This week, energy policy is likely to be under the spotlight in Mexico. Meanwhile, Brazil will recommence some emergency spending as pressure builds to replace the current health minister. Ecuador’s run-off presidential campaign gets under way with a debate scheduled for next Sunday. In Peru’s presidential race, veteran congressman Yonhy Lescano appears to be pulling ahead. Finally, Argentina’s vaccine rollout remains underwhelming.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) is likely to focus on energy policy this week. In his press conference today, 15 March, AMLO said he plans to write to Arturo Zaldivar, president of the Supreme Court (SCJN), to complain about the judge who last week granted an injunction against the government’s recently approved electricity sector reform; AMLO insisted that the letter did not amount to a “threat.” The SCJN is likely to have the ultimate say on the electricity reform, which faces multiple legal challenges. AMLO will also use the anniversary on 18 March of the 1938 nationalization of the oil sector to announce a new oil find in Tabasco state and possibly other measures in support of state oil company Pemex.
The emergency constitutional amendment will be promulgated today, 15 March, thus authorizing the government to spend BRL 44bn (USD 8bn) to reintroduce emergency assistance that expired at the end of 2020. Other executive orders will now follow for the release of required resources and, at a later stage, for the economic emergency measures such as employment maintenance. Congressional leaders will also scrutinize 36 pending presidential vetoes. The vetoes include the renewal of sanitation contracts in force for over 30 years and aspects of the anti-crime package. The House should analyze a modified version of the “Gas Law” approved in the Senate that aims to change the regulatory framework for the sector. The week should also see a continued effort to replace Army General Eduardo Pazzuelo as health minister; a prominent medical doctor, Ludhmila Hajjar, who has disagreed with President Jair Bolsonaro’s views on chloroquine, lockdowns and vaccines, is in the frame to replace Pazzuelo.
Campaigning for the 11 April presidential run-off vote officially kicks off tomorrow, 16 March. The TCE electoral court yesterday rejected a demand for a recount that Yaku Perez of Pachakutik (PK) filed after he narrowly lost out to Guillermo Lasso of the center-right Creating Opportunities (CREO) party. Perez has alleged that electoral fraud deprived him of a place in the run-off and some factions within the indigenous movement have suggested adopting more radical action against electoral authorities. However, the TCE ruling is final, which means Lasso will face Andres Arauz of the leftist Union for Hope (UNES) coalition, whose leader in the shadows is former president Rafael Correa (2007-2017). Both Arauz and Lasso will focus on winning over the 55% of voters who did not support them in the first round; a head-to-head TV debate on 21 March will be the first big opportunity to do so.
Different polls released over the weekend indicate that Yonhy Lescano of Popular Action (AP) is fast becoming the candidate to beat ahead of the 11 April first-round presidential vote. Lescano leads in three different polls, including one by Ipsos, albeit with large numbers of voters still to make up their minds. As things currently stand, it appears that one of Rafael Lopez Aliaga, George Forsyth, Keiko Fujimori, or Veronika Mendoza is likely to face Lescano in a run-off vote to be held in June. Of these four, the ultra-conservative Lopez Aliaga has the most momentum. However, run-off scenarios show Lopez Aliaga losing to everyone except Fujimori in a hypothetical head-to-head. According to Ipsos, Lescano would defeat all his potential rivals in a run-off.
The government will this week continue efforts to secure a further 3mn doses of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine as the vaccine supply pipeline risks drying up again. The last batch of Sputnik V doses are currently being distributed around the country but there is no date yet for further arrivals. So far, just over 4mn vaccine doses have been delivered to Argentina, with the Russian vaccine accounting for around 60% of these. Sinopharm has already delivered 1mn doses, though these are more expensive than Sputnik V; Sinopharm’s other disadvantage is that it has not had local regulatory clearance for use in the over 60s. As of 14 March, just 1% of the population has been fully inoculated with two vaccine doses.