This week, Peru‘s post-election impasse drags on, though the situation could be encouraging Pedro Castillo to moderate his tone and policy agenda. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic remains under scrutiny. Chile‘s constituent assembly gets going, while there is good and bad news on the Covid-19 front. Ecuador‘s new president, Guillermo Lasso, faces an early test of what could represent one of his biggest challenges over the next four years: opposition in the legislature. Finally, Mexico appears to be facing a “third wave” of Covid-19.
The JNE electoral board this week resumes its review of appeals against vote annulment requests filed by Fuerza Popular (FP), Keiko Fujimori’s party. The FP is also pressing for an international audit of vote tallies as another way to avoid Pedro Castillo being proclaimed as winner of the 6 June run-off presidential vote. Given that the Organization of American States (OAS) has said there was no evidence of fraud on 6 June, an international audit appears to have a low chance of success. However, Fujimori wants caretaker President Francisco Sagasti to endorse her request for an international audit. In a parallel maneuver, the outgoing Congress is on 30 June scheduled to consider a motion of censure against the congressional leadership led by Mirtha Vasquez (Broad Front – FA), possibly in the hope that a different congressional president could be more supportive of Fujimori’s campaign.
Amid the post-vote impasse, Castillo made a potentially important move over the weekend when he announced that he would offer highly respected Central Bank (BCRP) Governor Julio Velarde to stay on in his role. The announcement represents Castillo’s most market-friendly gesture yet. Velarde himself has yet to comment, though presumably his acceptance would depend on other appointments Castillo might make. Whether the announcement was cleared by the Peru Libre (PL) party boss Vladimir Cerron is unclear, though a PL advisor yesterday claimed that Castillo and the more radical Cerron are currently estranged from each other.
This week will see a renewed focus on the senate inquiry into the handling of the pandemic following revelations by a supporter of President Jair Bolsonaro of corruption in government vaccine purchases. Representative Luiz Miranda from the Democrats (DEM) admitted to warning Bolsonaro some months ago of signals of irregular purchases of the still unapproved Covaxin vaccine by the Health Ministry and testified to his frustration that the president took no action to stop it. The committee is now likely to vote to submit a charge to the Supreme Court against Bolsonaro for the crime of prevarication (for not ordering an investigation into the alleged irregularity). The court could then launch an investigation or take appropriate criminal action.
The constituent assembly will hold its inaugural session on 4 July. The assembly, which will use the old Congress building in Santiago (Palacio Pereira), will have 155 assembly members, 17 of them representing the indigenous population. The first order of business will be to elect an assembly president. The assembly will be fragmented and contain many political novices. Blocs to watch include the anti-establishment group going by the name of Voceria de los Pueblos , comprising 34 assembly members. This group, combined with the Apruebo Dignidad group made up of the Broad Front (FA) and Communist Party (PC), with 28 members, is seeking root-and-branch reforms. The assembly has nine months (with an optional three-month extension) to come up with a new constitution, which will then be submitted to a public referendum in 2022.
Separately, over 80% of the population has now received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. At the same time, new cases are down 26% over the last seven days, which has prompted authorities to relax restrictions in large parts of the Santiago Metropolitan Region (RM). However, one local research study suggests levels of protection in the over 70s could be fading, which – alongside the arrival of the Delta variant – makes a third vaccine dose a necessity. The issue is already under consideration by health authorities, who are talking about September as a possible start time for third doses to be administered. Whether the government continues to rely on the Sinovac vaccine as much as it has is one of the issues to watch in the months ahead.
The Constitutional Court (CC) is this week considering the issue of whether a National Assembly (AN) vote is required for Ecuador to return to the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The government last week set in motion its return to ICSID as President Guillermo Lasso tries to boost investor confidence. If the CC decides that a legislative vote is necessary, Lasso would struggle to secure its passage given that the left-wing Union for Hope (UNES) coalition – whose leader in the shadows is former president Rafael Correa (2007-2017) – and the indigenous Pachakutik party are both opposed to rejoining ICSID. Lasso’s new coalition totals just 25 out of 137 seats in the AN.
Health authorities announced on 25 June that Baja California state had become the first state whose entire population over 18 is vaccinated. The use of the single-dose Janssen vaccine helped achieve this result, with some 1.25mn adults now vaccinated. Baja California’s milestone will put the Janssen vaccine to the test amid questions about how protective it is against the Delta variant. Baja California is at green in the government’s much-criticized traffic light system, though neighboring Baja California Sur, one of five states at orange, is a source of concern amid broader worries that after four months of declining Covid-19 cases, the country is on the cusp of its “third wave.” However, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum is resisting the notion that a “third wave” is underway.