What's boz reading?

Adam has two posts that do an excellent job outlining a Colombia agenda for the new Democratic Congress.

Randy critiques the Latin American right and Robert discusses Bolivarianism. I hope to discuss more about the concept of political ideologies in Latin America after the final election this year.

Miguel, per usual, is doing a great job keeping me updated on Bolivia. Just scroll down and read.

The Atlantic Monthly article on nuclear weapons is frightening and well researched.

Calderon's Interior Minister

As Mexican President-elect Calderon names his new cabinet, his Minister of Interior choice, Francisco Ramírez Acuña, is receiving some major criticism. See the LA Times, Washington Post and FT for comments in English as well as the interview with Ramírez in El Universal.

Calderon is trying to send a signal that he deal with Mexico's growing security problems by picking a hard-line Interior Minister and is willing to deal with the criticisms. Ramírez was the governor of Jalisco and faces criticisms for his handling of protests in 2004. On the other hand, he has been seen as providing security to his state at a time in which Mexico's security has deteriorated nationwide.

Dealing with political unrest in the South or defeating drug cartels who are armed better than the police and want to exercise control over an entire city are different from the sorts of problems that Ramírez handled in his home state. I hope that the new minister realizes that the strategies that worked in Jalisco are not necessarily going to secure Oaxaca, Nuevo Laredo or the other areas with severe violence in Mexico.

Ramírez was a good choice politically for Calderon to bolster his security image in his opening months. Whether he'll be an effective minister over the long term is still to be seen. Calderon should be mindful that a choice that helps him politically today may not be so helpful in a year if the national government mishandles the security situation around the nation.

Five points on Correa

A quick rise... Correa managed to increase his vote total by about 25% over the final weeks of the campaign. Part of this is due to a very well run second round campaign that managed to moderate Correa's image while taking advantage of his opponent's weaknesses. While he is likely to get a brief honeymoon period in public opinion, the bad news for Correa is that a 25% rise over five weeks is often not sustainable.

...thanks to a lousy opponent. Noboa had all the momentum and a 20 point lead, and he blew it. From allegations of child labor to his use of religious imagery in the campaign (which actually reminded me a bit of Mexico's Lopez Obrador), he simply did not appeal to most voters outside of his small base. He bet on being the "least bad" choice and he bet wrong.

Erratic. As journalists try to pin Correa's ideology down as centrist or leftist or whatever, the easiest term to define Correa is erratic. He may say something that is wildly radical one day, come out as a moderate the next day, and take a completely different position again before the end of the week. His supporters and opponents will grab onto different aspects of Correa to prove their points. The fact is he doesn't have one ideology; he changes his positions too often. His ability to deliver different messages may play a role in his political appeal, but it's probably not a good way to govern.

How long will he last? About three months ago I shared a cab with an Ecuadorian. When I said, "If Correa is elected, he probably won't last 18 months." the Ecuadorian responded, "You're wrong, most of us don't think he'll last six." The fact we were having this debate before he was even elected is a bad omen of his chances as well as a sign of how poorly Ecuador's whole political system is functioning. I think the question of whether he will survive his full term will haunt Correa's presidency.

So, what's the matter with Ecuador? I posed that question back in August and posted an update as well as a review of the first round. The problem is still an unstable political system and a population that doesn't believe that its government works for the people. Nothing about this election changed those conditions and Ecuador's political system remains a mess (a Noboa win would not have made a difference on that front). Correa made solving the political impasse the center of his campaign. The solutions he has proposed, including rewriting the constitution, will certainly shake up the country, but may not have wide, sustained support among the population, particularly on the coast. The question is whether his shakeup will actually reform the system, or if he will simply become the next name in the long list of Ecuadorian leaders who tried and failed to make the country work.

Initial results

Initial exit polls are indicating that Correa has won in Ecuador with just over 55% of the vote. I'll have something up before noon tomorrow about the election.

Quick poll number update

I couldn't get a good internet connection early this morning. Now that I have one, I'm heading out to enjoy the nice Chicago weather.

So no full roundup of poll numbers today. Two things to note.

