'Latin America 2018: Elections Overview' Event

On Tuesday 6th March, Canning House held an event on the busy electoral season that is already underway in Latin America. We were delighted to welcome representatives from our partners LLORENTE & CUENCA and LatinNews to speak. Canning House Trustee Alan Charlton chaired the event.

Claudio Vallejo, Senior Director of LL&C's LatAm desk in Madrid, began by giving an excellent overview of the situation, expertly drawing out the key issues of this election season without referencing any country in particular. The importance of this year's elections is partly down to the sheer number of voters who will elect a new leader or legislature: 420 million people, representing 80% of Latin America's GDP. Corruption dominates the conversation, and has emerged as a unifying factor across the region. Another common factor is the presence of new players on the political scene, and the uncertainty that prevails overall.

Eleanor Warnick, Editor of LatinNews' Brazil and Southern Cone regional report, then presented the situation in Brazil, where a backlash against the establishment has fuelled an appetite for political change. But the question remains as to what kind of change. Former president Lula da Silva is still a front runner in the polls, in spite of the fact that he may legally be prevented from running. Interestingly, a recent poll reveals that should Lula not run, more of his votes would be transferred to Jair Bolsonaro, who is known as the 'Brazilian Trump', than to an alternative left-wing candidate representing Lula's party, the PT. The role that social media will play in this year's campaigns, as TV airtime becomes slowly irrelevant, adds an element of uncertainty to what is already an unpredictable election.

Finally Jon Farmer, Editor of LatinNews' Weekly Report, spoke on Colombia and Mexico. With polls notoriously unreliable in Colombia, it is hard to predict the outcome, although a possible second round will see former M-19 guerrilla Gustavo Petro pitted against Iván Duque, former president Álvaro Uribe's candidate. There is a lot at stake in this election, over which the spectre of Venezuela hangs both ideologically and in terms of migration to Colombia.

In Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador is the main contender, and could well beat Ricardo Anaya, who represents the PAN-PRD alliance, and José Antonio Meade of the PRI. Corruption and public security are huge issues for the electorate, as violence has spread across the country to Mexico City and tourist destinations. In both Colombia and Mexico, it is unlikely that the winning party will also have a majority in Congress.

The panel then took questions from the audience, covering a variety of issues, from the post-electoral violence that plagued Honduras at the end of last year, to whether Latin America might see the emergence of a populist movement that capitalises on social media, comparable to the Italian Five-Star Movement.

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