Latin American Politics Still a Military Affair

Rosalind Mathieson
Latin American Politics Still a Military Affair

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In the end it was the military that helped settle it.

Having hung on for weeks in the face of protests and opposition claims he’d rigged an election, Bolivia’s socialist President Evo Morales was forced into a corner yesterday.

First the Organization of American States said widespread irregularities meant it was statistically unlikely Morales obtained enough votes to avoid a runoff. Then the armed forces chief called for him to go. And even as he described it as a coup, South America’s longest-serving leader swiftly obliged.

The military has a long history of mixing with politics, including dictatorships, and the sight of troops on the streets can spur painful memories. Although it treads carefully these days, it still holds sway in countries across the region.

In Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro has hung on in the face of immense international pressure, with the army behind him. Witness the recent protests in Ecuador and Chile, where leaders have been quick to appear in public, flanked by senior officers.

In Brazil, a right-wing former army officer is in the presidency, with other former officers in key roles.

Argentina, with painful memories of the 1976-1983 dictatorship, is one outlier.

Where Bolivia goes from here is unclear. There’s confusion over succession as the three officials who were next in line to replace Morales also stepped down. Either way, the military will have a keen interest.

Global Headlines

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The start of public impeachment hearings in the House this week will test whether Democratic efforts to investigate Trump risk hurting the party in the 2020 election. Democrats signaled their willingness to let some witnesses requested by Republicans testify at the hearings, but only people with knowledge of the president’s actions. And not Hunter Biden or the whistle-blower whose complaint sparked the inquiry.

Political deadlock | Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will struggle more than ever to form a government after his Socialist party lost seats in yesterday’s election. His is still the biggest party, but he has nowhere near a majority, even with the backing of his natural allies. Weak minority governments have become the new normal in Spain, and even that looks some way off for Sanchez.

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Romanian President Klaus Iohannis won a first round election to set up a runoff in two weeks against a former prime minister, Democrat leader Viorica Dancila. European Union foreign ministers meet in Brussels today and tomorrow to discuss Syria, Afghanistan and Iran. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet Trump at the White House Wednesday amid lingering rifts over Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile-defense system and a U.S. case against state-lender Halkbank on charges of evading sanctions on Iran. Leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa gather in Brasilia for a two-day summit Wednesday and Thursday where Brazil is expected to try to convince China and Russia to drop support for Maduro. A Malaysian judge today ordered ex-premier Najib Razak to defend himself against all charges in the trial involving a former unit of troubled state-owned fund 1MDB. He'll take the stand on Dec. 3 as the defense’s first witness.

Thanks to all who responded to our pop quiz Friday and congratulations to reader Owais ur Rehman Maan, who was the first to name Emmanuel Macron as the person who described NATO as being in a state of “brain death.” Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.And finally ... Britain is under increasing pressure to return its last African colony, the tropical Chagos Islands. In February, the International Court of Justice ruled the 1965 excision of the islands from Mauritius unlawful because it wasn’t based on the free will of the people. The UN endorsed the ruling and now the clock is ticking towards the Nov. 22 deadline. Yet the U.K. insists it is not ceding control any time soon.

 

--With assistance from Karen Leigh and Ben Sills.

To contact the author of this story: Rosalind Mathieson in London at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at rpollard2@bloomberg.net, Karl Maier

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