There are no good new numbers out of Ecuador. A few rumors indicate Correa may have a small lead, but everything I've seen says this election remains too close to call. (UPDATE: AML notes in the comments that Cedatos Gallup has the race 52-48 for Correa. After undecideds are considered, that is within the margin of error.)

AP-Ipsos poll as well as the Survey Fast poll. The horserace numbers couldn't be farther apart (AP: 59-27, Survey Fast: 50-49), but both polls contain a lot of other numbers that are really interesting.

AP found that 63% approve of Chavez but 66% think he is too authoritarian. Nearly 50% believe Chavez puts his personal interests before the country's. AP has a couple other interesting numbers that seem to contradict each other as well. It shows a more complex view of the average Venezuelan voter than simply pro or anti-Chavez.

Survey Fast has their numbers broken down by gender, region, age and economic level. Even if I don't completely believe Survey Fast's horserace numbers, I was able to use those break downs to improve my image of how this election is moving.

Have a good weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving

Good morning from Chicago. Hope everyone in gringolandia has a Happy Thanksgiving.

Ecuador too close to call

Ecuador's second round is this Sunday and all of the polls show the race as too close to call. Correa has managed to close the gap in all the major polls and the two candidates are now in a statistical tie.

The campaign has been relentlessly negative and I think many voters are simply tired of both of them. This does not bode well for the ability of either candidate to move the country beyond the political instability that it has faced for the past decade.

The international media is going to be tempted to interpret this election as part of the ongoing US vs. Venezuela narrative that they like so much. While that played a bit into the first round, the second round has been marked by both candidates moving towards the center and away from their international allies. It would be a mistake to interpret a narrow win by one of these candidates as a win or a loss for some international ideology. But of course, that won't stop the media from trying.

Peru's political parties lose election

No single political party lost the Peruvian municipal and regional elections last Sunday. All the parties lost.

President Garcia's APRA party lost 10 of the 12 regional governorships that they won in 2002 and won only one major mayoral election.

Ollanta Humala's Nationalist Party won only one mayoral election (Arequipa) and lost in all the gubernatorial races in which it ran.

The UPP won in Cuzco and lost virtually everywhere else.

Luis Castaneda of the Unidad Nacional won reelection as mayor of Lima, but with only 48% of the vote, much lower than expected.

So who won? Apparently independent candidates with no party affiliation took 21 of the 25 regional governorships and at least a dozen of the top mayoral races throughout the country. Check out this map at the Peru election blog to get a sense for how many independents won.

Party systems play a key role in stable democracies and the decline of Peru's political parties does not bode well for the country's ability to solve their national challenges. It's easy to blame political parties for the problems in a country (and lots of people do), but the rise of non-partisan independents brings its own challenges to Peru's economic and political system.

All Hail King AMLO

From Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
DENNIS: Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador looks to put that quote to the test today as he proclaims himself the "legitimate" president of Mexico. Thousands are expected to be present at today's ceremony in Mexico City. AMLO claims he is simply fulfilling the mandate from the people of Mexico by naming himself their leader.

However, it's one thing to declare himself the president at a ceremony and another to assume the powers that should come with that designation. The questions of how Lopez Obrador will try to execute his presidential powers remain up in the air.
  • Will he try to levy taxes and provide governmental services?
  • Will he try to control a military, or even a small police force?
  • If he does either of those two, how will "the people" be able to hold him accountable for economic or security issues?
  • Will he issue executive decrees and how will he try to enforce them?
  • Does he have a foreign relations policy and will other governments recognize his "ambassadors"?
  • Is this all a front to simply continue protests?
  • Or is this really just a "farcical... ceremony" to solely benefit AMLO's ego?
The ceremony will be a fun media event. However, if AMLO doesn't start answering questions about what his "presidency" will really mean, eventually the media will stop paying attention when he yells "Help, help! I'm being repressed!" while exercising his freedoms of speech and protest.

POLL NUMBERS!!! November 17, 2006

Good morning! Last week's poll numbers from Latin America are here.

