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Monday Memo: AQ’s Top Expected Stories for the Week of July 16

Top stories this week are likely to include: López Obrador files a legal challenge to Peña Nieto’s win; cholera spreads in Cuba; standoff between Bolivia and a multinational Canadian mining firm; the Chávez factor in the U.S. presidential election; and Unasur sends a delegation to Paraguay.

López Obrador Contests Peña Nieto’s Victory: Although Enrique Peña Nieto won the July 1 presidential election according to the independent electoral authority Instituto Federal Electoral (Federal Electoral Institute—IFE) earlier this month by over 6 percentage points, runner-up Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has now filed a legal challenge to the ruling, claiming fraud on the part of Peña Nieto’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI). AMLO’s team says it will prove that “illicit money” was used to buy votes. Despite IFE having recounted over half the ballots and still upholding its verdict of Peña Nieto’s win, AMLO’s legal challenge submitted to IFE will now be forwarded to the Federal Electoral Court; in turn, the Court will deliver a ruling before early September.

AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini notes, “While fraud remains a problem in Mexican elections and with it people's trust in the results, AMLO is going to have an uphill battle explaining the direct, logical connection between any allegations of fraud and 3 million plus votes of difference between him and the winner, Enrique Pena Nieto."

Cuba and Cholera:
According to the Cuban health ministry in a release over the weekend, there have been no new cholera-related deaths since the three ones reported earlier this month in the eastern city of Manzanillo. However, the health ministry has reported 158 cases of the disease, a significant increase from the 56 initially disclosed. Given that the health ministry has remained rather quiet, leading to rumors about a wider problem with the outbreak, pay attention this week to growing concerns about the spread of cholera. 

Bolivia’s Standoff with Canadian Mining: Bolivia’s revocation of a mining license to Canadian mining firm South American Silver Corp (SASC), enacted after protests from Indigenous Bolivian Quechua groups, has led to strong objections from SASC leadership and “deep concern” from Canadian authorities such as Trade Minister Ed Fast. The Canadian government described the SASC license revocation as “surprising in light of the fact the company continues to receive the support from 43 out of 46 indigenous communities in the project area.” SASC had invested $16 million in a project known as Malku Khota, and Bolivia has pledged to re-compensate SASC—but at a sum less than $16 million, resulting in a 25 percent reduction in SASC’s share price. SASC CEO Greg Johnson has pledged to reclaim the full amount of his company’s investment. Stay tuned this week to see the outcomes.

Chávez Enters the U.S. Political Limelight:
After U.S. President Barack Obama told the A Mano Limpia program on Miami-based, Spanish-language channel América TeVe last week that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez does not pose a “serious” threat to U.S. national security, Republican presumptive nominee Mitt Romney pounced on the comment. Romney issued a statement that said in part, “This is Chávez who has invited Iran in, who has invited Hezbollah […] Hezbollah, of course, being a surrogate and a proxy for Iran would potentially have access to weapons that could be used against us. This is Chávez who champions the Bolivarian Revolution movement and is spreading dictatorships and tyranny throughout Latin America.” Late last week, Chávez said that “the Venezuela of today is no threat to anyone.”

AQ’s Christopher Sabatini assesses the situation:  “The Obama administration needs to find a way between making the US into a protagonist in Venezuelan politics and a convenient punching bag for President Chavez (as occurred in the early years of the President Bush administration) and sounding naive or unconcerned.  President Obama's statements last week failed to do that." In a fast-paced campaign season, look to see if the Romney campaign uses Obama’s Chávez remark in a commercial, especially marketed toward the South Florida market.

UNASUR Probes Paraguay Ouster: The swift impeachment of former Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo and swearing-in of his deputy Federico Franco last month caused Paraguay to be suspended from Mercosur but safe from suspension in the Organization of American States (OAS), after the latter body released its assessment of Lugo’s ouster last week. Now Unasur has created a “high-level group,” headed by former Peruvian Prime Minister Salomón Lerner, which will meet today and eventually send its own delegation to Paraguay. Unasur has already suspended Paraguay, but the high-level group will assess the political situation in Paraguay and look for ways to normalize relations with Paraguay ahead of the 2013 presidential election. Lerner’s delegation includes representatives from Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, and a Mercosur member.

Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Canada, Cuba, Bolivia, Paraguay, Hugo Chavez, UNASUR, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, 2012 Mexico elections, 2012 elections, Enrique Peña Nieto

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