Friday, February 24, 2017

FTLatAm For Friday 23 February, 2017

Don't hold your breath
By Andres Schipani 
February 24, 2017
When it was almost certain Sunday's presidential election in Ecuador was going to a second round, populist Rafael Correa tweeted the war cry of Latin America's left: "Until victory, always!" Such a victory, will have to wait - it if happens at all - after it was confirmed that the vote will go to a run-off on April 2.
His proxy candidate, Lenín Boltaire Moreno, fell just short of crossing the threshold needed to win outright. He will have to face conservative former banker Guillermo Lasso, who may rally the votes from the divided opposition behind him. The once-unbeatable and mercurial Correa was understandably disappointed. 
"If I thought they were going to win, I would have run for president myself," he told reporters in Quito - even as he is barred from another consecutive term. He may have not yet realised that people have been demanding accountability while turning their backs on populist governments accused of being spendthrift.
A victory for Lasso in the runoff could also add to sweeping regional changes, following the removal of populist governments in Argentina and Brazil; Bolivians rejecting a proposal to allow Evo Morales to run again (although he will try again) while Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro faces growing rage from citizens.
But before holding your breaths, be aware that even if the regional romance with the left may be flagging, it is not yet entirely dead. Nor have its opponents found all the solutions. Corruption scandals are making citizens feel establishments from the left and the right alike are a seething pit of compromised politicians
This may unleash a new wave of populist presidents. The Lava Jato investigation is throwing the 2018 presidential election in Brazil wide open. Even if the worst recession in over a century is showing signs of bottoming out, President Michel Temer runs the risk of having his tenure terminated if found guilty of corruption.
In Mexico, the populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador is promising to stamp out corruption and sweep away the "mafia of power", as he is being fed nationalistic arguments by US President Donald Trump. (Let's see what happens after Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, struck a conciliatory tone during his visit to Mexico.)
Lasso could face a populist backlash should he prevail in April’s runoff. To do so, he will first need to rally a coalition of backers. Then, he must battle a legislature in the hands of Correa, who remains the most powerful politician in Ecuador and who has already threatened foes of a potential early comeback.
"The best way to keep me away is for them to behave well," warned the firebrand US-trained economist. "If they misbehave, I'll stand again." Perro que ladra no muerde (roughly translated, his bark is worse than his bite) goes the adage in Spanish. Yet with Correa, known for his bullying style, one cannot be so sure.
Quote of the week
"I am tired of tired of politicians. That’s why I decided to govern” - Ecuador's banker-turned-presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso in an interview with the FT
Chart of the week
The week in review
Jancis Robinson: Chilean wines
‘A revolution is under way. The best Chilean winemakers are not content to emphasise quantity at the expense of quality’
Leading critic of Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte arrested
Senator Leila de Lima claims drug money charges have been trumped up to silence her
Rex Tillerson promotes US ties during Mexico trip
Secretary of state to meet Enrique Peña Nieto as tensions between nations simmer
FT View: Latin America’s flagging romance with the left
Ecuador’s inconclusive vote shows the right still has some way to go
Fast FT: Mexico, US officials pledge to talk over 'notorious differences'
Brazil’s central bank cuts benchmark rate to 12.25%
Second successive 75 basis point reduction made as recession seems to be bottoming
Ecuador’s Lasso looks to overturn Correa’s revolution
Free-market presidential candidate vows to cut taxes and create 1m extra jobs
Run-off needed to elect next Ecuador president
Correa says favoured candidate Moreno short of enough votes to beat Lasso
Ecuador faces polarising presidential election run-off between Moreno and Lasso
Opposition groups expected to close ranks behind challenger Guillermo Lasso
Tension mounts in Ecuador as election is too close to call
Delay in counting votes from remote areas and expats angers opposition supporters
Moreno edges ahead in Ecuador’s nail-biting presidential election
Correa’s leftwing protégé close to margin needed to avoid run-off
Odebrecht scandal puts Latin America’s leaders on watch
Fallout from the probe into Brazilian construction group could stir renewed populism
Bomb blast hits central Bogotá
Fears that Farc peace deal may not have ended residual conflict from 50-year civil war
Ecuador election puts Correa’s legacy to the test
Sunday’s poll comes as economic downturn stirs political dissent