In Guatemala, a poll from Vox-Latina suggests that Guatemalans have a very poor image of their own country. 75% think Guatemalans have a reason to be pessimistic. 77% think Guatemalans look good physically, but 77% also think Guatemalans are liars. I'm not making those numbers up.

In Honduras, 41% of Hondurans believe that Ortega's victory in Nicaragua will create instability in the region.

Did you know there are mayoral elections this Sunday in Paraguay and nobody bothered to publish a poll?

In Uruguay, the popularity of President Vazquez dropped to 48%.

In Chile, a new poll has President Bachelet with 58% support.

In Ecuador, three new polls show that Correa has closed the gap and is in a virtual tie with Noboa. Informe has the race Noboa 40, Correa 37. Market has it Correa 41, Noboa 37. Cedatos-Gallup has it Noboa 41, Correa 38.

In Venezuela, I'm doing these alphabetically and without comment:
Ceca: Rosales 41, Chavez 37.
Consultores 21: Chavez 58, Rosales 41.
Datanalisis: Chavez 52, Rosales 26.
EMC: Chavez 57, Rosales 35.
"Gallup" (not the real one): Rosales 58, Chavez 26.
Hinterlaces: Chavez 45, Rosales 33.
PSB: Chavez 48, Rosales 42.
"Survey fast": Chavez 48, Rosales 48.
Veneopsa/U C de Madrid: Chavez 58, Rosales 27.

My comments about the Venezuela polling wars are in a separate post here.

POLL NUMBERS!!! Venezuela polling wars

I will make only one prediction about the Venezuelan election: Neither candidate will win over 54%.

That prediction is made with my best guess analysis of what I've seen in the polls. I wasn't going to make any public predictions, but then that would be no fun. So I'll risk being wrong for the sake of providing some entertainment for my readers.

Ok, I'll actually make a second prediction: Both the Chavez supporters and opponents are not going to agree with what I'm about to write. But that is a much easier prediction to make.

If the election were held this Sunday, Chavez would win reelection by about 60-40. While the polls do have some biases (fear, turnout, funding, etc), they are mostly accurate in saying that Chavez has a fairly substantial lead at the moment.

The good news for Rosales is that the elections are not being held this Sunday, but rather two weeks from this Sunday.

In early October I wrote that I expected a 7 to 12 point shift in the final two weeks of the campaign. I also wrote that I believed the candidates would end up near 50-50. I still believe both of those statements. If my 60-40 number is correct, a seven point swing would be a 53-47 Chavez win and a 12 point swing would be a 52-48 Rosales win. At this point in time, the seven point swing is more likely than the 12 point swing.

Chavez is likely to win by a small margin, but Rosales can still pull off the upset under a "perfect storm" set of conditions. It's a long shot for him to win, but still too early to count him out.

Now let me try to answer some of the questions and comments that have come my way...

Chavez is popular and will win by 25 points...
Ok, that's not really a question, but I hear it all the time from Chavez supporters and I'll answer it anyway. For some reason, Chavez supporters incorrectly believe that the president has always been wildly popular. Actually, the view on him has been quite mixed throughout his term. He has never won a contested election with over 60%. His popularity has hit peaks of 80%, but also lows around 30%. There are a large number of Venezuelans who have mixed views of the president. Unlike his diehard supporters and opponents, many Venezuelans see both good and bad in Chavez and know what they are getting when they vote for him. He's popular in large part because he has been able to portray the alternative as worse. That works in the short term, but is not a long term winning strategy (ask the Republicans).

You can't trust polls because people are afraid to answer them honestly...
I hear that a lot from the opposition. There is a fear factor in Venezuela. However, in general, if people are paranoid enough that they won't answer polls, then they are paranoid enough not to vote their honest opinions on election day. The paranoia cancels itself out. I've taken it into account, but it really doesn't help the Rosales campaign as much as some people have claimed.

