Networked Notes - 29 March 2016

By Southern Pulse Staff and Network

The PMDB is expected to break from the Rousseff government today in Brazil. Whether or not President Rousseff is impeached, one key issue to watch moving forward will be PMDB unity, which would be a historical first. Vice President Michel Temer appears to be making a play for the presidency, but in spite of his high rank, he's a weak person to hold the coalition together. Speaker of the House Eduardo Cunha broke away from the government several months ago, creating a rift in the party. Several PMDB politicians in Congress will feel pressure to protect Rousseff on impeachment. Some members of Congress will likely sit on the sidelines and wait to join the winning side when it becomes apparent. And, of course, the party has a large number of its own corruption scandals that could further test its cohesiveness as Lava Jato investigations progress.

Other parties to look to regarding impeachment are the PP party, now the third largest party in the lower house with 49 congressmen, the PR party now the fifth largest party with 40 congressmen, the PSD (33), and the PSB (30). These four parties are guided by the same pork and barrel philosophy to government that has guided PMDB since 1993. Though parties such as the PR and PP are nominally in favor impeachment, their base is as fragmented as the PMDB’s. This leaves room for a possible, though unlikely, Dilma victory against impeachment proceedings, if she can wrangle a significant portion of their 152 congressmen on a case by case basis. Dilma needs 172 votes and can already count on 82 votes from a leftist coalition (of which not all are part of the governing coalition).

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Nobody is surprised by Argentina’s move to leave Telesur. The news channel created by Venezuela’s former President Hugo Chavez has only increased its criticisms of the Macri administration in recent months. Telesur’s response, accusing the Argentine government of attempting to “disappear” the channel and its opinions, likely reinforced the Macri government’s decision to leave as soon as it legally can. The announcement is notable in that Argentina will be the first country to leave the project.

Telesur has been in disarray for a long time. Over the years, some ideologically driven leftwing journalists have joined, only to become disillusioned when they realized the level of censorship and poor management within the organization. Though it is still largely controlled and funded by Venezuela, several years ago Telesur moved a significant portion of its operations to Ecuador. Unspoken, but certainly true, there are concerns about what happens to the channel if the MUD were to take over Venezuela. By having their management and operations in Ecuador, they’ve prepared for that nightmare scenario.

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Nicaragua’s opposition doesn’t appear to be trying too hard to stop Daniel Ortega’s reelection later this year. Both the PLI and MRS have signaled early support for Fabio Gadea, the 84 year old businessman who lost to Ortega in 2011. It’s not just that Gadea was a poor campaigner who still polls poorly today; his campaign was . It also symbolic of an opposition movement that has no idea how to appeal to a younger constituency.

Ortega’s biggest challenge may come from Luis Almagro. The OAS Secretary General from Uruguay showed a willingness to call out electoral abuses in Venezuela and he’s likely to do the same in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, no amount of OAS observation will matter if the Nicaraguan opposition lets the president coast to reelection.

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Colombia missed its deadline to sign the peace process, but all sides remain optimistic that the peace deal will go through. Why is there such optimism in spite of some very real differences on key issues for demobilization and transitional justice? It’s largely due to the fact both sides acknowledge the FARC are not in much of a position to return to war footing. Most (but not all) FARC units are preparing for demobilization and have not engaged in combat in months. The FARC leadership doesn’t appear ready to return to combat, knowing they’d be quickly targeted by a much more capable Colombian military. This is a very different situation from the previous peace process where the FARC gained strength and the military was perceived as incapable of stopping them if the process failed. For that reason, the expectation is that the sides will close a deal in the coming months.