found still smoldering in a state dump.

Preval, a one-time ally of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide opposed by the same wealthy elite who helped drive Aristide from power two years ago, said on Tuesday that only “massive fraud” had prevented him from winning a first-round victory in the February 7 election.

A few hours later, reports that hundreds and maybe thousands of ballots had been found discarded in a massive garbage dump in Port-au-Prince rippled through the ranks of Preval supporters, triggering anger and demonstrations after nightfall.

Ok, point number one: if you are going to burn ballots, burn them all the way.

Point number two: it is suspicious that the semi-burned ballots were found after Preval made claims of massive fraud.

Point number three: the whole situation is a mess and I don’t see an easy solution.

Filed under: Global Politics, Elections | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
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