Doesn't the poll funding bias the poll?
Around the region, I hear this more from the left than the right (I heard it constantly in Bolivia and Peru), but recently in Venezuela the opposition has joined the left in the pollster bashing. All polls are funded by someone; pollsters, unfortunately, don't work for free. The funding is more likely to affect the spin or the analysis of the poll than the actual numbers. Pollsters will rarely change numbers to benefit their client, but they will spin the numbers in the best possible way. This means that the more hard numbers you can get ahold of from a certain poll, the more you can look past the spin and analyze it for yourself. I've tried to do that in as many cases as possible. In particular, UC de Madrid and EMC provided some really useful data showing a closer race once you looked beyond the basic horserace result.

Wasn't the EMC poll was funded by PDVSA?
Two different issues here. First, I think the poll contains some valuable data and the opposition is wrong to simply ignore those data because they dislike the funding source. Second, even though I don't immediately consider the polling biased because it was funded by the government's oil company, I do think it is a serious ethical and electoral violation for government money to be used in polling domestic political issues. This poll is one of the clearest examples of the Venezuelan government abusing its position to divert government money to their campaign. In spite of all that, I found the numbers from this poll useful in analyzing the election. Once you get past the campaign spin and look at the approval numbers and issue numbers, this poll shows a closer race than the widely reported horserace figure.

(I'll update with more later. Feel free to leave questions, comments and flame-throwing angry attacks in the comments.)

2,000 children live where?

In case you missed this Monday's Miami Herald article on children living in trash dumps in Honduras, it's a hard one to read:
Many Latin American nations have pepenadores, Spanish slang for people who scour garbage dumps for recyclable goods they can then sell. But Honduras has the highest rate of children working at dumps -- an estimated 2,000, according to UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund.
The government is taking steps to help kids leave the dumps and find an education, but when they can make $2 per day collecting bottles, that's better than many opportunities in the country.

On a side note, Oso noted that several bloggers have recently been talking about the problem of hunger in Honduras and pointed to the microlending charity Kiva. I haven't had time to research it much, but it looks like a very interesting project.

Mexican foreign policy shift

The Miami Herald reports that Mexican President-elect Calderon is expected to shift his foreign policy towards Latin America. Even though the US will remain an important partner, Calderon thinks he should look towards the South in order to find allies and trade partners.

I think it will take six months to a year of Calderon's presidency to determine whether he is actually making this shift, or whether it is simply pre-inauguration lip service. If he does spend more time on Latin America, it may turn out well for the region, but it will also be a sign that US policy over the past few years has managed to alienate even governments who should be natural allies.

Mexico violence surpasses 2,000 deaths

LA Times:
The death toll in Mexico's drug war has surpassed 2,000 this year, with a newspaper editor found dead in the resort city of Zihuatanejo and a police commander assassinated in Tijuana apparently among the latest victims, according to news reports.

Another police commander was killed Monday in the northern city of Monterrey, and four people were reported killed in the southern state of Guerrero.

No government agency keeps a tally of the drug-related killings, but according to human rights organizations and newspapers, an average of six people are killed in the country's drug wars every day.

Idiocy, Irony and Ideals

Ann Louise Bardach has been writing about Cuba and particularly about Luis Posada Carriles for a long time. Now, according to her op-ed in the Washington Post, she's become part of the story.

Apparently, the FBI office in Miami destroyed all of its evidence on Posada. Now, the FBI is subpoenaing Bardach and the New York Times for all of their notes on Posada so that they can take the next judicial steps to keep him in jail.

Even though most of her articles question why the US doesn't do more to prosecute, jail or extradite Posada, Bardach is refusing to comply, citing the first amendment protection of journalists. The ultimate irony would be if Posada goes free because the journalists who have done the most to bring attention to the case refuse to give up their notes.

Then again, it wouldn't be the fault of the journalists but rather that of the FBI. Anyone who knowingly destroyed evidence in a counter-terror case, particularly after 9/11, should be fired and prosecuted. There is simply no excuse for that.

Thanks

Thanks to all our veterans and active duty military personnel. Your work matters in keeping this country safe and making the world a better place.

POLL NUMBERS!!! November 10, 2006

Good Morning! Last week's polls from Latin America are here.

In the region, Transparency International launched their annual survey on perceptions of corruption. The least corrupt countries were Chile, Uruguay, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Colombia. Venezuela tied with Ecuador for the most corrupt country in Latin America. Haiti was the worst in the Western Hemisphere.

A quick note on the methodology of that TI poll. First, the poll is measuring perceptions of corruption, not actual corruption. Second, different methodologies are used in different countries. This makes the country rankings somewhat inaccurate. However, it is accurate to trend each country over time and the detailed data for each country can provide some very useful information. Still, all the media ever want to report on are the rankings.

In Mexico, a poll on Mexico's foreign policy suggests that 52% want to renegotiate agricultural clauses within NAFTA. 51% believe that they should have better checkpoints on their southern border to control illegal immigration from Central America but only 15% believe they should build a wall between Mexico and Guatemala.

In Colombia, via Adam, a new poll shows that the popularity of the Armed Forces is still high but has somewhat declined in recent months. Meanwhile, the support for human rights groups and NGO's has increased.

In Venezuela, Hinterlaces has the race Chavez 45, Rosales 25 (another article said Rosales had 27 in this poll). EMC has the race Chavez 57, Rosales 35. I'll comment on these some other time.

In Ecuador, Cedatos-Gallup has the race Noboa 59, Correa 41, but 18% are still undecided and were not counted in the poll.

In Peru, after 100 days in office, Alan Garcia is at 60% approval.

In Chile, one poll shows Bachelet with 46% approval and another shows her at 59%. The trend in both polls is that Bachelet has stabilized her support levels after some political difficulties and is slowly bringing them back up.

Some reaction

The Miami Herald finds some good news for trade in the Democratic win:
However, many Democrats have said they want to extend two unilateral trade preference regimes that already allow many imports to enter the United States duty-free: the Generalized System of Preferences, which affects countries like Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina, and the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, which impacts Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. Democrats also favor a textile trade agreement with Haiti that Republicans from textile-producing states have blocked.
Even though the Peru and Colombia trade deals are going to face some opposition (about which I'll write some other time), the fact that Democrats will approve trade preference regimes and especially ATPDEA should be seen as a win for the region.

Also of interest, the Washington Post notes that Mexican President-elect Calderon cheered the Democratic win yesterday. The Democrats should take that opening and begin talking with Calderon about immigration and other issues. This could be a great opportunity to improve US-Mexico relations that have been harmed by the recent immigration bill disaster.

A vote for change

It was a very exciting win for the Democrats last night. Just as importantly, it was a loss for GOP and a rejection of the Republican one-party government that has ill-served this divided nation.

"Stay the course" lost Washington last night. Americans are divided, but in analyzing the voters, nearly everyone is looking for some sort of change. Even the Republican voters I spoke with seemed ready for a shakeup in Washington, they simply didn't believe the Democratic party should be the one to do it.

Now in charge of at least one house of Congress, the Democrats should tap into that desire for change. I'm not talking policy, but rather process. The number one issue among voters was corruption. There was discontent with both the President and Congress. There was a widespread perception of ineffective or incompetent government. The Republican government, in the minds of the voters, is part of the problem.

The mandate the Democrats received last night was to change that system, to make government transparent and relevant to all the citizens of the US. If the Democrats can show Americans that they can reform the process, they will win their trust and receive a mandate for their policies. The Democrats need to show that under their leadership, the government can be part of the solution for this nation's challenges.

Five points on Ortega

Barring a major shift in voting, Daniel Ortega has won the Nicaraguan presidential election. On with my usual five point analysis...

What decade am I in? First Alan Garcia and now Ortega. Watching both of these presidents come back from disgrace, I can only imagine Menem and Fujimori are already plotting... (Update: Christian notes Oscar Arias as well).

Less leftist, more corrupt. When asked last week to define an Ortega administration, I did it with those four words. Ortega lost most of his leftist ideology long ago and it serves as just political show these days. In fact, considering his alliances with former Contras and right-wing presidents and his conservative stances on social issues, he'd almost fit right in with the PLC if it wasn't for his historical legacy. On the other hand, corruption scandals and criminal actions have dogged Ortega for decades. His focus will likely be on maintaining power and protecting himself and his allies from corruption allegations. I'd be glad to find out I'm wrong and that Ortega will turn out to be a good president, but I'm not going to bet on it.

The first 100 days matter. If Ortega does want a popular administration, the first hundred days are going to be key. Elected without a real mandate, he needs an instant boost in popularity in order to avoid becoming a lame duck in under 12 months. Expect major increases in government spending and other acts of political show early on.

Not looking to pick a fight. In an interesting twist, Ortega does not seem to want to fight with the US. This may be a disappointment for both his supporters and opponents. Many of Ortega's supporters want him to be the next Chavez. Some of Ortega's opponents both at home and in the US are itching for the opportunity to prove that this is the same person who ran Nicaragua's dictatorship in the 1980's. Ortega has proven to be a more pragmatic politician than that. Don't be surprised to see Ortega walk an ideological tightrope, trying to appear leftist while maintaining some level of trade and development cooperation with the US.

DO NOT CUT US AID. Can I make that clearer? The single worst thing the US can do over the coming months is cut aid or use some other economic pressure without provocation. If Ortega's corruption gets out of control or he does something particularly harmful to US interests, by all means do what we would do to any country. But simply cutting aid because of Ortega's past is both provoking him to take the worst path and giving him an excuse for if/when he fails. Pressuring him before he even takes office will not help US interests and will further hurt our standing in the region. Whether we like it or not, Ortega is the democratically elected president of Nicaragua and deserves a chance to succeed or fail on his own merits. I don't expect much from Ortega, but this is one case where the US can really screw up by interfering when we should just leave the situation alone.

El Impacto del "Pacto"

Still waiting for the results in Nicaragua's election. At this point, all we know for sure is that Ortega is first, Montealegre is second and Rizo is third. The question now is whether numbers allow Ortega a first round win or force a second round. We may not know for a little while yet.

Even as the final results aren't clear, people should be questioning how Ortega even came this close to winning in a country where a majority of voters reject him.

"El Pacto" was an agreement between former Presidents Aleman and Ortega to control power in the legislature. The two, who couldn't be further apart ideologically, joined forces to prevent their prosecution over corruption and maintain their stranglehold on the leadership of the PLC and FSLN parties. Among other things, El Pacto reformed the electoral law to the current situation today, the one that offers Ortega a chance to win in the first round.

Ortega, however, could not win unless his opposition was divided.

It is clear that Rizo pulled votes from Montealegre and split the anti-Ortega candidates. Rizo was Aleman's vice president and was NOT an outspoken opponent of El Pacto when it occurred. It's obvious, at this point, that Rizo's advisers were putting out false poll numbers to skew coverage of the viability of their candidate. Rizo also worked to split conservatives here in the US, getting people like Ollie North and Robert Novak on his side to blunt the concerns coming from the US Embassy. Rizo refused to quit, even when it was obvious his campaign could lead to an Ortega victory.

Daniel Ortega needed someone exactly like Rizo to split his opposition. The question is whether it was intentional on the PLC's part. In other words, did El Pacto continue beyond its announced end? I'm not a fan of conspiracy theories, but this makes a damn good one.

POLL NUMBERS!!! November 3, 2006

Good morning from San Antonio, where I've been working all week. Last week's poll numbers from Latin America are here.

In Costa Rica, President Arias' approval rating has increased to nearly 50% after dropping at the beginning of his term.

In Colombia, President Uribe has seen another decline in his approval rating to 66%, the lowest of his over four years in office. It's been a rough second term for Uribe, but that is still a pretty high number.

In Bolivia, President Morales has also seen a decline in approval to 50%, a nearly 30 point drop since May. Also of interest, over 60% of citizens disapprove with Venezuela building military bases in their country.

In Chile, an Ipsos poll shows President Bachelet's approval rating has increased back to 55%. Also, nearly 2/3 of voters agreed with the decision to abstain from the Venezuela-Guatemala UN vote. Could it be that an international UN issue actually helped her domestic political rating?

In Venezuela, polling controversies continue. Keller's new poll shows that Chavez's support has been greatly weakened and Rosales' support is increasing. However, his suggestion that the race is a 52-48 "technical tie" is a huge stretch given the methodology. I've been watching Keller's methodology, and I think other pollsters and poll analysts can learn from it (I've learned from it). One drawback to the methodology is that it leaves the analyst with the inability to give a definitive x% to y% result with a standard margin of error, which is what the media and public are used to. The internal numbers of Keller's poll contain very good news for the opposition, but I think he risks overshadowing that news with the 52-48 announcement, which at this point I see as incorrect. Of course, other polls such as the Zogby 59-24 prediction have their own problems.

Finally, in Nicaragua, there will be elections this Sunday. Various surveys have shown Daniel Ortega at 33, 34, 33, 35 and 30%, near that magic 35% he needs to win in the first round (he also needs to be ahead of his opponent by 5%). With those numbers, several people have asked why I predict a first round win for Ortega. Ortega has two things going for him and one going against him. First, I've seen the internal numbers for three of those surveys and can honestly say that using "likely voter" turnout models rather than "all voter" models pushes Ortega over the top in most cases. Second, Ortega's FSLN has significant control over national and local electoral institutions. I don't believe there is a massive plot to steal the vote, but controlling the institutions will provide a bit of padding if he gets close.

On the other hand, in nearly every election we've seen this year in Latin America, the first round was closer than anticipated by the polls (Costa Rica, Honduras, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador). I'm not going to rely on a regional trend to counter what I see in the domestic numbers, but for people looking for reasons why there may be a second round in Nicaragua, this one is as good as any.

Panama wins UNSC seat

Panama is an excellent compromise choice for the UN Security Council seat for Latin America and the Caribbean. The country is a moderate choice that falls between the two candidates, both ideologically and geographically. There are ties between the Panamanian government and both Venezuela and the US. I'm sure there will be people trying to show Panama is biased towards one side or the other (I'm already hearing people talk about Venezuela's oil programs and US business interests). I think it was a fair middle ground.

In Venezuela, I'm sure that the government is glad to have the issue off the front pages of newspapers after today. Losing an international vote to Guatemala on a near daily basis cannot be good for the president's reelection campaign or the president's ego. Venezuela had reached a point at which they were desperate to compromise so that they could cut their losses and move on. They were ready to jump at nearly any candidate that Guatemala would agree to.

In Guatemala, I think the loss stung a bit more. Guatemala began campaigning for this seat over a year ago and unfortunately got drawn into a proxy battle between the US and Venezuela. On that level, Guatemala does not have the resources nor the media spotlight to really compete. Hopefully they can run at some point in the near future with a slightly less charged political environment.

For the region at large, I think it's positive that this vote is over and that a compromise was reached. Certain governments and institutions in the region (especially the international media) are desperate to divide the region into two camps and force everyone to choose sides. Most countries in Latin America simply want positive relations with all of their neighbors including the US and Venezuela. Hopefully the choice of Panama will allow the region to fix any artificial divides that have been created by this issue.

Thanks

October was the first month in which I averaged over 100 readers per day. I had well over 3,000 visits and nearly 5,000 pageviews. Thanks to everyone for reading and linking. I really do appreciate it.

One last pre-election Nicaragua post

This Sunday, voters in Nicaragua will go to the polls for the fourth democratic election since the Sandinista government of the 1980's. Previous posts here and here.

1. Ortega likely to win. I'll write about the polls on Friday, but recent polls suggest that Daniel Ortega is likely, but not definite, to win the first round. There is still a chance that he will not quite make the cutoff and be forced into a second round, but that is looking less likely in the recent polls that I've seen.

2. Montealegre likely to come in second. Montealegre and Rizo are closer in the polls than either side wants to admit, but my best guess is that Montealegre will take second place, although not quite close enough to force a second round. Once again, those numbers are close enough that I could be wrong.

3. Watch the legislature. The split for the parties in the legislature is likely to define the level of resistance the next president will face.